December 10, 2020
Arush Nand is very good as a gay Tamil boy in Deepa Mehta’s coming-of-age drama set in a period building to civil war
Funny Boy review – Sri Lankan rites-of-passage tale clashes with political reality
There is something a bit soapy and melodramatic about this queer coming-of-age drama from Sri Lanka, picked up by Ava DuVernay’s company Array and released by Netflix. It’s the tale of a gay Tamil boy, Arjie (played first by Arush Nand and later Brandon Ingram), growing up in the 1970s and 80s as tensions escalate between Tamils and the Sinhalese majority. The storytelling works better in the first half, with some heart-tugging scenes as puzzled little Arjie struggles to understand why boys are not allowed to wear lipstick and play the bride in dress-up games.
Nand plays it beautifully. Arjie is an irrepressibly sunny eight-year-old from a privileged family, but his aunties smirkingly call him “a funny boy” – or as his cousin puts it, “a sissy”. His father is perpetually disappointed that his son is not interested in Cricket. Only his cool well-travelled auntie, Radha (Agam Darshi), understands him, painting his toenails red in secret and taking him to the theatre. Every now and then, director Deepa Mehta switches young Nand for the Actor who plays teenage Arjie (Ingram), and the older boy becomes a bystander to his childhood, watching on with an emotional ache.
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