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Paradise review: this political-personal film is among the finest of the year

Prasanna Vithanage's film "Paradise" could be superficially summarized as a special anniversary getaway turning into a nightmare, but this brief description would hardly do it justice.

paradise review

Release date 28 June 2024
Critic's Rating 3.8/5
Director Prasanna Vithanage
Cast   Roshan Mathew, Darshana Rajendran, Shyam Fernando, Mahendra Perera, Sumith Ilango 
Duration  93 minutes

Starring Roshan Mathew and Darshana Rajendran as a Malayali couple named Keshav and Ammu, the film sets itself apart from the very beginning. They arrive in scenic Sri Lanka, anticipating a memorable Ramayana tour, surrounded by green trees and rolling hills at their sylvan estate.

However, their drive from the airport to the homestay quickly exposes them to a stark reality: it’s June 2022, and Sri Lanka is grappling with a severe economic crisis. The streets are chaotic with citizens protesting, fuel shortages are rampant, and economic opportunities have dried up.

Despite the turmoil, Keshav and Ammu are welcomed warmly by their tour guide, Mr. Andrew (Fernando), the estate’s caretaker, Shree (Ilango), and the cook, Iqbal (Samsoodeen). As spending tourists, they bring some relief to the local economy but also unknowingly disrupt the rhythms of the place they've landed in.

The situation escalates when their estate is broken into and they are robbed. This incident brings underlying tensions to the surface. Keshav, buoyed by news of a major deal with a streaming giant that has greenlit his web series, reacts with entitlement and aggression, pressuring the local police inspector, Sergeant Bandara (Perera), to recover their stolen items immediately. In contrast, Ammu, while equally shaken, attempts to remain calm and refuses to join Keshav in his aggressive demands. Her sensitivity and empathy for the locals highlight the differences in their personalities and approaches.

paradise south movie

Presented by Mani Ratnam and Shiva Ananth under the Madras Talkies banner, this 93-minute film is layered and nuanced, requiring multiple viewings to fully unpack. The crisis Keshav and Ammu face mirrors the chaos both within and outside their relationship. Although the film doesn’t explicitly state that their marriage is under strain, their differing reactions to the crisis reveal a couple managing their differences while being acutely aware of them. 

Keshav's frustration and Ammu's more empathetic stance underscore a significant variance in their attitudes. This is evident when Keshav, exasperated by the situation, questions Ammu's ability to remain happy amidst the chaos. Her response, questioning whether he wants her to be unhappy, highlights an unresolved tension. Their interactions convey a history of past arguments and ongoing hurts, making their relationship one of the most realistic portrayals of a married couple in recent cinema.

"Paradise" is more than just a thriller; it is a reflective exploration of personal and societal turmoil. Vithanage’s direction, combined with the compelling performances of Mathew and Rajendran, offers a profound look at how external crises can illuminate internal struggles. The film deftly balances the personal and political, using the couple's experience to reflect on broader societal issues. "Paradise" is a testament to the complexity of human relationships and the impact of external chaos on personal lives.

Also read: SAVI Review: Thriller Blending Logic With Entertainment