Monday, May 3, 2010

How I Wonder What You Are - A movie of our time

How I Wonder What You Are captures the eventual truth of a youth under the city frames an occurrence portraying the emptiness and the stillness of the life of a youth who’ve lost the taste of human bonds and doesn’t have a reason to live on. The movie, as I saw it expressed and communicated the feelings and emotions that are very simple yet complex and deep at the same time...and those which are so delicate and difficult for a person to express even to themselves on their own..Udaya Dharmawardhana and Chinthana Dharmadasa on their first debut to the big screen fingered the innermost, untouched depths of a person’s sentiments.

How I Wonder What You Are is bound around the life of an urban youth and his hollow life..His world is empty and he is just another insignificant being to the rest of the world who are lost in their own craziness of the city. The flow begins with a vision of Dee (Prasanna Mahagamage) leaning over a call box and dialing a number which is an unanswered call..and behind him, shows the most cleverly captured shades and the buzz of the night city which is a frame that exquisitely caught my liking at the very first glance...and the background dialog of the whole happening stating that we dial old numbers when we want to feel our own existence, touched me unfathomably.

Next, the frames moves on to a regular bar where many men drown themselves in waves of liquor searching for an escape.. Many men who are lost in their own problems or problems they take on by purpose to distract themselves from the stillness of their lives. A character that caught my heart there was an old man who Dee runs into once he steps out of the bar. With his minute frame, silver hair and tweet eyes, asking for a cigarette from Dee and who blesses Dee over with god for the favor. To me, the old man resembled many such people that I observed with great compassion. They’ve lived their lives, and finished their story and is nothing but a forgotten skeleton to the people who were once important them..But they’ve made peace with it and now watches the others treading on the same path to nowhere that he treaded long ago with an unreadable expression in their eyes..

The constant jabber of the biker (Mahendra Perera) who offers Dee a lift afterwards, fills us with the bitter sense of reality of our lives in a disgustingly truthful way. The words he speaks in his drunken state brings out the trapped feeling of living in an island and how we rot away in front of our own eyes.. ‘kaalakanni dupath jeevitha’ a statement he makes that echoes in my ears even now since that’s the exact reflection of our lives in a perfect little sentence..

With all the characters that Dee encounters with, the profile he maintains is low. From the gestures of other characters, their dialogs and even the miniature happenings in the surroundings of Dee, the directors cleverly wove an image into my mind where when I close my eyes and picture Dee, everything else moves around him and he stands still with a detached expression in his face. On that I should complement Prasanna as well for dissolving into Dee’s character so well, which he maintained constantly through the movie. I’d say that type is the toughest of roles to do justice to, having to convey the unexpressed things the character holds within in such a subtle way that would bring out the directors thoughts alive. And he won it over by doing it for the whole of 1 hour and 20 minutes of the making.

Another event that touched me is where Dee observes a man (Dayadeva Edirisinghe ) at the grocery shop where he goes to buy cigarettes. The man buys 20 rupees worth of jujubes and makes the shop keeper pick more of red and green ones and he makes him leave out the yellows. Dee stares at the man as he eats the little treat he bought himself right there, where he first pops in two white jujubes and then when munches a red jujube, clear satisfaction and crave is spelt all over his face..Udaya and Chinthana makes a another successful attempt to convey what small and unnoticed things a person’s happiness and satisfaction lies upon..And how unnoticed such desires goes by us.

Afterwards, most of the movie revolves inside the living room of Dee where he waits sitting in front of a television that constantly keeps reporting on the new achievements of the ethnic war, with the company of his water bottle and the cigarette box and a dirty fish tank with a single fish behind him. And as the movie rolls on in his living room there’s one melody that keeps playing throughout, the blend of the war reports on T.V with the noise of the oxygen bubbles of the fish tank.

While he waits for some sign of life from the outer world to reach him, at least through his low battery mobile. The heat of the day overwhelms him with the exhaustion of the emptiness of his life and the sweat of his body. He decides to caress both of these with an ice cube.. That’s when Kathy (Poornima Muhandiram) knocks on his door.

She comes in search of a place to stay and also in search of a distraction from the troubles of her love life. She brings a fresh pace into Dee’s hollow life where he starts building up dreams surrounded by her in his imagination. He drifts on the floor of his living room which is strayed with cigarette buds where he sees red rose petals instead. Kathy, meanwhile waits for a solution from the life she ran away from which never comes and she tries to find comfort by getting closer to Dee but she is somehow held back not to go further. They both wait in the airless nothingness waiting for chemistry to happen in the presence of the war victories on T.V and the bubble guzzle of the fish tank.

As we move from sequence to sequence within the four walls of Dee’s house we feel the uncomfortable stillness creep into us, even the air we breathe feels too heavy for our lungs. Our heads starts to float into a vacuum and it stays there. Again the efforts of the directors made to convey the depression of the two beings trapped in that room, made its peak by this experience they took the audience through..

Only one point made me hit the ground in the middle of it all; the unfamiliarity Poornima displayed with her cigarettes. At the very first glance, the way she placed it between her lips and the position where she kept it between her fingers just told me that something is not right there and wham I was brought down from the vacuum to the floor and it was a hard hit. I was at first a little disappointed over the dynamic duo Udaya and Chinthana for letting that go unnoticed.. But the sin was soon forgiven and forgotten by the way Poornima marveled over a piece of apple between her soggy lips which told a very sensual story to Dee.

Eventually Kathy gets worn off by the disappointment over the distraction she came in search for and never got. The unsettledness she experiences emotionally while she is with Dee is bringing her to a point where she can’t bear the space of nothingness anymore. And she decides to leave and find herself, alone. And at that point the directors have done a wonderful job with the flow of the movie and its pace which touches just the right delicate emotions within us which brings a sting of a tear to the eye, lump to the throat and a pencil stab to the heart.

As she dissolves to the city lights in a three wheeler Dee is left alone with the dreams he built within him of her. And as he faces his life with the hope of Kathy coming back which leaves him in a worse off state than before, and the country keeps celebrating over the victory of the war. And at the end of the sequence, the directors spell out the so called significant victory over the insignificance of an empty 29 year old human life.

‘How I Wonder What You Are’ an our time story of angels who can’t hear but pretend.


  1. Impressive.. is this available online?

  2. @Bala - its a wonderful piece of work indeed..well no its not available online and they are planning to do alternative screenings where they can go to diverse communities all around the country..
    you could check out their official website if your interested in more details..and if you found it impressive you shouldn't miss out on it at all..

  3. want to see it soon

  4. Beautiful piece of work. Of course an useful post. Thanks.

  5. Such works should be regular. People demand it. Thanks.

  6. Make continuation of such useful works. Thanks.

  7. Worthy of applause. Looking for the next.

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