A film critic who works for communal harmony | Sunday Observer

A film critic who works for communal harmony

10 January, 2021

A writer, journalist, broadcaster, translator and film and literary critic, Kailayar Sellanainar Sivakumaran or K. S. Sivakumaran was honoured with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the Jaffna International Film Festival 2020 in appreciation for his contribution to Sri Lankan Film and the Arts. The sixth edition of the film festival will continue until March. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Sivakumaran expressed his thoughts on his career, not only as a critic but as an advocate for bridging Sinhala and Tamil Cultures.

Despite his experience as a film critic, Sivakumaran has continued to remain humble and open to change. In 1990, he had an opportunity of being one of just three Lankan students who got the chance to take part in a Film Appreciation Course at the prestigious Pune Film and Television Training Institute of India. Despite having decades of experience, he was open to relearn his approach to film criticism, becoming a more well-rounded critic with a better appreciation for the technical side of films.

Constructive advice

Discussing his life as a film critic, he explained how despite starting out covering local films, he branched out to covering foreign films, some of which he considered to be among his favourites. He recalled specifically enjoying Indian, East Asian cinema and the 50’s era of Hollywood cinema. Speaking of his style of criticism, Sivakumaran valued positivity, pointing out what made a film great and providing constructive advice on what could have been done better, but did not mince words when the film deserved it. Despite learning more of the technical and objective side of moviemaking, he said that technical criticism is not his focus.

Besides his work and contributions to Film and the Arts, Sivakumaran has been a major proponent for closing the divide between Sinhala and Tamil cultures. As a deeply religious man with Christian values of love for your fellow man, he expressed disappointment at how we regard each other. He stressed the importance of understanding each other and has contributed greatly towards this through his books and journalism. Sivakumaran spoke of how Film and the Arts can be a great tool for bridging the gap, though it is currently underutilised.

Subjective criticism

On film critics, Sivakumaran said that though there used to be several great film critics in Sri Lanka, now with most of them having passed away or retired and with the advent of social media, that talent seems to have since diluted.

He is of the view that criticism is subjective and that he, despite his experience, is in no position to advise another critic on how to criticise a film.

He has great respect for

Sinhala filmmakers frontrunning the Sri Lankan Film Industry, praising their great works, but for Tamil filmmakers, he laments that in his opinion, seem to be going in a different direction. However, he said that this might have changed over the past year or so as he has not been able to see any of the newer films due to medical complications.