out of Five
Running time: 109
Enjoyable, well made and nicely acted comedy-drama that plays like a Sri Lankan version of The Full Monty, with a script that's both frequently funny and genuinely moving.
What's it all about?
Directed by Uberto Pasolini, Machan is an award-winning comedy-drama that's based on a true story. Set in the slums of Colombo, Sri Lanka, the film stars Gihan De Chickera as Manoj, a hotel barman who dreams of living and working in the West, along with his best friend, street fruit seller Stanley (Dharmapriya Dias), who has his own problems with mounting debts, a crazy family and a young brother who's becoming more and more of a delinquent.
When their latest visa application is rejected, the two men are crushed until the chance discovery of an invitation to a handball tournament in Bavaria gives them an idea. Despite the fact that neither of them really knows what handball is, they submit an application and soon form the Sri Lankan National Handball Team, joined by an unlikely assortment of friends, relatives, creditors, crooks and even a couple of policemen. But will they achieve their dream and make it to Bavaria? And how many of the team will scarper as soon as they cross the border?
Pasolini's direction gives the film a documentary-like realism that works well; he also gets extremely naturalistic performances from a terrific ensemble cast made up of non-professionals and first-time actors. De Chickera and Dias make a likeable central duo and there's strong support from Mahendra Perera as local crook Ruan, who comes up with a few last-minute solutions when everything seems lost.
The script is excellent, balancing moments that are laugh-out-loud funny with poignant, moving and emotionally resonant scenes that touch on the themes of family, male pride and the men's desperate hunger for the opportunity to work and support a family.
This is, in many ways, a sort of Sri Lankan version of The Full Monty, with an unlikely group of men undertaking something they know nothing about in order to regain a sense of self-worth. As a result, there are several wonderful scenes and the final act is delightful.
Machan is an enjoyable, well made and superbly acted comedy-drama that deserves to find an audience and will appeal to anyone who liked The Full Monty. Highly recommended.