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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sri Lankan film industry enters diamond era

Sri Lankan film industry enters diamond era

---Daily News
E. Weerapperuma

We are in the final quarter of the year. This year marked the diamond Jubilee of the Sinhala cinema and it is historically, socially and culturally a very significant event, which invites us to travel through the past to see whether the Sinhala cinema has grown old or has it grown to be the cinema industry about which we could be proud of.

It is a paradox. Feelings are mixed and complicated, making it impossible to give a straightforward answer. Looking through the mirror of history one could see that there is a considerable growth and also a lot of room for improvement.

It is also important to underline the fact that the Sinhala cinema should avoid getting carried away by the aspects of western or some aspects of the eastern cinema.

We should stop seeking talent from neighbouring countries as we have a wealth of untapped resources and persons to make it indigenous without giving room to unwarranted parties to pollute it. Dr. Lester James Peries' Rekawa, still remains our role model, a masterpiece as I believe it has understood the 'psyche' of the film going public both here and over seas.

Rekawa is of paramount importance as it was a home-grown film. It opened wide the scope of film making instead of being confined to the studios, permanently brushing off the stain of the Madras mark, as the breeding ground of Sinhala Cinema had taken away the national face of our cinema from the very inception.

The present exercise is an attempt to delve into the past, to understand the evolution of the Sinhala cinema. Many were the difficulties, the Sinhala Cinema had to face right at the conceptual level.

The history of Sinhala cinema would have been a different one and by now would even have passed the diamond age. (The readers are welcome to educate us with information they have to make this exercise a success.

We invite them to be brief and to the point as space is a premium). Critics of the Sinhala cinema have pointed out that those who entered the field to invest money on films saw the making of films as one other lucrative business, and the motive behind their investment was financial gain.

The purpose of investment was predominantly commercial. One could verify this statement perusing through the pages of Sinhavalokanaya(Life Story of Lester James Peries by Asanka Sayakkara, Stamford Publication-2004; and A.D.Ranjith Kumara's Ada Siyawasaka Ridee Reykawa, a publication of the Fast Publishing (Pvt) Ltd, - 2006. The OCIC Chitrapata Varshikaya - 1974 edited by Rev.Fr. Ernest Poruthota also throws light in this regard).

The pages of these books speak of hardships, rejections and humiliations the Sinhala Cinema had to face at the hands of those who thought only of accumulating wealth, in arriving at the "prestigious" position the Sinhala Cinema enjoys today.

It is also equally important to examine the period prior to 1947. The fate of films such as Lanka Geethaya, Rajakeeya Wickremaya or Shantha need our thoughtful attention in the process of developing an indigenous cinema.

LANKA GEETHAYA (1935), a documentary filmed by Basil Wright, a British National was considered the best and finest documentary in the World Cinema. Even Professors like Roger Manuel have commended it.

Although we refer to the film " Kadawuna Poronduwa" (1947) as the first speech and sound film produced in our country, turning the pages of our cinema history we see that the film as an industry was taking shape as far back as 1925. One of our former Finance Ministers and leader of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party Dr.N.M.Perera came to the silver screen as an actor playing a role in "Rajakeeya Wickramaya" directed by T.A.J.Noorbraphy, a silent film produced in this country.

Of course Sri Lankans were not fortunate enough to see that film as after the screening of that film both in Bombay and Singapore, the reel containing this film is said to have been burnt and it was alleged that some sinister hand behind its destruction.
To be continued

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