The trailer for Oscar-nominated filmmaker Deepa Mehta’s next film Funny Boy is out and looks like it is set to add yet another feather to her cap. Adapted from Shyam Selvadurai’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name, Mehta’s coming-of-age film is an exploration of identities, both queer and communal, set against the backdrop of the 1980s Sri Lankan Civil War. The film is reported to be Canada’s official entry for the 93rd Academy Awards in the Best International Feature Film category.
Previously, Mehta’s Earth and Water, from her world-renowned Elements Trilogy, were official entries by India and Canada, respectively, at the Oscars.
A Glimpse Into Funny Boy
Funny Boy follows the story of Arjie, a young boy growing up in a large Tamil family in Sri Lanka. He is perceptive, even as a child, to his inclinations towards habits that others around him seem to call “girly.” Arjie enjoys putting on make-up, draping himself in sarees, much to the chagrin of the family’s adults. The trailer also depicts one of the most enduring scenes from the novel where Arjie, dressed as a bride while playing with cousins in the backyard, is endlessly ridiculed by the girls, thereby setting the stage for a journey to explore his sexual identity.
He develops a special bond with Radha Aunty, the only one accepting of Arjie’s “flawed” identity, and who, in the trailer, teaches him to tackle naysayers by saying: “Don’t mess with the grand diva.” Her free soul matches Arjie’s. We see her indulging him when he desires to apply nail paint on his toes, encouraging him to be “different.”
As Arjie grows, he finds himself attracted to Shehan, a classmate at Victoria Academy. As he explores his sexuality, he also slowly becomes receptive to a growing ethnic discord between the minority Tamil and the majority Sinhalese communities in Sri Lanka. This parallel storyline impacts most events in the novel, ultimately culminating in Sri Lanka’s bloody 1983 riots.
About The Film
I remember the impact this story had left on me when I read it years ago, and I felt it rise again as I watched the trailer. Selvadurai had woven the story with such sensitivity, it is impossible to be not moved by it. While nothing less was expected of Mehta, it was still heartening to see that the essence of Selvadurai’s writing appears to have been kept intact in the film. The trailer manages to convey multiple emotions well, with evocative shots of the characters and a conflict-ridden Sri Lanka.
Arjie, played by Arush Nand and Brandon Ingram, has been etched out well, and both seem to have delivered a queer boy’s sensibilities at different periods of his life with nuance. The cast also includes Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi, Seema Biswas, Rehan Mudannayake, and Shivantha Wijesinha.
Co-written by Mehta and Selvadurai, produced by David Hamilton (Mehta’s husband), and film score composed by three-time Oscar-winner Howard Shore, Funny Boy seems to be well on its way to becoming one of 2020’s most rewarding releases.
Watch the official trailer for Funny Boy here:
Views expressed are the author’s own.