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Sunday, 6 June 2004  
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Romanticism - the new trend in Sinhala cinema

by Kaminie Jayanthi Liyanage

As Kasun and Chaapa, Chaturika and Roshan Rajapakse, reminiscent of Dhammi and Sugath of Golu Hadawata.

After a prolonged period of Sinhala cinema, in which we had experimental and fringe cinema on one side, and sex thrillers and raw comedy on the other, Adaraneeya Wassanaya (Love in Autumn) looks as if it could once again revalidate the middling order of romantic commercialism of the sixties, seventies and eighties.

Why would romanticism be important at this juncture of the Sinhala film industry? Perhaps, as the innate thrills of violence and sensuality seem to be exhausting its wantonness on the large screen, there is a strongly felt need to emphasise new screen norms and a new iconology for the mass audiences.

And to replace, at least in part, the values of avant garde objectivity to the rules of life, with rudimentary and uncomplicated expressions such as 'true love', 'good over bad', 'simplicity over sophistication', 'modesty over indulgence', and so on.

Stirrings of this kind of audience inclinations could nett in steadier box office trends, and stimulate the growth of a regular commercial film market, as romanticism had done before.

Based on the best selling novel, Wassana Sihinaya by Upul Shantha Sannasgala, this debut musical film direction by new comer Senesh Dissanaike Bandara, creates a fresh look in the Sinhala cinema. With many of its actors and actresses drawn from 'the popular new young', and its music director, Navaratne Gamage, ushering a different dimension in local playback singing, Adaraneeya Wassanaya looks as if it is set to create new commercial trends. Notwithstanding weaker moments in the story flow and its validation, the plus points which can be picked from this film for a future robustness in local cinema is too significant to disregard. For, the signs of a new iconology is beginning to emerge. As said before, the lure of this film is in its beautiful melodies, music and singing designed to capture more refined musical sensitivities than what is generally heard in local cinema. Rathirya (If I was the night) sung by Indika Upamali, is a new experience in film singing. This sensitivity can also be seen in the cinematography, by the novelty of perspective of certain scenes.

New comer Roshan Rajapakse plays a sensitive male lead (Kasun) and at moments, it is obvious, that if given more leverage, he could grow to be a good character player.

The potential shown by the female lead Chathurika Peiris (Chaapa) and others of the new wave, Sahan Ranwala (Niranga), Suzan Sandrasagara (Uttara) and Pradeep Senanayake (Rohan) too is significant and give a pleasant insight into how modern talent could be harnessed to create new waves in the futuristic Sinhala cinema.

For commercialism, Adaraneeya Wassanaya's beacon at this current juncture is clearly visible. It is up to the future film-makers to define it.


Nala Mudu Suvanda: Arts Pageant with a difference

The great annual arts pageant or the ceremony of arts and letters organised by the undergraduates of the staff of the university of Sri Jayawardenapura, will be held on June 8 at the Bandaranaike hall of the University. Titled Nala Mudu Suvanda, which literally means, 'a sweet scented breeze', it comes from a Sinhala poetic work Salalihini Sandeshaya, where quite a number of auspicious signs are declared as symbolic blessings on one's way ahead. If there is a sweet scented breeze blowing towards you, that is significant as well as symbolic of impending luck or good blessings.

This year's ceremony marks the 8th anniversary of the pageant, which was introduced in 1995 and held every year, with the exception of last year due to some internal strifes, on the part of the academic staff, over some administrative pitfalls.

The chief mentor, supervisor and the designer of this event, Prof. Sunil Ariyaratna, says that the undergraduates have an internal urge to exhibit their skills and talents brought over from their school days and the university life sometimes prevent that urge to grow up or sprout out knowingly or unknowingly. As such, it had resulted in a certain sense of frustration in the undergraduates of all universities, dispossessed of any aesthetic activities.

But this has to change. Where have all artistic talents in the university circles gone these days? As one senior professor said, "The aesthetic activities are totally dead in almost in all the universities". If this could be regarded as a sensitive observation, one should feel happy about J'pura organisation of Nala Mudu Suvanda, which encompasses such areas as music, lyric artistry, poetry, theatre, literary criticism, media activities, photography and painting.

The day events will include an award ceremony cum musical pageant.

Tracing the past events, Prof. Ariyaratna, told me that quite a number of the award winners enjoy quite a number of key positions in such professions as journalism, administration, academic and research activities foreign service, medical field, theatre and film world.

They even now continue to render a helping hand when needed.

This event is also known by the terms Kala Mangalyaya as such one of the main objectives in this event is to usher in a new world of aesthetic activities enabling the undergraduate to enter into a better climate in aesthetic refinement.

'Amaradewa Award' for the best male singer, 'Nanda Malini Award' for the best female singer, 'Mahagamasekara Award' for the best lyricist, 'Wimalarathna Kumaragama Award' for the best poet, 'G.B. Senanayake Award' for the best short-story writer, 'Martin Wickramasinghe Award' for the best critic, 'Ediriweera Sarachchandra Award' for the best play writer, 'Karunarathna Abesekara Award' for the best announcer, 'George Keyt Award' for the best artist and 'Wilson Hegoda Award' for the best photographer will be awarded in this ceremony.

The chief guest of this ceremony will be the Minister of Cultural and National heritage, Vijitha Herath.

At a time when Media, education, and culture are not inter-linked, at least this sort of aesthetic experience ought to give an impetus to explore more in literary and cultural matters.

The event will be compered by Hema Nalin Karunaratna, and musical score conducted by Rohana Weerasinghe.

Just before the grand finale a glass of milk will be provided to the audience to give them more stamina.

- Sunanda Mahendra.


Going crazy at the Bengal Bungalow

Bengal Bungalow nets in a wriggling fistful of people, each running off in one's own direction, with hardly a thought of where the rest is headed. Whether the entrants come crashing in or walking in, once in, all become actors of a crazy puppet house, with each pulling the strings of the other for more lunacy.

In this madhouse, the philanthropist is gagged and bound, while in his place, the looter loots. And brings the house down in a roar, as he dodders in his forced transfixion as the beatifix. The fetish and ever-seeking Lil' o' the valley goes for a flyer, who, in this instance, is the accidental "marauder", flying Doe, while her more ground-bound beau, Charlie, is left to fret on the wall. Lil's uncomprehending yet fond father could hardly keep abreast of her disastrous plunges for love while the amnesiac Doe is lost in the melee for self-pursual, beginning from the damsel of the bungalow right down to the prankster domestics. An obvious and almost hurtle to perdition.

Yet, in the end, all is not lost. Enter Doe's lawful and more assertive better-half, and Doe is rescued from schizoprenia. Charlie is kicked back to his unending duty. The arm of law enters to loot the looter. Was it my imagination, or did the eye of the law flash a fleeting glad eye on Lily before it vanished with its "loot"? Perhaps, besides the crestfallen Lily, the only real loser is the mahout - for his charge had finally called a spade a spade, by demonstrating that 'a trunk is a trunk and to hell with the mahout!'

Bengal Bungalow, the scriptwriter and director, Jehan Aloysius' diversion from issue-based theatre, manages a farce, which for a few moments of laxity, still emerges as an energy pack of well-timed entrances and exits, opening and closing of doors, and deviously devised props and collisions.

Its innuendoes and double entendres come across as well thought out. Perhaps, if Jehan burnishes a little more on the precision of timing, (for there is no scene-breakers in the play), Bengal Bungalow could become a ruthless machine of uproarious mirth, with some of its farcical content inanely hinting at other depths. Yet, as in his former play, the Ritual, this is a demonstration of Jehan's prowess for placing on trial different stage techniques.

As the only female among nine cavorting males until Doe's wife, Mable, arrives on in the scene, Juanita Belling had a hard job on stage.

Her bravado and gusto in gulping the role's dramatics is shown in the near authenticity of the character she roles out. The night I saw the play, somehow, Dulika Jayamanne (robber) managed to steal the thunder, the hilarity of the duality of his character, amply dealt with in splendour. Ruveen Dias (Pilot Doe) was being felled to the ground most of the time, hope he did not hurt himself! Do Sri Lankan audiences love to laugh? Yes, they do! Perhaps, not to seek an escape from their own day-to-day peccadilloes, but to laugh at their own selves and imagine of having glimpsed what might constitute a golden doorway to the day break.

If Bengal Bungalow is yet another beginning of a period of local English theatre in which Lanka must learn to laugh more at itself, and then ruminate on the sad tale of the humanalia wrung out in the hilarity, well, we want more of such likes.

- K.J.L.

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