In 1814, a year before the British colonised Sri Lanka, Tikiri’s husband and other Buddhist nobles try to oust the Tamil king. When this fails, the rebels’ wives are punished. Tikiri is forced to marry Vijaya, a man from the lowest caste. He fails to get her to participate in the rituals of his beggar people, which leads to the clan elder banishing the couple. Far from their communities, they cautiously establish a relationship, but this is interrupted when the Buddhists, this time with British help, manage to depose the king and Tikiri’s meeting with her former husband endangers Vijaya’s people.
There is something unmistakeably political about this moving romantic drama. Just like in contemporary Sri Lanka, where a racially, religiously-charged civil war raged for 30 years, the leads clamp onto their societal identities. Only after experiencing every possible crisis do they realise that character is more important than ancestry.