Kala Korner - by Dee Cee

Another fine cinematic experience from Vasantha
'Is there a future for our youth' is what filmmaker Vasantha Obeyesekere asks in his latest creation 'Asani Warsha'. "A reflection of the tragedy of alienated Sri Lankan youth", is how he describes the theme of the film, which he titles 'Wrath and Rain' in English.

Vasantha picked talented actor Jagath Chamila (he bagged the Best Actor Award at the State Drama Festival just a fortnight ago) to portray the unfortunate youth. Despised as an illegitimate child while in school (he gives up schooling after grade V), jobless due to lack of an education, Pradeep seeks the local politician's patronage along with other youth in a similar plight. Pradeep joins the politician's gang of toughies ending up as a frustrated young man. He finds his father but fails to build the relationship he was longing for. Under Vasantha's skillful direction, Jagath plays his first big role in films superbly.

Vasantha has the knack of picking up interesting themes for his films. 'Asani Warsha', like most of his other stories, is based on a true story. Once he locates an incident (very often from a newspaper report) he does a lot of research, threads the missing links and finally sits down to write his own screenplay. "I go into great detail shot by shot, frame by frame to prepare an exhaustive document. It takes time but makes my job easy once we start shooting," Vasantha explained. The result is a highly successful creation which gives the audience a fine cinematic experience.

Vasantha picks his style of presentation to suit the story. In 'Asani Warsha', he relates the story from beginning to end in sequence. Though he had ample opportunities to go back (what we used to call 'flashbacks' those days), he avoids doing so and keeps to a straight narration. For example, he is not interested in bringing in unnecessary romantic scenes. Violence is very much part of the story - so the fights are not out of place.

Once again, Vasantha demonstrates his cleverness in handling his players. He gets the best from Kamal Addaraarachchi (the rich father), Sanath Gunathilaka (the district minister excelling in political thuggery and brutality), Mahendra Perera (the understanding husband), Meena Kumari (the mother who tries hard to forget the past), Veena Jayakody (the rich mother trying to cover up the son's sins) and others. They all live their characters.

Vasantha's record
'Asani Warsha' is Vasantha Obeyesekere's 11th film. I remember the time we were colleagues on the Dinamina editorial when he was yearning to get into filmmaking. He got his break in 'Sath Samudura' assisting Siri Gunasinghe in his directorial effort and made his first film in 1970 ('Ves Gaththo') followed by 'Valmathuwo' (1976), 'Diyamanthi' (1977) and 'Palagetiyo' (1979). The last named based on a murder that occurred, was one of the best ten films during the first 50 years of Sinhala cinema.

The eighties saw him mature with the much talked about 'Dadayama' (1983) - also among the best ten. After a break of five years, he made 'Kedapathaka Chaya'. In the nineties, he made three films - 'Maruthaya' (1995), 'Dorakada Marawa' (1998) and 'Theertha Yathra' (1999). His 'Salelu Warama' was screened in 2002. He is also ready with 'Sevvandi' and is about to start on another film financed by the National Film Corporation.

From journalist to filmmaker has been a tedious journey, but Vasantha has enjoyed it. He has mastered his craft and has the right recipe to give us absorbing stuff.

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