‘Uthpalawanna’: Captures Thanthirimale’s beauty
Having done the shooting in the historically important Thanthirimale for his latest film 'Uthpalawanna', veteran filmmaker Dr. Sunil Ariyaratne says that he was glad to be the first filmmaker to capture the serene beauty of the area for a film.
"The area had not been visited by outsiders for nearly the last two decades due to the fear of LTTE attacks. But we stayed there for almost a month filming day and night without any problem," said Dr. Ariyraratne.
Impressed by the location in Thanthirimale, Dr. Ariyaratne wondered why the location was not used for a film for so long.
‘The Sri Lankan forces confirmed security in the area and it is no more a dangerous site’ Dr. Ariyaratne added.
Uthpalawanna is set around an Aramaya (Monastery) where a group of Bhikkhunis live. Uthpalawanna played by Sangeetha Weeraratne and head Bhikkhunee played by Malani Fonseka lived here and with the coming of the insurrection how these lives are shattered is depicted in this story.
‘The set for the film, an Aramaya was built in one of the locations in a 250 acre area which is fully covered with a stone’ described the filmmaker.
Coincidently, for the maiden film on Bhikkunies in the Sri Lankan film history was shot in ‘Thanthirimale’ the place where Sangamiththa Thera, the first Bhikkhunee came to Sri Lanka with a sapling of the Srimahabodi, spent her first night.
|Sangeetha as ‘Uthpalawanna’
However according to Dr. Ariyaratne the location had disadvantages too. Unlike other usual locations there were no crowds to see the filming. The villagers were more interested in their day to day work in paddy fields. This in a way helped as there was no need for a crowd controlling. ‘But there were disadvantages too. It was impossible to find extras for the film’ the filmmaker added.
Based on a script written by experienced scriptwriter, Tissa Abeysekera the film is woven around a novel theme of 'Bikkhunee' or female monk, 'Uthpalawanna' a name that comes in one of the Jathaka stories. The story was set agaist the backdrop of the 1989 insurrection.
Notably ‘Uthpalawanna’ proved the sacrificial dedication of a Sri Lanka actress to the cinema. Playing the lead, talented Sangeetha Weeraratne shaved her head. This forced her to refuse a number of other films that came her way.
Among others lyricist Dr. Praneeth Abeysundara penned his first song for a movie in 'Uthpalawanna' and it was sung by the award winning singer Nanda Malani. The film also has a folk song sung by Damayanthi Jayasuriya. And Rangana Prasad makes his entry to the cinema as an editor in this film.
Veteran actress Malani Fonseka plays the head Bikkhuni, while the other roles of lay characters are played by Chandani Seneviratne, Roshan Ravindra and Rohana Beddage.
After a ten year lapse Sumathi Films has returned to film production and the idea to do a film based on a theme of Buddhism was by Ms. Milina Sumathipala.
Dharmadasa Hemapala as the art director, Vasantha Vittachchi as make up artiste, Vimal Deshapriya as the assistant director and production manager is Prasanna Kithalagama while production executive is A. D. Ranjithkumara. Followed by Wasantha Obeysekera's 'Aganthukaya' soon to be released in CEL circuit cinema, 'Uthpalawanna' will probably be released next August.