takes Sarala to international heights
Amateur actress Sarala is the much acclaimed Darling
in art circle these days. This is due to her role in 'Water' the
last of Deepa Mehta's trilogy on the elements- 'Earth' and 'Fire'.
The director herself speaks of her prodigy saying "It was a
Sarala got this opportunity of acting when Indians
incensed by the theme which they thought was highlighting a detrimental
attitude to time honoured Hindu customs and traditions violently
opposed the filming on location in India. Seeking an alternate location
Deepa Mehta found Sri Lanka ideal to depict the setting she had
in mind. What she didn't anticipate was getting Sarala as a bonus,
a heaven-sent blessing.
Choosing Sri Lanka as location Director Deepa
was desperately searching for an eight-year-old girl to play the
main lead in 'Full Moon'-the alternate title for Water. This was
done to keep the production secret. Deepa auditioned over 50 young
girls for the part. Sarala was included when Deepa saw the video
clip submitted by Ashoka Perera of Film Location Service. Sarala
was the ideal choice although she could neither speak Hindi nor
English. Deepa the director saw the potential and latent talent.
The next stop was to get the parent's approval. Sarala's father
a micro-biologist at Aramco and her mother who is an Ayurvedic doctor
and a house wife looks after her family of two daughters and one
son in Unawatuna, Galle. Deepa was met with reluctance when she
first approached Sarala's parents.
"At first we didn't like this. Mainly due
to the fact that her long hair had to be cut and worse still was
that this little girl had to play the role of a widow. My husband
who was working in the Middle East too didn't like it," said
Ms. Kariyawasam, Sarala's mother.
It was the school principal Ms. Dharmalatha Dharmawardena
whom Deepa had first approached who cleared all doubts and anxieties
that Sarala's mother faced.
"In fact it was Sarala who was begging to
be allowed to join the film protesting "it is not Amma's hair
but my hair that is being cut. So please let me go mother,"
said Ms. Kariywasam who spoke about the final result that made her
decide in favour of Sarala's acting and is now of course happy about
the outcome. "Yet still I cannot look at the scene where her
head is shaven," said Kariyawasam sadly.
"Again there was another hurdle to overcome.
Though Sarala was pleading with me to give her one chance to do
the film. When I came to know that she had to dub into both English
and Hindi, I discouraged my daughter saying it won't be as easy
as she thinks. It is better to give up the idea. I told this to
the principal also inspite of the fact director Mehta had given
Sarala one and half months time to master the necessary language
|Seema Biswas and Sarala in a scene from ‘Water’
But at this moment the enthusiastic Sarala made
a request from her principal Ms. Dharmawardena to get her mother
to give her a chance of five days to prove herself.
"The result was that the filming started
much earlier than scheduled" said Ms. Kariyawasam.
Deepa a concerned director made all the arrangements
including an apartment in Colombo and a teacher to cover all her
classes that she was missing during the time of the filming.
"Language was not an obstacle. Hindi is similar
to Sinhala and I was able to understand most of it," said the
little actress when queried whether she found any difficulty in
handling the language problem. "However I was taught my lines
phonetically in addition Deepa aunty gave instructions regarding
my role through an interpreter or by gestures,"
"Because I was so interested in what I was
doing I didn't feel any remorse when they were cutting my hair,"
"I love acting and though I didn't have much
knowledge about the full script I was quite confident that I would
be able to do it," little Sarala said speaking to the TV Times.
Speaking on the experience Sarala's mother said
at Toronto I was rather frightened. It was my first experience with
the media. Though the media attention was focused on popular actor
and actress John Abraham and Lisa Ray, Sarala too got an adequate
amount of coverage for an amateur.
Wearing a red and white Kandyan saree Sarala received
a red carpet welcome with state honours at the opening of the Toronto
International Film Festival. The Sri Lankans in Canada were overjoyed.
The expatriates who had come in their numbers
told Ms. Kariyawasam that they were happy that a Sri Lankan child's
talent and brilliance was thus recognised.
Sarala talked about her experience with the international
team of artistes. "Though it was bit tiring at times I had
no difficulty in working with the others. It was mainly due to the
interest I had in acting that I didn't feel tired or alienated,"
"At the set we had a lot of fun with Lisa
Aunty and Abraham uncle and every one in the production team. I
taught Abraham uncle and Lisa Aunty some Sinhala words while they
taught me some Hindi" said Sarala reminiscing the happy time
she spent on the set. "When I went to Toronto wearing a Kandyan
saree, Lisa Aunty in broken Sinhala accent said "Sarala Rathu
Pata Sudu Pata Endala," (Sarala You are wearing red and white).
"I was really happy when I saw the film on
the big screen," said this talented little artiste.
At Toronto, Sarala was acclaimed by the audience
and received some invitations also from London to act. Asked if
she would take it up if she was called to do for another film, "I
would take it up if it was not going to distract me from my studies.
Learning for me is a priority now."
"What do you hope to be when you grow up?
An actress?". I want to be a doctor and I like to be an actress
Sarala showed her appreciation with a truly Sri
Lankan gesture when she remembered to thank her parents, her elders,
her principal, large number of people including Deepa and the cast
and crew and Chandran Rutnam and Ashoka Perera and many others who
helped her in both big and little ways to become a popular little
Sri Lanka is full of such talents in many fields.
They are yet to be discovered by others who come to our shores while
we the people who should discover and foster such talent are neither
interested nor informed of the prospects. Over to the authorities
Pictures by Gemuni Wellage