13th February 2000
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Tribute to those who went missing

A young English instructor in the Colombo University has made a quality tele-film. This, his maiden effort shows great promise. His name is Satyajit Maitipe. The tele- film is 'Smarana Samapti' (An Absolution). The theme revolves round 'bheeshanaya' - the dark days of the late eighties.

The film was screened at the SLFI recently in remembrance of Richard de Zoysa, to commemorate his 10th death anniversary. In fact, it was a tribute to thousands (40,000 was the figure mentioned at the end of the film quoting statistics by independent observers) who lost their lives during that time. The film made us sit up and take note of how inhuman, humans can be. And, of course, its impact on society as a whole.

The film is a fine all-round effort - virtually flawless. Satyajit's own script has lot of depth. Casting is perfect. Acting is superb. Music is haunting. Photography is beautiful. Editing is tight. What more?

It's on a windy note with all the natural sounds that go with it, that the film opens with a long shot of a car being spotted on a winding hilly road. It stalls. The help of a young man is sought to give it a push start. Soon we learn the driver is a young doctor who is serving in the nearby rural hospital. It's his story - the tale of a sole survivor of a family, the victims of terror - that we see developing into a most absorbing and impactful drama. 

Iranganie Serasinghe, the vice principal of the village school (her husband is the principal), who refuses to open the door when help is sought by a young boy seeking protection when his family is attacked, plays her role in her usual inimitable style. 

Ten years later, she has to look after two grandchildren, having lost her son (an army officer) and the husband (both were gunned down in the house by two youths who get away on a bicycle). She tries hard to forget the past and lead a pious life. In playing this key role, Iranganie once again proves her ability to live in a character. Disciplined actor Peter de Almeida is the considerate, helpful young doctor liked by everyone. He continues where he stopped in 'Giraya' as yet another tormented young man not quite sure as to how he should reveal his identity. Peter and talented Chandani Seneviratne make up a fine team and carry the story through most convincingly.

Two others stand out - Kaushalya Fernando, the typical young village mother burdened with four children, and Sita Kumari, the doctor's domestic. Kaushalya shows maturity and commitment. Acting comes naturally to her. Every word she speaks and her actions are a treat. 

Satyajit's ability to get each one in the cast to give of their best is proof of his skills as a director. Even the naughtiest of the little children, do exactly what he wants them to do. They don't act but simply do what they are used to in everyday life. (Satyajit told me he casually met them when he went looking for locations and became friendly. Soon they were calling him 'Mama' and he decided to have them in the cast. He even changed the script to fit their natural flair for acting). 

This is also the maiden effort of Visharada Pradeep Ratnayake (the talented sitarist) in directing music in a film. It's a most commendable effort. He uses voices effectively to fit into the varying moods. One never hears a full orchestra playing. It's just an instrument or two - the flute, the cello, the viola, the violin and the keyboard - at a time that could be heard. Cameraman Palitha Perera makes full use of the natural beauty in the hills to present some pleasing visuals. His camerawork also helps to build up the suspense prevalent throughout the film.

Ravi Guruge, the master craftsman in the editing field, has once again done a fine job. 

At a time when the quality of teledramas shown on most channels is well below par, it's comforting to see young creative men like Satyajit entering the field . 

In his maiden attempt, he shows total commitment and the desire to do something good. To find that he has succeeded is indeed great. He has also banded together a young dynamic team for his project. Let's hope he will give us more quality fare in the coming months.


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