With You, Without You

The Official Poster

The Official Poster

With You, Without You (Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka)
Release date: June 20, 2014 (India)
Directed by: Prasanna Vithanage
Cast: Anjali Patil, Shyam Fernando, Maheshwari Ratnam, Wasantha Moragoda

Sri Lankan director/screenwriter’s Sinhalese adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella The Meek One came out almost two years ago on the international film festival circuit, and has won a handful of awards everywhere the film has been projected. Now I know why. Shot on a unique aspect ratio with the now extinct Kodak species of equipments, With You, Without You is superlatively pleasing to watch.

Set in the post war inflicted country, Selvi (Anjali Patil) is a young Tamil girl who is separated from her family and runs dry of money to pay for her rent. She ends up selling off her jewelry to a weary pawnshop owner, Sarathsiri (Shyam Fernando) who takes an instant liking to her. He even breaks his own set of business ethics especially for her, in their very first encounter! He starts pursuing her in his own way.

Things move fast, and Selvi takes her own time to reciprocate. They don’t know each others’ backgrounds, in a country torn apart by the thick band of differences into two tribes, the majority Sinhalese populace and the minority Tamils. Even when they start living together, Sarathsiri keeps his stoic face intact and hardly gives away much of his past or his current aspirations, except just growing his business.

Their small blissful paradise faces an eruption in the form of a revelation of one of their muddy professional records. The principal characters reside in a small apartment which is lightly painted in the color blue, with the only window overlooking the hills and minimalistic furniture in sight. The protagonists wear hues of blues and not even once it appears forced. Every shot of the film is almost a specimen of brilliance and embodies the stillness and calm of their lives. The hills, the streets, or Anjali Patil’s fragile demure, M.D. Mahindapala with the director, creates a terrific mise-en-scene.

The theme touches upon a very complex ending in a comparatively foretelling approach. I wish I could talk about the intricacy of that ending, but I wouldn’t give away any major spoilers. Shyam Fernando as Sarathsiri watches professional wrestling throughout the course of the film, which I won’t necessarily like to call as an ego rush, as much as a testosterone pump-up. There is a perpetual look of restraint and grim on his face and when he makes a vital confession, you see why.

In its entirety, the film refrains from using any background score which would manipulate how you feel about any of the characters on screen, and yet maintains a constant evolution in their graphs with its limited dialogues. Prasanna Vithanage’ With You, Without You is a masterpiece in its own caliber.

My rating: ****1/2 (4.5 out of 5)

(This film is a PVR Director’s Rare release)

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