Innocence executed | Daily News

Innocence executed

Chandran Rutnam
Chandran Rutnam

He wanted to find something unusual. And when he releases his work to the public domain, Chandran Rutnam makes sure of one thing: it is not the same type. He simply finishes one type of films, though he may make a comeback to that category sometime later. A film with a serious plot outline will most probably be followed a melodramatic romance.

 His recent film, ‘According to Mathew’, occupied the cinemas for 70 days despite its original linguistic medium being English. He was about to venture into his next obsession.

Then he found Rizana Nafeek. The young lady was convicted and executed in Saudi Arabia for the murder of four-month-old Naif al-Quithaibi. Rizana’s parents revealed that her passport was forged, altering the date of birth, in order to gain employment in the Middle East.

“I was shocked by the sadness of an under-aged girl going to a foreign country. Within two weeks, she was being locked up for seven years. I heard many rumours about how our government was not supportive of this mission. Plus, how nasty the government had been.”

The story, Rutnam places on record, is not what it seems. It is something that happened almost accidentally. There are no villains to pass the blame on to. The system is the sole villain.

“Our foreign employment agencies take advantage of poor people. And of course, I am not the one to support the employment of our under-aged girls. This is a serious situation especially when they go overseas for unskilled labour. It means they have to do menial jobs. This phenomenon is not confined to the Middle East, but the whole world.”

The young women from Sri Lanka then become subject to victimisation. Rutnam has quite a few stories to share about the young ladies going abroad under unskilled labour category. The forged passport is the most ill-famed act, which should never be promoted in the country.

When Rutnam did his research, he came to realise that there is more to the story than what we have heard. In fact, it’s not what we have heard. That’s exactly why he opted away from the scriptwriting job. He chose Dilshath Banu for that job. Banu has compiled a number of books on various sociological themes.

“I asked her to undertake the scriptwriting five years ago. I sent her to the place to research the subject. When I luckily found her again, we discussed. We were both enthusiastic. She is a marvellous writer. She has done heavy research in the field. She is passionately into the subject. She has come up with an authentic script. It tells the true story. The script does not find fault with anybody. It is something that has evolved and happened – unfortunately though!”

On the other hand, Rutnam is not into offering any morale or sending messages through his works. He is hardly into philosophising social phenomena.

“I don’t do that. My job is to entertain. You can entertain with art. You can entertain with a serious subject. People have misunderstood entertainment for just dancing and singing. No. entertainment is to hold your attention. You are being entertained by my way of storytelling. There is no moral issue here. This is not a documentary. It is a story that should be told. We are gathering all the facts.”

Most of what is available on the Internet is fake, Rutnam reminds. No video portrays the accurate picture of the Rizana execution. The real execution was not videoed. She was not executed in the open space. The execution took place within the confines of the prison.

“We have heard enough that the Saudi government did not listen to the Sri Lankan government. On the contrary, they did. But they have their laws. Whether the laws are good or bad, they are laws. The law is law. The government at the time tried their best. According to the circumstances and the law of the land, they tried. Whatever they tried to do was good or bad, that’s subjective. But the fact is they tried to a certain extent. It is easy to say that they are barbaric. Sharia law is their law. Didn’t the chopping off the head happen in Sri Lanka? King Sri Wickramarajasinghe did the same. A lot of countries have done that.”

Rutnam adds that it took so long to make the story worse. Throughout seven years, the young girl was looking forward to going home ‘tomorrow’. There was a ‘tomorrow’ every day for her. Even on the day of execution, she looked forward to going home ‘tomorrow’.

The film will hopefully be released towards the end of this year.

“It is also a story that needs to be told every day. You could have heard it and misunderstood what happened. Such an incident has happened. There is a lesson to be learnt. I am not asking you to take the lesson. The story itself offers the lesson. We need to stop the foreign agencies from forging the passports and sending kids.”

Rizana was 17 when she flew for employment. Her passport age was 24. Age matters in employment. The treatment given to an employee depends heavily on age. A huge difference rests in the responsibility passed down to a girl of 17 and 24.

“I don’t think any mother would want to give away her 17-year-old girl. Yet these continue to happen. She must have gone to support the family. It’s not a blame game. We must remember that it’s something that happened and shall never happen again.”

Every movie, Rutnam remarks, has a different life. In the case of Father Mathew, Rutnam did not want to make a film on his priest. Father Mathew wanted Rutnam to do a film.

“I went through the court cases which are in the public domain. And I added what I already know of the man. He asked me to write the script. When I took it to him, Father Mathew got really angry.”

Father Mathew, of course, claimed innocence. Yet Rutnam reminded his priest that he was obliged to abide by the court records. If Father Mathew is actually innocent, let time and law prove it. Until such time, the film can wait, Rutnam told Father Mathew. The film was shot 20 years after the script was written.

Pictures by Vipula Amarasinghe 


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