Gharasarapa (The lurking Serpent): A series of acting gems | Sunday Observer

Gharasarapa (The lurking Serpent): A series of acting gems

Director Jayantha Chandrasiri’s demonic cinema jamboree

Film – maker Jayantha Chandrasiri, has acquired a reputation, bordering at times, on the fabulous – as a cinematic acrobat. He has a way of juggling his actors and actresses, to cast them in roles, dictated by the exotic whimsicalities, that his ultra-inventive imagination conjures up.

In his current uninhibited flight of cinematic fancy – enigmatically titled ‘Gharasarapa’ – Director Jayantha Chandrasiri, ‘hijacks’ the benumbed film audiences, on a surprising cruise to a domain, dominated by a demon of peculiar character facets.

Unlike most other ‘spirits’ this ‘Demon’, possesses an ‘erotic streak’. According to folk-cults, and Jayantha Chandrasiri’s own vision of this central ‘Demon’ he takes a diabolical delight in ‘possessing’ young women – maidens specifically.

This exactly is the point-of-departure of Director Jayantha Chandrasiri’s, cinematic pilgrimage.

In the introductory visual sequence of the film, the viewers are compelled to focus on a bus, taking a band of ardent cult-practitioners, to a religious shrine, that seems a widely favoured, popularly propitiated, spiritual centre.

The high-angled cinematography of the initial segment, gives the illusion, that the film-goers are being provided the point-of-view of someone, looking down on the bus and its path, from a lofty location. This is not all.

The daring twists and turns that are manoeuvred by the vehicle’s course – carefully avoiding even the slightest possible harm or damage, make the viewers wonder, if some ‘Spirit’ was the co-driver of the pilgrim vehicle.

The Director, dramatically reveals, that the ‘Gharasarapa’ (The Lurking Serpent) has taken over the pilgrim bus, by possessing those occupying it.

And, who is this peculiar, “Demon”, who dotes on women, to the extreme point of possessing them and getting them to work his will?

He, of course is “The Black Prince” (Kalu Kumara) who occupies a predominant niche in indigenous folk beliefs.

In selecting a reputed Actor, to portray this demonic lover, the director has done this versatile Thespian, considerable wrong. I say this, with responsibility and nevertheless with a tinge of humour and amusement.

The player of the Director’s choice is star Actor Jackson Anthony. To my mind, this is the one and only occasion, Jackson has been creatively robbed of the opportunity to deliver substantial dialogues and make extensive physical appearances.

Playing the focal role of the Demon Prince of Love, Jackson Anthony, pervades the total cinematic narration, occasionally delivering his lines, off-screen.

Although Jackson Anthony may have enjoyed playing this exotic and diabolical character, the need to be present physically on screen only for a few precious moments, would have, at least slightly frustrated him – I believe.

But, Director Jayantha Chandrasiri is highly skilled at squeezing out even the last drop of acting talent out of his cast and ‘possessing’ them heart and soul, while they work for him.

In ‘Gharasarapa’, time-eras, intermingle for instance, at times, the future, juts into the present. These transitions are manipulated seamlessly, without faulting the pace of the progress of his cinematic narration.

The core enigma of this film story is the resolution of a problem that collectively troubles a whole community.

The ‘Gharasarapa’, is relentlessly given to the practice of possessing the members of the congregation of a certain church.

The helpful priest arranges a mass-exorcism, to bring back the victims to their normal life-styles, ridding them of the “possession” that reduces them to pathetic levels of behaviour.

Inside this main story-stream, there is a romantic sub-text. The exorcism brings together a teenage couple, intensely enamoured of each other, leading to an adolescent love-bond.

It must be recorded, to the credit of the Director, that he has cinematically chronicled this teenage romance, in skillful visual passages, that cumulatively build up memories of youthful love affairs, even in adult viewers of the film

The mass exocism, turns out to be the right human context, for the emergence of the teenage romance between Sandaras Edirisinghe and his young love Vidya Doraiappa.

In the adult phase, this romantic couple is portrayed, with impressive dramatic clan, by the ever-young Kamal Addaraarachchi and perpetually youthful Sangitha Weeraratne.

As for Director Jayantha Chandrasiri, the prime cinematic event of the total film, is perhaps, the Mass Exorcism.

I am quite certain that mischievous film-maker Jayantha Chandrasiri would have simply relished the eccentricities of the actors and actresses who enacted the roles of mass victims of the diabolical possession.

The exotic whimsicalities these actors and actresses exhibited in the mass ‘possession’ and the consequent ‘mass exorcism’ turned the whole scenario into a diabolical jamboree.

Whatever that may be, Director Jayantha Chandrasiri deserves our lavish kudos for a well-made cinematic presentation that upholds aesthetic enjoyment without descending to crude mass-pleasing gestures, quite possible in a work of this calibre.

His backgrounds enhance the allure of the film by their exquisite taste.

The major character portrayals are a series of acting gems. Even those bit past players, who displayed unbelievable eccentricities - courtesy, Kalu Kumaraya - contributed significantly to the overall achievement of ‘Gharasarapa’.

All those, who always hope for a golden era of indigenous cinema, must felicitate the Producer Arjuna Kamalanath, for, so understandingly extending patronage to this work, placing unshaking lust in the creative surprises possible when collaborating with a genius of such praiseworthy inventiveness as adroit Jayantha Chandrasiri.

As for the Black Prince and his cinematic counterpart Jackson Anthony, we can give the assurance that for such characters there are perpetual play grounds.

Please be part of Jayantha Chandarisiri’s Demonic Film spree, allowing him to possess you fully and completely.