A Day In Sri Lanka – Shooting In Midst Of Shooting | Aanivaer

John Mahendran Aanivaer

In 2005, my arrival at Bandaranaike Airport in Sri Lanka felt like a journey from 2005 to 1945. The remnants of conflict were stark, with yellow striped ribbons warning of landmines and masked Sri Lankan army men creating an eerie atmosphere. My journey to Kilinochi, led by a driver named Kuruppan, involved encounters with vigilant check posts. Smuggling liquor bottles, adult DVDs, and betel leaves added a layer of complexity, with every checkpoint photocopying our passports.

Kilinochi Chronicles: A Filmmaker’s Perspective

Entering Kilinochi, the atmosphere shifted dramatically. Passing through No Man’s Land, marked by a German with an army tank, revealed dreams and hopes in the form of future designs. However, the scars of war were evident, reminiscent of scenes from movies like “Killing Fields” or “Hotel Rwanda.”

Tamil Echoes in Sri Lanka

In Kilinochi, Tamil culture persisted with proper Tamil names for places and shops. Surprisingly, international brands were humorously renamed, with O’Neill or Fonti footwear becoming simply “Bata.” A bakery offering a vegetable roll named “Kannivedi” (Landmine) added a touch of irony. As we discovered, it’s a place where you can metaphorically eat landmines and still stay alive.

Uniting through Cricket: Pandian Vaneebam

The restaurant Pandian Vaneebam became a unique space where the crowd, predominantly Sri Lankan Tamilians, passionately cheered during an India vs. Pakistan cricket match. The shared joy reflected a connection with India. As a director shooting in this backdrop, my work aimed to recreate the haunting ambience of war. However, the real pain etched in the memories of the people proved challenging to contain. An unexpected encounter with an actress who had lost her husband and sons added a profound layer of realism to the filmmaking process.

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About the Author

John Mahendran
Film Director, Writer, Author, Currently teaching Film Making in BOFTA

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