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DateLine Sunday, 16 December 2007

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Review - Yahaluwo (Best Friends):

Fascinating facet of genuine original art

Milieu through the eyes of a child:



Efficient Director's matured work: Seeing and analysing multiple issues including loneliness through the eyes of a child avoiding viciousness and prejudices.

One of the striking features of Sumitra Peries's latest directorial venture, Yahaluwo (Best Friends) is the post-modern approach she has taken in texturing the mosaic of the film. Perhaps, the forte of the film is the very use of non-linear narrative in amalgamating characters and incidents in a most strange manner.

Though the action takes place within the confines of a house, the family is feels the undercurrents of a whirl wind of social changes that gradually envelops the society. Rajive, an innocent child of mix parentage is, perhaps, the best person to see the fractured society on racial lines with untainted eyes.

Each character represents not only a segment of the population and an ethnicity but also a gamut of attitudes and imbedded prejudices against one another. Even the minor characters such as those of the burgher music teacher (Vasanthi Chaturani), House Keeper (Gangu Roshana) embody an assortment of attitudes and prejudices. Some of them had to leave the country while others adapt themselves to the situation.

For instance, Rajive's maternal grandparents leave for Canada, perhaps, never to come back to Sri Lanka. Rajive's grandparents leave on account of conflict and tension while the Burgher teacher's mother leaves on another count, the language. So, the texture of the film is as complex as its characters, situations that epitomise the milieu we live in.

Beneath the superficial incidents, lies the undercurrents that shape the lives of the inmates of the house. The fight between gardeners and driver over the music played on radio is the focal point where friction comes to light.

The entire house is disturbed in the dead of night. Though it is a minor incident it gives rise to number of issues such as attitudes on the part of one ethnic group towards another and inbuilt prejudices against one another.

These prejudices influence, though slightly, almost all characters including Manorani (Pooja Umashankar) and her husband (Sujeewa Senasinghe). It also badly affects Rajive who seriously thinks about his ethnicity and wishers that if parent's quarrel over his ethnicity, he would end up being a Muslim. Gate Keeper (Kamal Addaraarachchi) spells out the possibility of the driver and gardener to iron out their differences and to live in harmony.

Yahaluwo is a passionate plea for togetherness and harmony and to look beyond petty divisions on racial lines. Living in harmony with people of diverse opinions, races and people with various prejudices is symbolized, at times, through characters and incidents in the film.

Unlike in linear narrative the incidents in the film are unfolded in a sequential or chronological manner; the incidents occur in a most unexpected manner.

The very character of the film changes and evolves from a children's film as it is seen at the beginning to a much more serious work of art, transcending many layers underpinning the genesis of the crisis yet through unspoiled and untainted eyes of a child.

The vision and the synergised effect of the unfolding scenes offer a candid view through characters drawn from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. Each stands for a whole of its kind and amalgamates in environs of a household.

Flashing on memories of Rajive's younger brother Gamini, though some one might argue that it as a filler, plays an important role in fortifying the omni-present loneliness of the child as well as brining up some issues such as the distance between mother and child, the grandmother's pre-occupation with religion, hallucinations and certain beliefs in Sinhala society.

It, in fact, is quintessential to the plot and infringes on all character in one way or another; mother is affected by the death and it affects the relationship between husband and wife and also acts as linkage between the religious grandmother and Rajive. No person with a little knowledge of child psychology would not have come to that conclusion.

Child's gifting of the tooth to the Gardener (brilliantly portrayed by Raja Ganeshan) is symbolic in the sense that it is amounting to parting of a part of one's body. Perhaps, the child may be prompted by the belief that the tooth would bring prosperity to its possessor.

This is one place where non-linear narrative is best manifested. It is naive to think that the director would enact a drama out of incident of losing a tooth. In a way, it is not expected by the modern audience.

Rajive grows up in a truly multi-ethnic and multi-racial surrounding, assimilating religious and cultural practices of both Sinhala and Tamil societies. His perception is shaped up by the unfolding scenes which questions his ethnic origin as a child of Sinhala-Tamil parents.

It should also be mentioned here that the film will go through diverse readings and may draw criticism from some quarters purely on account of its non-linear post-modernist narrative. Given the prototype fantasies that follow linear narrative, reinforcing obsolete social values, it is not surprising that such criticisms should spring out of ignorance.

A significant aspect of Yahaluwo is the very non-linear narrative which is, perhaps, the best form to experience complexities and the subtle nature of human relationships. As in a blank verse, non-linear narrative also has its own poetic rhythm which in this instance, has been further enhanced by strong grammar of cinematography.

From the very first frame of the film, difference in the cinematography including use of colour and shades is felt. A child's innocent world is craftily created by nature-studded scenery with a lot of animals in it. Among the directors, Sumitra Peries is the finest example of applying the ideal of picture-supersede language among all the directors even surpassing Dr. Lester James Peries.

Compared with her earlier productions such as Yahalu Yeheli, Sagara Jalaya, Sumitra has deviated from creating women-centric roles in Yahaluwo and this, to an extent, is being practiced in Sakman Maluwa. She has explores life with its manifold relationships.

Through the diverse layers, illuminates the universal characteristic of human nature, overcoming the artificial barriers of caste, creed, ethnicity, religion, region and culture which divide people from people.

However, the dance in Rajive's dream between Gate Keeper (Kamal Addaraarachchi) and Muslim woman House Keeper (Gangu Roshana) is a failure and seems inserted into the plot, perhaps, to fulfil certain obligation on the part of the Director. Kamal Addaraarachchi's acting in the whole, is a failure.

Kamal tries to over play the character with an addition of the comic element to it is tolerable. For that very reason, it becomes a little bit unnatural which is agreeable.

Yahaluwo is a rare production, a gem in a dark unfathomed mine, which will stand the test of time. In terms of its camera and cinematography Yahaluwo beat any contemporary Sinhala production. Pooja Umashankar, at times, over acted.

However, her mannerism has become sharp in Yahaluwo. Irangani Serasinghe's real-life acting is well-fit into the role of a grandmother who finds solace in Buddhist rituals.

Sinhala tuition master (Tony Ranasinghe) is as natural as he is and fits well into the allotted role. Asoka de Zoysa's role as a driver is not as convincing as he played successfully in other films. Though they played minor roles Anarkali Arkarsha, Gangu Roshana, Raja Ganeshan, Swetha Hansa, Rathna Sumanapala, Thesara Jayawardena, Sumathy Ragupathy, and M. K. Sudhas were convincing and have done justice.

Music for the film is directed by Nawarathna Gamage. The cast includes Himasal Thathsara Liyanage (son) who shows traits of a talented actor, Anarkali Arkarsha, Gangu Roshana, Raja Ganeshan, Asoka de Zoysa, Swetha Hansa, Rathna Sumanapala, Thesara Jayawardena, Sumathy Ragupathy, and M. K. Sudhas.

Script-writer should also be commended for using lively language enriched with memorable phrases such as Simmala, Demhala.

indeewara@sundayobserver.lk

****

On focussed characters




Sujeewa Senasinghe Himasal Liyanage Vasanthi Chaturani

Vasanthi Chaturani has portrayed the character of a burgher music teacher in a natural and convincing manner. Her portrayal brings back her brilliant acting in Sumitra Peries' Ganga Addara.

She has lived up to the ideals of being a burgher teacher, assimilating exact mannerism and characteristics of the role. A significant aspect of her portrayal is her innate ability to be natural before the camera. She was so natural that it is hardly seen as portrayal of someone else's character.

Even if she acted in a cheap fantasy, her role can be appreciated. It is a fact that Vasanthi can fit into any role with confidence irrespective of the nature of the film. Here, as a burgher teacher Vasanthi also renders her voice to the film.

Himasal Thathsara Liyanage (Son) as Rajive portrayed his character brilliantly. It is a pivotal character which acts as an inalienable bridge between almost all characters.

Himasal shows very-down-to earth natural acting which is hardly expected from a child of his age. In terms of voice control, Himasal is second to none. It seems that this gifted young boy has a bright future in cinema.

Sujeewa Senasinghe who played the main role of husband, is remarkably natural, a fact which is rarely expected from a person who had never appeared before a camera. He is so natural, at times, supersedes Pooja who acts as his wife.

Sumitra Peries should be commended for handling a novice in a most admirable manner deriving the best out of him.

Sujeewa should deserve a big applause from Sri Lankan filmgoers as he is bold enough to take the challenge and lived up to the expectations of the Director. In fact, he has gone beyond expectations and certainly marked his name in Sri Lankan filmdom.

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