Funny Boy (2020 film)

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Funny Boy
Funny Boy 2020 film poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed byDeepa Mehta
Produced byDavid Hamilton
Screenplay byDeepa Mehta
Shyam Selvadurai
StarringNimmi Harasgama
Ali Kazmi
Agam Darshi
Seema Biswas
Shivantha Wijesinha
Brandon Ingram
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyDouglas Koch
Edited byTeresa Font
Distributed byARRAY
Release date
  • December 4, 2020 (2020-12-04)

Funny Boy is a 2020 Canadian drama film, directed by Deepa Mehta.[1] An adaptation of Shyam Selvadurai's 1994 novel of the same name, the film centres on the coming of age of Arjie Chelvaratnam, a young Tamil boy in Sri Lanka who is coming to terms with his homosexuality against the backdrop of the increased tensions between Tamil and Sinhalese people before the breakout of the Sri Lankan Civil War.[2]

Shot on location in Colombo, the film stars Arush Nand as Arjie in childhood and Brandon Ingram as Arjie in his teenage years, as well as Nimmi Harasgama, Ali Kazmi, Agam Darshi, Seema Biswas, Rehan Mudannayake and Shivantha Wijesinha.[2] Its production was first announced in 2018.[3] The film will have a theatrical release in Canada and selected cities in the United States, and will be distributed internationally via Netflix.[2] The movie rights for the United States have been acquired by Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Releasing who will handle worldwide distribution.[2]

It was broadcast December 4, 2020, on CBC Television and was released for streaming on CBC Gem the same day.[4] It was selected as the Canadian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards,[5] but was disqualified from that category by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences due to not meeting the Academy's requirement that fifty percent of the dialogue be in a language other than English.[6]


  • Arush Nand as younger Arjie
  • Brandon Ingram as older Arjie
  • Nimmi Harasgama as Amma / Nalini
  • Ali Kazmi as Chelva
  • Seema Biswas as Ammachi
  • Agam Darshi as Radha
  • Ruvin De Silva as Anil
  • Shivantha Wijesinha as Jegan
  • Rehan Mudannayake as Shehan


Language politics[edit]

Members of the Tamil community have criticized the lack of Tamil actors in the main cast despite the film's focus on the Tamil characters.[7] Mehta has stated that while she initially cast Tamil actors in the film, they were unable to continue for various reasons, including refugee statuses interfering with visa applications, and the fear of making a film about homosexuality, which is still illegal in Sri Lanka.[8] She claims to have had difficulty finding additional Tamil actors willing to be part of a gay film.[9][8][10] Because of the lack of native Tamil speakers from Sri Lanka in Mehta's depiction of Funny Boy, some members of the community have described the Tamil language spoken in the film as disjointed and sometimes unintelligible.[11] There have also been claims that the inaccuracies in the language contribute to the erasure of the Tamil identity.[11] Mehta responded to the criticisms surrounding the Tamil language by sending the film to India for dubbing post-production.[8] After screening the final film, some members of the community have said that while the Tamil spoken in the revised version is better than the original, it is still not the Tamil spoken in Sri Lanka.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received positive reviews from critics. Pat Mullen of ThatShelf called Funny Boy "a buoyant, soulful, and refreshingly openhearted film. Mehta's film boldly offers a humanist fable, ripped from lived experience and delivered from the heart. It invites audiences to see the world through another's eyes. The view is heartbreaking and beautiful." Mullen continues, "The two breakthrough performers, Ingram and Mudannayake, are quite extraordinary in their first film leads. They have excellent chemistry as the young men discovering themselves anew. They're both true naturals with Ingram gradually allowing Arjie to blossom and Mudannayake proving a scene-stealer with his magnetic presence. (It's not hard to see why Arjie's so smitten.)"[12]

Andrew Parker of The Gate stated that "Funny Boy handles both of the material's main angles with respect and compassion, which is a testament to Selvadurai's source material and some of Mehta's strongest visuals to date....this story can be viewed as another great example of how human rights abuses are allowed to run rampant because those experiencing them are staying silent in a bid to go along with the nationalistic flow." [13]

Tracy Brown of the Los Angeles Times writes that, "It's both precious and refreshing when queer characters in coming-of-age stories fall in love without having to overcome any inner turmoil over their identities, so Arjie and Shehan's story is plenty heartwarming."[14]

Chris Knight of the National Post rated it 3 stars out of 5 and stated that "Certainly a little background into the conflict would help non-Tamil viewers find their footing. Even so, Funny Boy remains at one level approachably universal in its appeal."[15]

While holding Mehta accountable, Tina Hassannia of The Globe and Mail questioned Ava DuVernay's ARRAY distributing the film, writing that "the pioneering American director, a vocal supporter for onscreen representation, might have wanted to question the casting decisions of Funny Boy before taking it on.”[16]

The film was named to TIFF's year-end Canada's Top Ten list for feature films.[17]


  1. ^ Radheyan Simonpillai, "Deepa Mehta's Funny Boy to premiere on Netflix". Now, October 15, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Ravindran, Manori (October 15, 2020). "Ava DuVernay's ARRAY Releasing Buys Deepa Mehta's 'Funny Boy,' With Netflix Launch Set for December". Variety.
  3. ^ van Koeverden, Jane (September 7, 2018). "Shyam Selvadurai and Deepa Mehta adapting the novel Funny Boy for the big screen". CBC Books.
  4. ^ Ravindran, Manori (October 27, 2020). "Deepa Mehta's 'Funny Boy' Lines Up World Broadcast Premiere on CBC". Variety.
  5. ^ Ravindran, Manori (October 29, 2020). "Canada Enters International Feature Film Oscar Race With Deepa Mehta's 'Funny Boy'". Variety. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  6. ^ Naman Ramanchandran (December 18, 2020). "Canada's Oscar Entry 'Funny Boy' Pulled From International Feature Film Race". Variety.
  7. ^ Visvajit Sriramrajan (November 9, 2020). "'Funny Boy' isn't the progressive film it's made out to be". Hofstra Chronicle. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d Simonpillai, Radheyan (November 24, 2020). "Funny Boy elicits love and anger from the Tamil diaspora". Now. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  9. ^ Ahearn, Victoria (November 26, 2020). "Deepa Mehta on why more Tamil actors weren't in lead roles in new film 'Funny Boy'". CTV News. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  10. ^ Sunthar Vykunthanathan (November 20, 2020). "Why Deepa Mehta's 'Funny Boy' isn't as inclusive as you may think". Toronto Star. Retrieved November 27, 2020.
  11. ^ a b Nedra Rodrigo (November 26, 2020). "On Deepa Mehta's Funny Boy, the intimacy of violence, and the trauma of cultural erasure". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  12. ^ Mullen, Pat (November 26, 2020). "Funny Boy Review: Pigs Can Fly If You Want Them To". thatshelfcom. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  13. ^ Parker, Andrew (November 26, 2020). "Funny Boy | Review". Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  14. ^ "Review: 'Funny Boy' is an ambitious story about growing up gay and Tamil in Sri Lanka". Los Angeles Times. December 10, 2020. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  15. ^ "Funny Boy is a challenging adaption of a beloved coming-of-age novel". National Post. November 27, 2020. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  16. ^ Tina Hassannia (November 26, 2020). "Review: Deepa Mehta's Funny Boy is both powerful and problematic". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  17. ^ Victoria Ahearn, "Toronto International Film Festival releases Top Ten lists for 2020". Squamish Chief, December 9, 2020.

External links[edit]