He sees sadness and pain in her eyes. And as she gazes at the horizon, seemingly unaware of his presence, she wonders what life has in store for her. While faint echoes of birds chirping fill the air with a melancholic strain, thousands of souls gather amidst ashes and dust in search of their loved ones. Set in post war Sri Lanka, Prasanna Vithanage's Oba Nathuwa Pba Ekka (With You, Without You) introduces us to two such characters Sarathsiri and Selvi who were brought together by fate accidentally. Through them, the director wishes to experience the deep and seemingly unbridgeable chasm that conflict almost always creates.
This is the story of a Sinhalese man and Tamil woman who bear the brunt of a 30-year-old bloody civil war in Sri Lanka and soon discover that the colour of love is blue while life has shades of grey.
“This film is about the aftermath of war. Thousands of people have suffered over the years. I wanted to capture the heart and mind set of both parties. I read this short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky called The Meek One. And, I thought I could use it as a metaphor in my film.
When I read the story, two things came to my mind. One was its take on masculinity and other the questioning of consumerist values that deprived people of human connection,” said Prasanna who further added that he wished to highlight the issue of ethnic conflict and cultural restraints in Sri Lanka with With You Without You.
In his film, the struggle with the characters’ own past becomes a metaphor for the struggle of the nation as a whole. With ethnic polarisation seeping into Srilankan cinema; he sincerely believes that a unified entity must be created in order to put an end to the cultural divide. “I think we should have a Sri Lankan cinema where Sinhalese and Tamil co-exist in harmony. Cinema has given me sanity. As a filmmaker, cinema is my way of expressing my opinions on war. Somewhere, I think war and atrocities have given rise to creativity and meaningful work. Apart from films, there was a movement called barrelism where barrels that were used for road blocks became subjects of artistic creativity. And, I find that inspiring,” said the director.
According to the director, there are many people whose voices go unheard after war because history has always been written by winners.
“What about those who lost everything? As an artiste, not only do I want to bring about a change in myself but I would like to be their voice and tell their story,” signed off Prasanna.