Director Deepa Mehta has confirmed that all cast members of the film Funny Boy are safe in Sri Lanka amid the current civil unrest in the country.
Funny Boy (2020), based on Shyam Selvadurai’s 1994 novel of the same name, is a coming-of-age story revolving around a queer, upper-class Tamil boy named Arjie. The film is set against the background of the Black July riots of 1983 in Sri Lanka that resulted in the death of almost 3000 Tamils. This, in turn, triggered a civil war between the country’s majority community of Sinhalese and the ethnic Tamil minority. The war lasted nearly 26 years and sent thousands of Tamils into exile.
The film was shot on location in Colombo and featured some local actors. It was Canada’s official entry for the Oscars in the International Feature category in 2020, but was disqualified for extensive use of English dialogues.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Mehta wrote, “Things are so dire in Sri Lanka right now. Worried sick about friends and all those who supported the ousting of fascist Rajapaksa. Now, dreading as they witness Lanka going up in flames. Thankfully Brandon [Ingram], Nimmi [Harasgama]’s family is safe as is all of the Funny Boy family – they are all in the forefront of protest.”
Mehta’s tweet alludes to the ongoing protests in Sri Lanka trigged by the economic slump that led to the citizens seeking the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
While Sri Lanka’s foreign debts had been piling up since 2010, the situation intensified after a rise in inflation and shortages in commodities such as petrol, diesel, cooking gas, kerosene, and milk powder in 2021, owing to the government’s lack of buying power.
Moreover, examinations for millions of Sri Lankan students were cancelled due to a shortage in the supply of paper, and the authorities also imposed daily power cuts for 13 hours a day, to cut down on fuel usage. In April, the Sri Lankan government went on to restrict social media platforms in an effort to curb the spread of information related to the protests.
Civilians then took to the streets to rally against the government’s inefficiency, which eventually led to the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Monday.
The protesters included Sri Lankan cricketers as well as artists like Jehan Appuhami and Nanda Malini. Recently, in April, Sri Lankan rapper Shiraz Shiraz, who performed at a protest in the capital city of Colombo, collapsed soon after his performance. He suffered from a heart attack and died while en route to a hospital.