ABOUT NIKINI VASSA

People in the dry zone of Sri Lanka do not look forward to the month of august with a great deal of optimism. Affected by drought, everyone prays for a drop of water on the dry soil. It is a month filled with hope. Sometimes in August one can witness grey skies and hear the rumble of thunder. One can almost feel the patter of rain, but the raindrops are just swept away by the stiff breeze. Month of August is called the month of Nikini. The ‘August rains ‘named ‘Nikini Vassa’ is indeed a deceitful drizzle that never kisses the earth.


The film revolves around men and women who live in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The main character is a business woman called Somalatha. She is one of those select few, who owns a business that is deemed unsuitable for a woman by the public. She is a mortician. From the moment a person dies, she takes over. She is capable of carrying out every aspect of the process such as transportation of the body, embalming, and casketing. People regard her profession as cursed and unclean. Fellow villagers avoid her when they can. Everyone seems to have forgotten that they themselves would one day die and be handled by her! For the sake of attracting business i.e. dead bodies, she resorts to all the tricks of the trade, practiced by rival undertakers. She becomes the object of their contempt. She leads a lonely life. Her lifestyle is dark and distanced. For her, love, affection, marriage and kids appear to be far away, mainly, because of the nature of her business.


Her ray of hope in life depends on putting up a crematorium for the area. She believes that she could gain some respect from those who shun her, by completing this project. She has three others who help her in her endeavour. Piyasiri is Somalatha’s one employee. She handles almost everything in her business. He belongs to the class of rural youth who leads a relatively simple life. He is unable to comprehend vicissitudes of life. All his belongings are kept in a small coffin built to accommodate a kid’s body. One could say metaphorically that it is the length and breadth of his life. He gets friendly with a girl whom he meets accidentally. Later Somalatha catches him engaged in a sex act with that girl. This is the watershed event in his carefree life. Somalatha influences Piyasiri to marry the girl. Thereby she carries out an act of benevolence, helping others to achieve in life what in her own life seems unfulfilled


As it turns out Piyasiri’s marriage ends in tragedy. He would never have imagined that the small coffin where he kept his belongings would carry his child one day. He loses his wife and the unborn child in one night. They are victims of another danger that lurks in remote villages, the clash between man and elephant. The wattle and daub house of Piyasiri is no match for a wild elephant on the rampage. Trampled and maimed, his wife dies with the child.


The other one who is close to Somalatha is Wijetilaka. He is a product of the 30 year old civil war of Sri Lanka, an ex-soldier who was disabled in combat. He is the epitome of such soldiers. He has lost a part of his left leg. In spite of having to use crutches to walk about, Wijetilaka takes on life with a smile. He is entrusted with the responsibility of putting up the crematorium.


Wishwa, an architect is her other ally. He is younger than Somalatha. He suffers from a form of epilepsy that makes him mentally incompetent in the absence of regular medication. His mobile phone rings an alarm at regular intervals reminding him to take his pills. He is an unsettled personality who gets ruffled even at the sight a cockroach. He is an introvert. However he does a competent job of work when it comes to his profession. He designs the crematorium which Somalatha is so eager to build. As a result of this involvement a friendship develops between Somalatha and Wishwa. She dreams of a closer relationship with him. What could end of all this be?


‘Nikini Vassa’ is a film that touches life, death and expectations. One person’s death fans the flame of expectations in another. The life that begins with that expectation ultimately ends in death. Loneliness, loss of social contacts, and deceit are underlying human conditions visible throughout this film.

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