Operation Ellalan: A Film Review

February 17th, 2012 marks the fourth anniversary of the martyrdom of the main actor for the film Operation Ellalan, Major Pukazh Maaran of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) and three others in a shelling attack by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) in the Vanni. Probably more than any other film of the recent era concerning guerrilla warfare, the film Operation Ellalan stands in a class of its own. A fully professional undertaking, its actors comprised actual members of the LTTE as well as citizens of Tamil Eelam (the then LTTE liberated section of Sri Lanka governed by the guerrilla group located in the upcountry.) Tamil Eelam was the primary location of its filming. Only a year later after the shelling incident which killed the actors and caused a temporary hold for the project the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam made their final stand in Eelam War IV which ended in a mass slaughter of the Tamils of the Vanni region and which has resulted in a brutal military occupation by the Sri Lankan Army which continues to this day. Many of the participants in the filming of Operation Ellalan are counted among the unknown fallen who perished in the final days of the war.

Operation Ellalan documents the intrepid pre-dawn guerrilla raid on the Anuradhapuram airbase by members of the elite Black Tigers section of the LTTE. The Black Tigers are often referred to as the suicide commandos of the LTTE, meaning that they possess the ultimate loyalty to their struggle and the most elite training that the LTTE has to offer which makes them able to function in hostile situations where the chance for physical survival is little to none. The raid marked the first time that the LTTE had used simultaneous air and ground forces in the context of a raid. The code name for the attack was “Operation Ellaa’lan”, named after the Chola (Tamil) monarch of Sri Lanka who ruled during the second century B.C. The headquarters of his government was located in Anuradhapuram region.

In the early hours before dawn on October 22nd, 2007, twenty-one elite Black Tiger commandos penetrated deep into the interior of the SLAF (Sri Lankan Air Force) base at Anuradhapuram, beginning the destruction of the base and SLAF military equipment which included two MI-24 gunships, one MI-17, one PT6, one Bell 212 and CTH 748 helicopters. An hour later Air Tigers (LTTE is one of the few guerrilla groups that could boast the possession of a fully functional airforce of its own) joined the attack further enhancing the LTTE victory in the successful completion of their operation.

The Sri Lanka Daily Mirror, the newspaper in the south, braved censure and potential legal and punitive repurcussions by its reporting of the raid, which failed to hide the courageous and continually ground breaking prowess of the guerrilla combatants. The newspaper reported that the attack team was “equipped with modified T-56 automatic guns, hand grenades, LAWs (Light Antitank Weapon), Multi-Purpose Machine-Gun (MPMG), Lightweight Machine Guns (LMG), seven satellite phones and knifes”, launching a “”Commando Style” operation against a professional force placing the Government in a very embarrassing situation.” The reporter added further insult to injury by reporting that the SLAF base “had no contigency plan” and that the “the attack made mockery of Sri Lanka Government’s propaganda war.” B. Raman, the former head of India’s external intelligence agency described the raid as “an act of unbelievable determination, bravery and precision” by the LTTE. Sore losers, the SLA responded by parading the naked bodies of slain LTTE commandos killed in the attack the next day. The raid on the Anuradhapuram SLAF base by the LTTE Black Tigers and LTTE Air Tigers marked an unmistakable example of what can be done by a minority of individuals possessing the majority of will and determination. Operation Ellalan the film is the dramatic representation of their heroism.

“’Operation Ellalan’ – A military operation by the militants who carry forward the Eelam liberation Struggle on the Srilankan vital Air base at Anuradhapuram. This operation which was carried out by the Suicide division of the militants, took the liberation struggle to a next phase. This film ‘Ellalan’ re-plays the operation in which 21 militants gave up their life, with all its essence, without any fictious additions or exaggerations. The dedication, commitment and planning behind a victory and the softer side of the militants who carry out the operation are less known to the world. The fact that, for just a few hours of operation.. how many days the militants have spent on training and planning.. The fact that, behind every militant who volunteers to give up their life for the sake of liberating their homeland, is a affectionate family, adorable friends and may be, even a love.. unknown.. This film presents this life in a poetic way with all its valor and love!”  (taken from promotional material for the film)

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