Wealth of hidden talent unearthed

Kala Korner by Dee Cee

Who says there is no talent in Sri Lanka - particularly in the outstations? Who says most - if not all - activities in the performing arts are limited to Colombo? Whoever says so was proved totally wrong by a band of amateurs from distant Meda Dumbara who decided to showcase their skills in filmmaking. A veteran guided them. An amateur cranked the camera. He also composed the lighting. Editing and sound were handled by another using computer technology. Yet another newcomer coordinated the production. And of course, the actors (both male and female) were all freshers - in the 18-82 age category!

The school principal

An invited audience recently attended the first screening of this DVD production intended to launch Sinhala 'Home Movies'. A full-house at the Punchi Theatre enjoyed every minute of the film. As the title of the film - 'Lakshmi, Maya saha Sugath' - suggests, it revolves round three characters. They are all in their youth. Lakshmi is a Tamil teenager in a LTTE infested village.

Maya and Sugath are two graduates on the lookout for jobs along with some of their batch-mates. They meet in a newly set up temple where the monk - a university lecturer with revolutionary ideas - holds classes to propagate his theories. The youth rely on the monk to get jobs since they believe he is quite influential. Sugath gets a teaching job in a remote school in an Eastern province village. His task is to teach Sinhala to the Tamil children.

Sugath is amidst Tamil youth who are LTTE sympathizers. The constant dialogue between him and Ravi whom he befriends is very revealing both arguing around the Sinhala, Tamil relationships. Lakshmi whose task is to look after her father who is bed-ridden after a bomb explosion cooks and supplies meals to Sugath and tidies up his room. Sugath's girl friend Maya, in the meantime waits for his letters which are addressed to the monk lest their affair be known to her parents. The monk has other plans and simply throws away the letters. Relating the balance story will spoil the fun if you get a chance of seeing the film.

The well-structured story covers a wide canvas of social issues. On the one hand are youth unemployment, their aspirations and the economic hardships they face and on the other, the tension and uncertainties of the Tamil community.

Acting by the newcomers is exceptionally good. The ease with which they play their roles is a fine tribute to their 'guru' G. D. L. Perera. They have benefited immensely from his experiment in fishing out talent among the outstation folk. The ones who played the Tamil characters did their roles so well that most of us couldn't believe that they were all 'Sinhalayas' when the names appeared at the end of the film. Mihiri Nisansala Jayaratne played the role of shy, timid Lakshmi with utmost ease and confidence.

Mihiri playing the role of a shy Lakshmi

The school principal - Edmund Seneviratne (82-year- old novice) and Ravi (Chaminda Rajapaksa) were perfect examples of the typical school head following the rules to the letter, and the restless Tamil youth undecided and helpless. The supporting roles of the Tamil folk were also played equally well. Kelum Tharanga Gnawardena (Sugath), Channa Udayanga Ganegoda (monk) and Suranga Chamil Ratnayake (Anura, Sugath's pal) acted convincingly. I wish Malki Dilesha Silva (Maya) put in a little more effort. They were all cheered lustily when they went on stage at the end of the show. Their performance was great.

I am not conversant with the technical jargon to comment on those aspects. As a layman I enjoyed the photography. Editing was quite tight. GDL introduced the cameraman as the guy who turned up to mix cement when the buildings were being put up for the Meda Dumbara Kalagaaraya. That's the type of hidden talent he has unearthed. I am not too sure as to who directed the film - I can't find the name in the sheet of paper I have with details of the cast. Whoever did it has done the job well.

Now the big question is will this trendsetting movie be picked up by a TV channel for telecasting. Will they find the theme too explosive? How will the censors look at it? If they want any cuts, will that take away the spirit of the film? With no big names in the cast will it attract any sponsors?

Whatever the answers may be, GDL has done it again. Good show!

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