Machan: Story of mismatched Sri Lanka Handball Team at Toronto Film Festival

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Machan is a Sinhala Comedy Feature film based on a true story produced by Prasanna Vithanage and directed by Uberto Pasolini. It will premiere at Toronto International Film Festival this year, under the contemporary world cinema.

Mahendra Perera in a scene from the film.

Mahendra Perera in a scene from the film.

 An advance screening for the press was held at the National Film Board just before the film festival was due to open. Machan is the first film directed by Uberto Pasolini, who earlier produced The Full Monty in 1997 and Emperor’s New Clothes in 2001. Pasolini was born in Rome and has been in the British Film Industry since 1983.


 The backdrop of the film is Colombo slums. It tells the harrowing tale of people living in the darkest side of the globe, marginalized in a rigid social structure. Machan portrays the pain and struggle of those people who struggle to survive and their only dream is to get out of the country for a better future.

Dharmapriya Dias who plays the role of Stanley and Gihan De Chickera (Manoj) in a scene from the film.

Dharmapriya Dias who plays the role of Stanley and Gihan De Chickera (Manoj) in a scene from the film.

 Stanley, a fruit seller lives with his kid brother and two aunts who are loaded with burdens of life. One day, he reads an article in a newspaper asking for a handball (a game which is a mix between soccer and basketball and widely popular in Europe) team to play in Germany.


 He tries his best to organize a bogus team of 16 players to join him. Going around looking for people, his idea of forming the team takes a long time to materialize in fits and starts.

Ultimately, he is able to assemble a mismatched collection of 16 people, gathered from various occupations and ages. Most of his team players join him due to poverty and desperation to escape from their misery.

Stanley’s brother-in-law who works as a hotel cleaner goes to a money lender to pay his mounting debt and receives an ultimatum to settle debts with interest, which is beyond his reach. His wife (Stanley’s sister) decides to go to the Middle East as a housemaid to overcome the desperate situation. There is a stunning moment in the film when she is packing her belongings with the help of her two year-old daughter. The little girl asks: “What about me? Is there any space left in the suitcase for me?”

The team members.

The team members.

The scene is heartbreaking, and capable of bringing tears to the eyes of any parent.  The father (Stanley’s brother-in-law), watches this through the window and realizes her departure will create a devastating void in his family. Instead of her leaving to the Middle East, he decides to join Stanley’s handball team.

Meanwhile, the barman in the hotel, Manoj (Stanley’s life long friend) who lives with four siblings, grandmother and parents are also portrayed in the film. Being the eldest in the family, he tries to get a job visa to go abroad. After failing in all his attempts he decides to join Stanley’s team. Though he lives in the slums his mother (played by Malini

Fonseka) trains her children to respect the elders and to keep the family ties through religion. She manages to send the children to school in time and in clean clothes.


 With years of acting experience behind her, Malini portrays the unique picture of a traditional Sri Lankan mother. At the very last moment Manoj decides that it’s not worth to leave his family behind in search of fortunes in an unknown country. Mahendra Perera shows his acting talents as an agent who helps people from neighboring countries to settle down in Sri Lanka. His role too shows how any country in the world can have corruption and greed in every corner of its society. Other main casts are played by Dharmapriya Dias, Gihan de Chickera and Dharshan Dharmaraj. The talented new stars show they can perfectly get into any character to create a real image in a cinematic form. Cameron Bailey who has written about Machan says, “Even if you’ve never heard of handball, this group of underdogs is bound to become your favorite team.”