‘There are shades of grey’

The writers of 800 wanted to tell the story of a cricketing legend, but were keen not to make it a one-dimensional tale of a flawless superhero. They sought to bring in nuance, “the shades of grey” in Mr. Muralitharan’s career and life, according to Shehan Karunatilaka, an acclaimed Sri Lankan novelist who co-wrote the story with director M.S. Sripathy.

“Murali”, Sri Lankan commentators have often observed, has been a controversial figure for more reasons than one.

“Most cricketing fans in the subcontinent are behind him, but, in the broader cricketing world, say, among Australian or English fans of the game, you will find a percentage of people who say Murali is a genius, and another that calls his bowling action illegitimate,” Mr. Karunatilaka added.

Off-field, Mr. Muralitharan was a lone Tamil in a team dominated by boys from “very Sinhala, nationalist schools”, but somehow had his teammates rallying around him in the dressing room. “He didn’t play up his Tamil identity, so there is this question of how Tamil he was allowed to be, in that context. There are many layers to his story and for any actor, playing such a character will be fascinating,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malaya Tamil leader and Parliamentarian Mano Ganesan said in a Facebook post that Mr. Muralitharan rose from the school team to the national team, and, later, went on to become an acclaimed cricketer in the international arena.

However, he said: “In cricket, he [Muralitharan] is a hero, but politically a zero,” referring to a meeting that the star cricketer participated in, ahead of Sri Lanka’s August general elections, sharing the dais with a hard-line Sinhala nationalist politician Wimal Weerawansa, a long-time ally of the Rajapaksas and a Cabinet Minister in their current administration.

However, Mr. Ganesan said: “As long as the film doesn’t justify his [Muralitharan’s] irresponsible politics, let it come and go. Let the life struggles of a Tamil, of a Sri Lankan, be featured in a film,” he said.


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