‘Kuveni 2: Yakshadeshaya’ begins to take shape | Sunday Observer

‘Kuveni 2: Yakshadeshaya’ begins to take shape

Hela tribesmen ready for action
Hela tribesmen ready for action

Filmmaker Sugath Samarakoon who brought cinematic creations such as Vijaya Kuveni, Ehelepola Kumarihamy, Ape Kaalaye Patachaara to the Sinhala silver screen is now preparing for his next venture – Kuveni 2:Yakshadeshaya. Following the success of Vijaya Kuveni, Samarakoon has scripted a work that will speak to present day audiences of the historical heritage of the Sri Lankan people that is rooted in the legendary four tribes of the Hela people known as the ‘Siu Helaya’ comprising the tribes known as Yaksha, Naga, Deva and Raaksha. This work envisions a story of how the genealogical strains of the Hela people live on today, among the Vedda community in the country. It is about a new brand of patriotism that combines love for nature and the environment and the need to protect the country’s natural resources as well as reviving narratives of heritage that have been lost to mainstream history.

On June 10, I was invited to observe the maiden casting session for this production, held at the Sudarshi Hall at Bauddhaloka Mawatha. Suwandahennedige Dayaratne an experienced artiste who is part of this film project briefed me on the preparations under way for the prosecution.

Dayaratne who is involved as an artist is also tasked with scouting for suitable film locations. He said, the project is yet to be backed by a producer and currently it is the director’s passion and his commitment that is driving the project forward with resources at his disposal.

The director’s son Sanjaya who was the main photographer handling the photography at the screen testing session, told me that they would welcome any parties interested to join as producers and would appreciate the support of financial backers to invest in this artistic endeavour.

The hall was abuzz with enthusiasm. Colourfully garbed figures of varying stature and vintage were visible. A host of amateur artistes were screen tested for what is certainly a large scale production which would require considerable contingents of extras to bring to life scenes of the sizably populated Hela tribes.

In his address to the gathering, the director said, they are in fact in need of many young and mature people from all ages to take part as extras in various scenes of the film.

He stressed that persons with a darker complexion are sought to cast for these scenes to capture what he believes to be the authentic depiction of the Hela people who inhabited Lanka before the advent of Prince Vijaya who is historically regarded as the father of the Sinhala race.

In his introduction about the film project addressed to the gathering, Samarakoon said he plans to start filming in about two months and would require about 150 actors to form the ensembles of Hela tribes that are to be depicted in this movie which will switch between two timelines. It is a combination of narratives set in ancient times as well as modern Sri Lanka.

The film will present a critical inquiry about the established mainstream discourse about the origins of the Sinhala race, said Samarakoon, which according to sources he relies on, are rooted in the Siu Hela. The Vedda community in Sri Lanka are therefore, heirs to the ethnological claims of the Siu Hela whose historical claims have now been diluted, propounded the director. Samarakoon in his address to the artistes stressed the importance of understanding the basis and significance of the project. In describing his upcoming work as one that looks at the heritage of the Siu Hela and the depictions of the Yaksha (demon) people he said “This is not a film about a race of demons.

That must be understood clearly. The Yaksha tribe for example was a race of fierce and brave people. They had a sophisticated and advanced culture. They were highly industrious and fearless. But later on, Indian artists depicted them as long fanged, pot bellied creatures with demonic features. It was a distortion of humans into demonization.”

Kuveni 2:Yakshadeshaya brings out a storyline where the direct descendants of the Siu Hela tribes who are found among the Vedda community are now, as young educated youth, discovering their genealogical truth and resurfacing as protectors of nature and heritage. It contains a timely message, important in these present timeswhere environmental destruction is rampant.

The nature friendly ways of the Vedda community and the salutary examples that can be learnt from them by society at large is to be highlighted in the film. The initial steps for Samarakoon’s next venture are now under way. It is certain to be a work that critically investigates popular notions and sends out a strong message about how the youth of today must wake up to the mistakes of yesterday and right the wrongs to step forth towards a better tomorrow. 

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