This Is How Funny Boy Opened The Doors To South Asian Cinema
Funny Boy is a collaboration between Selvadurai, Deepa Mehta and Ava DuVernay that advances South Asian representation in mainstream media.
As South Asian representation in Hollywood begins to gradually (albeit slowly) increase, Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of the novel funny boy written by Shyam Selvadurai can be seen as a film that widens the doors of inclusion. The story is mostly set in Sri Lanka and touches on necessary topics from the time when the country was facing turmoil as tension between the two Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic groups began to grow.
The all-South Asian cast, location, and the story itself make this film stand out from many other South Asian films. funny boy takes viewers on an emotional roller coaster while delivering powerful messages, in turn leaving audiences with plenty to think about and entertain. This collaboration between Selvadurai, Mehta and Ava DuVernay is undoubtedly a breakthrough in South Asian representation in mainstream media.
Addressing important issues in the South Asian landscape
Mehta’s adaptation of Selvadurai funny boy confronts many topics that tend to be ignored in the South Asian context, particularly homosexuality. The film’s protagonist, Arjun (“Arjie”) Chelvaratnam, played by Arush Nand as a youth and Brandon Ingram as an adult, is a character trying to come to terms with his sexuality. Which makes funny boy different from most other LGBTQIA+ films is that this particular image challenges the way Sri Lankan society represses homosexuality and discriminates against homosexuals. Arjie’s exploration of his own sexuality draws heavy criticism from his family. Interestingly, this mirrors many of South Asia’s mostly gay coming-out stories.
The film then tackles other major issues such as ethnic tensions in Sri Lanka. The complicated love story of Aunty Radha (played by Agam Darshi) and the discrimination story of Jegan (played by Shivantha Wijesinha). All of this illustrates some common personal issues that arose during the 1990s in Sri Lanka, and the ability to manifest these honest stories on screen has undeniably widened the doors of South Asian cinema. This opened doors for other filmmakers to tackle controversial issues.
News posts to think about
When a film portrays certain issues by showing how painful it is to be part of them, it allows the viewer to pause and reflect on their own ideologies. That’s exactly what funny boy Is it that. By showcasing how homosexuality is perceived in countries like Sri Lanka, the film questions public views and possible biases while revealing how far the country still needs to go to normalize LGBTQIA+ experiences. The portrait of ethnic tensions expresses the pain caused by long histories of prejudice and social conflict that lead many citizens to feel alienated, sometimes giving them no choice but to leave their homes. This may be one of the reasons why more people emigrate from South Asia than anywhere else in the world, with 106 million international migrants coming from Asia alone.
funny boy also indicates how gender is perceived in a strictly binary way in the South Asian context. Arjie’s attempt to explore her gender by experimenting with makeup thanks to her aunt’s encouragement is a promising storyline. However, this is soon torn down when her parents angrily intervene. While the world as a whole has yet to achieve gender equality, this specific storyline in funny boy is notable for addressing gender norms in South Asia and shows how countries like Sri Lanka are far from eradicating strict, moralistic prejudices.
An all-South Asian cast
Given that funny boy is a South Asian story, the film revolves around an all-South Asian cast, making it another phenomenal movie that allowed brunette stars to shine. Additionally, the film created a platform for brilliant actors like Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, and Agam Darshi to pursue their careers while giving the stage to upcoming stars like Ingram and Rehan Mudannayake. The fact that many of the cast are from Sri Lanka made the film unique, and its cast makes it one of only two films on Netflix to have a predominantly Sri Lankan identity. The shift between Tamil and English in terms of spoken language also adds to the authenticity and manifests the novel’s own use of linguistics to highlight the cultural tale.
Represent South Asia internationally
When a movie like funny boy airs on mainstream media like Netflix, it brings much-needed recognition to South Asian countries. The film’s success can also be seen through many honors it won, such as the 2021 Canadian Screen Awards for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. By bringing Selvadurai’s award-winning book to the screen, Mehta has definitely taken South Asian stories to new heights.
funny boy is undoubtedly a remarkable and pioneering film that has paved a unique path for South Asian cinema. From its impressive cast to portraying topics that have been and remain taboo in many South Asian countries, the film is definitely an unexpected and genuine delight that is sorely needed for today’s world.
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