by Vidya Abhayagunawardena
The ongoing debate on Sri Lanka in the Indian film world in general and the South Indian Film Industry (SIFI) in particular is intriguing and thought provoking. The just recently IIFA award festival was devoid of participation of leading film stars from India presumably on account of the pressure mounted by the South Indian Film Industry on Bollywood film stars to stay away.
Interestingly, we have not seen any statement on the IIFA from either the representatives of the Tamil Nadu Government or major political parties. It is not clear if the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and Opposition Leader in the state J. Jayalalitha are supportive of the campaign for boycott of IIFA and shooting of Indian films in various locations of Sri Lanka.
In contrast to the high pitched campaign against the IIFA, we have not seen any of the South Indian Film Industry people seeking similar treatment vis-a-vis cricket. The Indian Cricket team represents entire India including the South India. The moot question is why the South Indian Film Industry is looking at this issue as very much narrow minded perspective?
As far as we know Indian films and cricket are part and parcel of the life of many of Indians. Both fields cut across ethnic barriers and are above ordinary politics. Then what is the rationale for the IIFA boycott b), the South Indian Film Industry? Do they look at Sri Lanka as their enemy?
The time has come for the South Indian film industry to rise above narrow considerations. They should realize that their campaign against Sri Lanka would only adversely impact the poor marginalized Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka.
The South Indian Film Industry can play a big role in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is now experiencing post war reconstruction and rehabilitation and this is going to be a more painful process than conducting a war. We have IDPs in the camps to be resettled very soon, people need shelters, education, health, food and water, sanitation, de-mining and many more.
If South Indian Film Industry looks at these burning issues in a critical way we can think and say we all are on board to support them. No body wants to be left out when we support this community. If they go against Sri Lanka, at the end of the day the North and East people will go against South Indian Film Industry very soon.
The Government of India has been in the forefront of the effort of the Sri Lankan Government in rebuilding the lives of the war affected and the credit will go to the Congress party and the Manmohan Singh government.
The big brother and close neighbour India has always been a family member of Sri Lanka. Both countries have a long history of shared culture and bonds. Buddhism came from India. As we all know it is not a Sri Lankan born religion. This tells us how close the people of Sri Lanka are religiously and culturally for centuries.
As we all experienced that three decade of war started with politically motivated issues and gradually it has transformed to guerrilla moment to terrorist out fit. Both India and Sri Lanka have had experienced the bitterness of that conflict, India lost its former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka lost its head of the state R. Premedasa. We don't want to again that bloody conflict on Sri Lanka.
The time has to come for the healing process. We all should look at the big picture with an open mind and seek answers on where we went wrong and how we can make a new beginning. We should look at a new way of Social Integration for all the communities to live in harmony. We have a long way to go.