2 December, 2021

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Methagu: A Review Of The Movie On Velupillai Prabhakaran

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

According to IMDb “The Movie [Methagu] shows the true events that happened in Tamileelam to suppress Tamil ethnicity and it is talking about how and why Tamil leader Prabhakaran emerged in the Tamil freedom struggle in the Indian Ocean Island nation Sri Lanka.” Not all events are true as I explain.

According to Wikipedia “Methagu (transl. His Excellency) is a 2021 Indian Tamil-language political thriller film based on the life of the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. The release of the film was postponed several times due to legal issues, but finally had the digital release on 25 June 2021.”

The movie really concerns Prabhakaran’s early life up to the murder of Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappah. It cost US$80,000 to produce and credit is given at the end to many persons from all over the world for helping produce it.

The film, however, is effectively banned in Sri Lanka by arresting persons in possession of a copy, presumably because it has been released by “Thamileela Thirai Kalanjiam.” Many of my students (born after the events of the film had taken place) have seen it and pass it around hush-hush on thumb-drives. Given the mixed opinions among them or reluctance to give an opinion, I had to see it – which I did when I went recently to visit my children in California.

The film has several flaws. I will mention only some in this review.

Casting

Only the person acting for Srimavo Bandaranaike has given her name, Lizzie Antony. She is a Tamil Nadu actress. All the others have only one name, presumably a pseudonym. The one acting for Prabhakaran, is Kutti Mani! They all want anonymity I think because our government is so vindictive.

While that is ok, what is not is that many of the actors do not fit the characters they portray. It should have been easy to find actors who look at least a little like the characters they portray. Prabhakaran’s father with a full head of hair at age 80, Veluppillai, is balding when Prabhakaran is born and has the same hair some 25 years later. Only Prabhakaran’s mother is seen to age with dignity as the film progresses.

SJV Chelvanayakam who nearly always is in a cream-coloured suit and had a full head of hair to his end, is bald when he signs the BC Pact, and is seen in a checked kurta instead of the white verti-national that he occasionally wore with no collar. Bandaranaike’s suit seems out of a Hindi movie just like the kurtas worn by actors. His kurta has a collar. However, he is presented in good light, but unbelievably speaks ungrammatical English in the badly written script in discussing racism with Srimavo: “Up to where this racism will lead to, is not known to me.”

Alfred Duraiappah in real life had a green Fiat. In the movie he has a silver Ambassador presumably because that is what they could get in India. India does make foreign cars now and probably did not make the relevant Fiat model from the 1970s.For other inconsistencies, see the photos shown. I will move on to historical errors.

Alfred Duraiappah

I knew Alfred personally. Although I did not respect his politics, he is maligned a lot more than he deserves. His political position was to work with the government to get our rights. It is a legitimate position. We did not like that because it was a horrid government. We who were young then regarded all who sucked up to Srimavo as traitors and that is enunciated by Prabhakaran in the movie.

The movie narrates that Duraiappah would do anything for office whereas the fact is the people of Jaffna elected him Mayor. He was a suave operator. When an uncle of mine, K. Nesiah, wrote a harsh editorial in The Cooperator about him, the next time he saw my uncle waiting for a bus, he stopped, offered him a lift, made good conversation, and told him “Sir, next time you write please be kind to me.” It is difficult to write against a man like that. As Mayor he built up the new market whereas the FP when it controlled the Council was good only at making speeches. I sensed that, after he developed Jaffna so much, people did not object to his giving away shops for a charge saying that when a cow does good work threshing the rice paddy it would eat a little. But we the youth did not buy such arguments.

Where he went wrong is that he held out to the world that Srimavo was popular despite what she did to us through Standardisation. It was a time when imports were stopped. We in Jaffna, practically everyone, desperately needed bicycle tyres, then manufactured only by the government’s Kelaniya Tyre Corporation. Alfred as Mayor had complete control as they were sold through the Cooperative Stores. We lined up at the Mayor’s office and got him to give a chit to the Coop authorizing the sale of two tyres. In exchange we had to pay Rs. 2 and sign the SLFP Membership form. When I stood in line, he saw me and came out saying “Hello Young Hoole” and gave me the authorization without my having to join the SLFP. It was widely said that Srimavo was so impressed with the torrent of new members as Tamils were joining the SLFP in droves, she gave him jobs to distribute which he did for a charge. There were other stories among the youth like how he arranged a dancer living at the railway crossing on Point Pedro Road South of Hospital Road for Anura. Anyway, the youth were furious and the sale of jobs undid him. Sirimavo it was said was shocked that he lost the 1975 election despite getting so many members.

The International Tamil Conference

The real numbers at the conference were much bigger than shown in the movie, and Veerasingham Hall a lot more spacious that the hall they could find in India for the movie. The claim is made that 9 people were killed and they show the police beating up the crowd and killing a conference organizer by stepping on his neck. As the 3-man Commission appointed by the public under Justice de Kretser showed, the police went to arrest an international participant who, having been denied a visa in India, applied in Malaysia and came for the conference that Srimavo wanted in Colombo where she could make it a show piece under her. She was furious and asked the police to deport the man. Alfred played no part in disrupting the conference as claimed in the movie. The police while going in a jeep to the venue, found people seated and listening outside the hall. The Jeep was driven into them, and the public reacted by overturning the jeep. The police fired into the air, the electric wires dropped on the galvanized pipes placed to control the comings and goings of the crowd. Those in contact with the pipes were electrocuted. One of the 9 was my dear OL mathematics teacher at St. John’s College, Mr. Sigmaringam who ran home in panic and died of a heart attack. There was an attack by the police insofar as they drove into the crowd and beat the crowd when they threw sand at the police but no attack so savage as depicted in the movie. No conference organizer was killed by ASP Jaffna stepping on his neck as depicted.

Correcting accounts like this in the movie is difficult, perhaps fool hardy, because as someone once asked me, “So are you saying the police were nice?”

Pon Sivakumar

Pon Sivakumar bombed Duraiappah’s car while he had his regular tea at Premier Café across my home on 2nd Cross Street. A scene in the movie shows Prabhakaran plotting and saying we must hit back. “Who?,” they ask. They think of Srimavo and then she being big they think of a Traitor. When asked which traitor, Prabhakaran says Duraiappah. But then, instead, Sivakumar (a friend of mine) is sent to kill ASP Chandrasekera.

Sivakumar wears a clean, white, long-sleeved shirt and tie which I doubt he ever wore except for his OL Identity Card photograph. Although he dropped out with the OLs (before or after passing I do not know) an A-Grade school principal told me very seriously that he had entered the university but rejected his seat to engage in the Tamil struggle.

In the movie Sivakumaran goes to shoot the ASP, the gun misfires and he eats cyanide and dies promptly. In truth he went to rob a bank, something went wrong, and the police bank guards gave chase and villagers not realizing who he was joined the chase. Recognising that his capture was inevitable, he ate cyanide (I believe in Neerveli) and died 3 days later in Jaffna hospital.

The movie scene from 1974 shows, as part of Sivakumar’s reading, the book “Bourne Ultimatum.” It is a 1990 novel by Robert Ludlum. I do not think any of them could read English at that level. It is how nationalist myths are made.

Questionable Accounts

The finale of the movie is where Prabhakaran murders Alfred. Respectable histories question if indeed Prabhkaran was the murderer of Alfred.

In the movie Prabahakaran’s supposed sister Kayal is molested by a police constable whom she kills by banging a pot on his head. I am not aware of such an incident.

A Buddhist monk, presumably a general figure for all racist monks, says very offensive things of Tamils. He says that he wants Tamils not to obey the Sinhalese but to fear them. He adds, “The weapon of education must not be in Tamil hands. Tamils are educated and working for the government. If this goes on, we will be their slaves. We must first reduce the close relationship Tamis have with Tamil Nadu. Tamils are strengthened by this relationship. If this continues, we will have no land. Are we to commit suicide? We must stop Tamils studying.”

Srimavo agrees and this is the precursor to standardization. The real story of Standardisation is far more complex than that, although some crazy Sinhalese people might have thought like this.

Prabhakaran invents the slogan “Student’s Sakthi is very big Sakthi. If education goes, a generation goes.” Hearing of the real incident of the burning of the Hindu Priest by Sinhalese mobs in Panadura, Prabhakaran asks “Why do we not hit back?”

I can go on. But with so many errors and truths mixed up, I will not repeat all aspects of the narrative.

Censorship

In a democracy censorship is to be eschewed. A free discussion will bring out what aspects of the movie are credible and what not. In sum, the government has over-reacted by banning the movie, even that banning being not by a formal gazette but through fear by arresting persons in possession of the movie. That enhances the arbitrary powers of the police. That will only increase the value of the movie and make more people want to see it. Indeed, if I had not seen the movie to write this, many young people will believe all that is in it. Whose good does it serve?

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Latest comments

  • 5
    1

    Alfred Duraiappah was a well-meaning man oblivious to the danger his style of politics was causing. He paid the price with his life, – an unnecessary death.

    • 1
      0

      “an unnecessary death.”
      What about others Thalaivar killed?

      Soma

      • 2
        0

        Soma, You don’t seem to need any assistance for you to find the answer to your own question. Why trouble me!

        • 1
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          They were necessary by implication.

          Soma

      • 1
        1

        soman

        “What about others Thalaivar killed?”

        Do you regret your brethren role model psycho VP didn’t kill anyone whom you hate?
        Did Gota get good reception in Scotland?

        I received a number of whatsapp clips showing the protest/welcome given to Gota in Scotland. He must be happy that his spin doctors have good sources to promote Gota’s legend.

        I wonder whether Gota hired those “Our Leader Prabaharan” Baja Govindams and issued Tiger flags to enhance his image back in this island?

        • 2
          1

          Compared to the current lot …….. ol’ Velupillai Prabhakaran was an all around nice guy ……… with a good set of talents/skills/capabilities rare in a Lankan.

          My only disappointment/regret is that he wasn’t a Sinhalese ……… or didn’t come with a Sinhala-Buddhist makeover ……….

          He sure did saved Lanka from partition …….. anyone game to discuss/debate/argue this?

    • 7
      1

      Unnecessary death?
      Some understatement!
      It was foul murder by one who would later take the Tamils to their killing field.

      • 1
        1

        SJ
        Tamils refer to Rajiv Gandhi murder as “an strategic blunder”!
        (Gandhi, his assassin and 14 others were killed in the explosion that followed, along with 43 others who were grievously injured.)
        Such is the value of human life to Sun God worshipperslike Nathan.

        Soma

        • 1
          2

          Soma,
          Man is judged by by the company he keeps.
          .
          You are slandering! It tarnishes your image.
          .
          NOTE:
          I am on record: Prabhakaran got killed for murdering Rajiv.

          • 2
            2

            Nathan

            “I am on record: Prabhakaran got killed for murdering Rajiv.”

            Why was 12 years old Balachandran Prabhakaran executed by soman’s amart patriotic army?

            By the way do you have any news about Mathivadhani Prabaharan and Pottu Amman.

            Please don’t read too much into this.

          • 1
            0

            “Prabhakaran got killed for murdering Rajiv.”
            .
            Ane pow. Pavam.

            Soma

          • 2
            1

            Nathan
            “Man is judged by by the company he keeps.”
            .
            Also by the idol he worships.
            Your choice is the most logical.

            Soma

          • 2
            0

            “Prabhakaran got killed for murdering Rajiv”
            Can one be more frivolous?

            • 0
              0

              SJ

              “Can one be more frivolous?”

              Yes, VP.

        • 1
          0

          “Such is the value of human life to Sun God worshippers like Nathan.”
          I agree with you.
          But is it any different with the deniers of unlawful killings by the armed forces?

          • 0
            0

            “But is it any different with the deniers of unlawful killings by the armed forces?”
            ABSOLUTELY NO.

            Soma

  • 6
    2

    When the Tamils in Jaffna felt the Sri Lankan state was posing an existential threat to them, they went into a psychologically regressive mode and embraced Prabhakaran as their mythical saviour. Many cockamamie stories were spun about him. His purported reaction to the burning of a Hindu priest in Panadura was one such myth. When this dastardly act took place during the 1958 riots, Prabhakaran was only 4-years-old. Towards the end, when he was apotheosized as the ‘Methagu National Leader’ many more nonsensical ‘facts’ were added to his folktale biography. It was claimed by those who liked to boast they had intimate relations with Prabhakaran that he was tutored by eminent scholars on the niceties of political and social theory; so in the end he was reading Plato, Marx and Hobbes in English on his own. But I think the version that he drew his inspiration from Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns was more closer to the truth.

    • 6
      2

      [Contd. from above]

      This deification of Prabhakaran is currently being carried to even more ludicrous heights in the messed up politics of Tamil Nadu. Lured by the largesse of the Tiger Diaspora, opportunists like Seeman are exploiting the frustrations of the Lumpens and other political underclasses in Tamil Nadu hitherto marginalized by the pan-Indian nationalism of the Congress, the Hindutva of the BJP, and the Dravidian ideology of the successive DMK-AIDMK governments. Seeman has already declared Prabhakaran as the true sole father of emerging Tamil nationalism in Tamil Nadu which he believes will restore Tamil Nadu to Tamils only – even if it means separation. Obviously the fascist ideology of Prabhakaran who didn’t hesitate to kill his own people in the name of liberation is tailor-made for such racist politics. In the Naam Tamilar Katchi’s bizarre ideological mix Hitler, Che Guevara and Prabhakaran are all put on the same pedestal. Some even believe Methagu is still alive and will return when the time is right to liberate Tamil Nadu from Delhi.

      • 2
        0

        “There were other stories among the youth like how he arranged a dancer living at the railway crossing on Point Pedro Road South of Hospital Road for Anura.”
        I am intrigued! Was this a male or female dancer? Thanks in advance.

        • 1
          3

          This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

          For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

          • 2
            0

            Et Tu, SJ?

            • 1
              0

              OC
              There were times when I have been censored a dozen times within two days.
              *
              The Indian Lord’s text reads:
              “Sambhawaami yuge yuge” (I will come in every yuga, to re-establish dharma.)
              The moderator seems to come in a little too often to protect those he sees as meek and punish those who are seemingly strong.

        • 0
          0

          Hi OC,
          Good morning.
          Your question/query on APB.
          “There were other stories among the youth like how he arranged a dancer living at the railway crossing on Point Pedro Road South of Hospital Road for Anura.”
          This story clip, shows strong signs of emanating from groups imbibing “Thal-Ra” and after effects playing volleyball games in a ‘Panangkadu’
          A senior of Anura Priyadarshi Solomon Dias Bandaranaike or Anura Bandaranaike (APB), this claim, does not gel or make sense, knowing APB’s attributes and disposition after continuous association and close quarters for at least 5 years and thereafter in public life.
          Futile thoughts of a fertile but immature brain and discard it!!
          May I close up by saying APB was well equipped for all situations without external help and did not need anyone else’s assistance for dancers (first and foremost, affinity to “dancers” by APB itself is questionable), including Alfred Duraiappah et all.

          • 1
            0

            Mahila,
            Thanks for reassuring me about Anita’s inclinations and equipment!

            • 1
              0

              Mahila,
              Anura

    • 3
      1

      Hi ASD,
      Thanks and very good contribution and analysis indeed, except:
      “His purported reaction to the burning of a Hindu priest in Panadura was one such myth. When this dastardly act took place during the 1958 riots, Prabhakaran was only 4-years-old.”
      “4 years is the time a child comes to terms with lot of things in this world”!
      Perhaps, relevant is the time to progress from day care to ‘Kindy’ and related mind development!!
      Child psychologist would agree that extreme emotional event at a very young age remain ingrained/indented in children for a long time even after mature adulthood!!!
      The same reason is attributable to the view and practice of most Sri Lankans and South Asians, Buddhist, Hindus and even some Catholic families, all inclusive, that they avoid the participation of children of very young age in funerals and cremations, 5 years and below.
      I am no psychologist, nor do I claim, but this may adduce some credence to that part of the “memory clip”, attributable to modern worlds’ worst known terrorist!!!!

    • 0
      0

      Even in Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns the hero doesn’t kill innocent bystanders.

      Soma

  • 1
    3

    I want to play the role of General Jagath Dias in that movie!

  • 5
    12

    At the end it all cooks down to Tamils, an immigrant community from Tamilnadu, making up just 11% of the population wanting parity with the indigenous majourity, and start a terrorist war financed and sponsored in the form of training and weapons from their homeland in the powerful country of India. There’s nothing that could not have been settled amicably without resorting to terrorism. How ever many films are made and books are written by Tamils, the fact remains that the Tamils are demanding rights they simply do not have nor can ever realize in this island, without infringing on the rights of the indigenous Sinhalese people. Tamils’ claims for parity of the Tamil language, which is presented as a right that was deprived them, is not even a right recognized in international law. The war the Tamils started with their bogus claims is extremely unfair to the indigenous population of the island, the Sinhalese.

    • 8
      2

      PP,
      “The war the Tamils started with their bogus claims is extremely unfair to the indigenous population of the island, the Sinhalese.”
      What indigenous population? Your ancestors from Kerala?

  • 10
    0

    Banning Nazi symbols or ideological memorabilia have been effective in Germany. However, banning “Satanic Verses” backfired, and sold in astronomical proportions while the fatwa to kill the author Salman Rushdie was never carried out. If the movie idolizes Velupillai Prabhaharan the impressionable youth might well believe his cause or methods were just. In the absence of freedom of expression, rumours and the grapevine flourish. In a mature democracy, there are ample opportunities to produce a factually correct depiction of the LTTE Supremo and events associated with his movement.

    • 5
      3

      Banned or otherwise EVERY Hindu/Christian Tamil idolises Prabakaran.

      Soma

      • 4
        0

        soma, so let them idolise Prabha. Just thoughts in their heads. To balance it, we feared and hated him.
        .
        Please purchase Professor Jeevan Hoole’s book on Standardisation. There is a footnote there which quotes me: In the year 2001, when re-scrutinising an A. level General English answer script, I increased a mark from 16 to 67. What was the problem?
        .
        Candidates had been asked to write about any person whom they admired. This guy had written about Veluppillai Prabhakaran.
        .
        It’s high time we adopted more rational attitudes towards this terrorist. It will help if all the facts about him are known. Most Tamils will understand that it was an ill-conceived struggle, that Prabha had feet of clay. Some will idolise him. Let them; we don’t have to bother with their thoughts.
        .
        Panini Edirisinhe

        • 2
          0

          Thanks.

          Soma

      • 1
        0

        soman

        “Banned or otherwise EVERY Hindu/Christian Tamil idolises Prabakaran.”

        Did you ask each and every Hindu/Christian Tamil whether they idolise your brother the psychopath VP?

  • 6
    0

    The tall claim that Alfred Durayappa as Mayor ” he built up the new market whereas the FP when it controlled the Council was good only at making speeches.” His bias apart Durayappa never build the Model market which cost Rs.13 million. This loan was made available to the Jaffna Municipal Council by the Local Government Ministry in 1967 when M.Tiruchelvam was the Minister.

    The JMC was dissolved on the 30th May 1966 when Durayappa was the Mayor. After the dissolution, the JMC was run by 3 Special Commissioners appointed by the Minister.

    When the JMC was restored in 1970 T.S. Thurairajah was elected the Mayor. He was ousted in a coup engineered by Durayappa. A no-confidence motion moved by Thambu Kandiah succeeded and in his place, Durayappa was elected Mayor. By this time the Model market consisting of 68 stalls was completed. Durayappa organized a birthday party and invited prospective bidders. It was a ruse to collect bribes.

    The death of 9 citizens on the last day of the Tamil Research Conference was blamed on Durayappa because he refused permission to hold the event at the Open Air Theatre. As the SLFP Organizer for Jaffna, he was carrying out orders from Srimavo Bandaranayake. The latter was opposed to the TRC and wanted the same to be held in Colombo. This offer was refused by the organizers of the conference.

    After the Police shooting and the death of 9 citizens, Durayappa went into hiding. It took several weeks for him to resurface! His blind support and his role as a stooge to the SLFP government cost his life.

    • 1
      0

      Thanga

      “His blind support and his role as a stooge to the SLFP government cost his life.”

      Similarly Tamil Diaspora’s blind faith in and support for the Psycho V Prabaharan ended up in Mullivaaikkal cost hundred of thousands of life.

      “The death of 9 citizens on the last day of the Tamil Research Conference was blamed on Durayappa because he refused permission to hold the event at the Open Air Theatre. “

      There was no evidence to link these nine deaths to Mayor Duraiappa. It is the work of Racist gung ho police which included Tamils as well. The Sinhala/Buddhist arrogance to break the will of the Tamil people long time ago. These are examples of their project, break the morale of the people at any cost. It was on accelerated pace whenever Siri Mao was in control.

      SJ would have been the cheer leader for her.

  • 5
    1

    In some cultures, where governance is not mature, some people seeking to clean up the system may resort to meeting out death for bribery. So if Duraippah was really corrupt and some youths were dreaming of a clean system as part of a proposed revolution, –utopian though it might have been– the killing of corrupt officials is not something that worries the minds of youths. Can one blame them? A world that blames them has to own up to its failures in coming up with a fair and clean system that works well for everyone.

    Of course, soon enough the LTTE faced the realities of life and themselves became very corrupt– though they maintained a veneer of incorruptibility in implementing some public services in areas under their control. They even accepted money from MR and prevented people from voting in order to deprive RW of an opportunity to win. So their excuse for the murder of Duraiappah is not really valid, but it should provide more context to what happened. In my childhood, people like K.T Rajasingham and Alfred Duraiappah who represented SLFP inevitably represented corruption and deserved no sympathy.

    • 2
      0

      Agnos,
      I was there with you almost to the end, but you left me stranded!
      Is death a fit punishment for corruption, if that was the offence.

      • 2
        1

        Nathan,

        What I implied is that under certain very limited or rare conditions, it can be valid.

        If the corruption flows from political power that cannot be changed by democratic means because of permanent and structural disadvantages, then a clean revolution may determine that it has to take drastic action. But for that to be valid, such a revolution has to meet many conditions: it should have wide popular support; its leaders should exemplify the change they want to bring, and stand tall in their morality and discipline, far above the corrupt leaders they seek to punish; etc.

        In the absence of such conditions, it isn’t a fit punishment, of course.

    • 3
      0

      Correction: meting out, not meeting out.

    • 2
      0

      “So if Duraippah was really corrupt and some youths were dreaming of a clean system as part of a proposed revolution”
      Duraiappa was a thorn in the side of a Tamil leader who was humiliated in the polls in 1970. He was a much liked man by ordinary people. He had his weaknesses, but theft of public money was not one of them.
      People who cannot win a political debate resort to murder. Remember what happened to the person who encouraged the youth to kill ‘traitors’?
      Will anyone defending AD’s killing blame this person’s killers?

      • 2
        0

        SJ,

        Read my response to Nathan about the conditions under which I argue such things might be justified. In my childhood, I didn’t have any sympathy for corrupt leaders, but that doesn’t equate to me justifying it.

        Anyway, I don’t think he was much liked by the people, maybe within some circles within the municipality, but not in the larger Jaffna peninsula. I heard a lot of complaints about him from adults in the Vadamaradchi region.

        • 2
          0

          AD won elections several times, at times against severe odds. He was MP for Jaffna and Mayor of Jaffna.
          Tamil nationalists disliked him, but he had a sizeable public following.
          AD was straight in his political dealings— far more than the leader whose son was deeply involved in the conspiracy to kill AD.
          The latter even named people who did not deserve a ‘natural death’. Not long after, his former henchmen decided that he too deserved to be in that list.
          It is only the politically bankrupt that resort to the politics of assassination.

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