Pradeepan Raveendran’s ‘Soundless Dance’ dives into the war-torn mind of a Sri Lankan Tamil in Paris

Posted on January 7, 2021


soundless dance

The director stages war as a sort of terrible virtual-reality “game”, if you will. Or maybe you could consider it a “performance” of some kind.

Spoilers ahead…

Pradeepan Raveendran was born in Jaffna, and he now lives in Paris. You might say he identifies with Siva (Patrick Balaraj Yogarajan), the protagonist of his debut feature film, Soundless Dance (Nisaptha Nadanam). Siva, too, is an émigré, and before we see him, we see people protesting the Sri Lankan civil war with cries of “recognise autonomy of Tamil Eelam” and “help us to save the Tamils”. A solitary drummer transforms these chants into something like war cries, as the French police attempt to maintain some order. It’s the spring of 2009. The war between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government is entering its most violent phase. This politically volatile opening stretch, you’d think, is preparing us for a politically volatile protagonist. But Siva doesn’t seem to be one of those Tamils who’s especially invested in the creation of a separate Tamil state. He’s just someone who wants to live in peace.

Siva’s family is back in Sri Lanka. They’ve sent him to France to make money and repay their debts. He needs to know they are okay. And for that, he needs to be okay. Is it possible to separate the personal from the political? Perhaps not. But as we see in one of the many flashbacks to Siva’s life back in Sri Lanka, he isn’t like his childhood friend Raghavan (S Someetharan), for whom the political has become the personal. As boys, they played with toy guns in their idyllic village: there’s nothing to distinguish them but their physical traits. But as grown-ups, Raghavan is a Tamil Tiger, seething with separatist angst. Siva is just… a Sri Lankan Tamil.

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