‘Navarasa’ is an Indian anthology series featuring nine standalone short films as episodes. The connecting theme between the episodes is that of disguised philosophy and spirituality, which is either directly or metaphorically treated in the stories. Episode 5, titled ‘Peace: Shanthih,’ centers around a group of soldiers huddled in their bunker in an active warzone. The dilemma they face comes in the form of a young boy trying to rescue his little brother. The story is touching, and the ending— unexpected. The actions of the central character might also have seemed tragically inexplicable at one point. Let’s take a closer look at ‘Navarasa’ episode 5 and get some answers. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Navarasa Peace Recap
The story opens on no man’s land in between the frontlines of the Sri Lankan Army and the rebel LTTE forces. A group of LTTE soldiers, led by a man referred to as Master, prepare their barracks for an as yet unknown maneuver by their forces. As they joke about being hungry and picking coconuts, one of them spots a young boy running through the trees. The boy is quickly captured and brought back to the barracks, where he claims to be looking for his younger brother. On further questioning, he reveals that his only remaining family is his grandmother and his brother. In a rush to escape the war zone, he locked his brother in his hut, meaning to come back later and rescue him. The hut where his brother is now supposedly locked is right in the middle of no man’s land and in clear view of the enemy. The soldiers try to dissuade the boy from going, but he remains adamant.
Finally, Nilava volunteers to go and rescue the boy’s brother. His superior, Master, calls him crazy and asks why he would embark on such a treacherous mission, to which Nilava describes the regret he feels for not being able to save his mother when she needed him. Soon enough, he embarks on the stealthy mission to reach the young boy’s hut, which he successfully does. However, upon reaching there, he finds no locked room in it. When he asks the young boy over the radio transceiver where his brother is, the boy calls out the name “Vellaiyan.” Nilava then notices a puppy near his feet and realizes that the boy was referring to his pet as his brother. He remains motionless in thought but eventually picks up the puppy and attempts to get back to his bunker.
Navarasa Peace Ending: Does Nilava Die?
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Army notices movement and opens fire. Nilava weaves in and out, puppy in hand, trying to get back, but is shot on his arm. As he takes cover behind a wall, the puppy runs away and stands at some distance, directly in the line of fire. Nilava is then faced with the choice of going behind a hut to safety or stepping into the line of fire to rescue the puppy. He does the latter, holding his hand up in a sign of peace. No bullets come from the enemy side, and he is able to collect the pet and get to the bunker, injured but alive.
As his fellow soldiers treat him, Nilava claims that the puppy has delayed his death. In his euphoria, he stands up to wave to the enemy side and is immediately shot down. His fellow soldiers and Master crowd around him, bemoaning his fate while the young boy, reunited with his puppy, runs away.
So, despite having narrowly escaped death the first time and reaching his bunker with a non-fatal injury, Nilava is not so lucky the second time and is shot down when he waves to the enemy side to thank them. It is quite clear that his actions are not thought through, as even his superior cries out that the ruthless enemy, who allegedly kill children, will have no sympathy for Nilava despite his heroic actions.
Nilava standing up and waving to the enemy in the midst of an active war zone seems inexplicable on many levels, but two factors likely drive his actions. First, despite being injured, he is ecstatic at finally redeeming himself after being weighed down by his mother’s death. Secondly, he most likely begins to believe that the enemy will not shoot him since they didn’t fire at him the first time he waved to them while rescuing the puppy. This is a clear and fatal error in judgment that Nilava makes, with disastrous consequences.
Why Does Nilava Agree to Rescue the Boy’s “Brother”? Who is Vellaiyan?
Nilava feels guilty for not saving his disabled mother, who he left in a room amidst the chaos of war. Hearing the young boy describe how he left his brother in a similar situation, our hero is overcome by grief and decides that he will redeem himself by rescuing the young boy’s brother. At this point, Nilava doesn’t know that the boy’s brother is actually his pet puppy.
When Nilava finally realizes that the brother is actually a puppy, he still ends up risking his life to rescue the little animal. This is because the puppy, named Vellaiyan, shares the name of Nilava’s brother, who was killed in a war in 1988. Therefore, by rescuing the puppy, Nilava is able to appease the memories of his dead mother and his brother, which he thinks is a worthy endeavor to risk his life for.
Why Does the Enemy Eventually Shoot Nilava?
Since we never see a single member of the enemy side, their reasoning and motivations remain opaque. However, Nilava credits them with empathy when they don’t fire at him while he rescues the puppy. We can only speculate at this point, but in a war as bitter as that between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army, where even small children were not spared, empathy is hard to come by. It likely took a significant amount of restraint from the enemy side to not fire at Nilava the first time around. When the LTTE soldier gave them another opportunity to secure a kill, it is easy to see why the enemy side would not want to miss it. Therefore, Nilava overestimated the role of empathy and disregarded the practicalities of war, which eventually got him shot.
Read More: Is Navarasa a True Story?