Two young filmmakers Kalpana and Vindana Ariyawansa who are releasing their debut film “Premaya Nam” (Dirty, Yellow, Darkness) on February 17 strongly believe that Sri Lankan cinema must find its own identity and emulating would not take the small industry anywhere. Kalpana and Vindana two brothers who had extensive training and exposure to the Hollywood [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

“Sri Lankan Cinema needs an identity”


Two young filmmakers Kalpana and Vindana Ariyawansa who are releasing their debut film “Premaya Nam” (Dirty, Yellow, Darkness) on February 17 strongly believe that Sri Lankan cinema must find its own identity and emulating would not take the small industry anywhere.

Kalpana and Vindana two brothers who had extensive training and exposure to the Hollywood cinema industry spoke to the TV Times and shared what they had experienced with their first movie and what direction the country’s cinema should take for it to be sustained.

Kalpana and Vindana who are also sons of welknown lyricist Kularatne Ariyawansa spoke about their film, what their vision for Sri Lankan cinema and the challenges the cinema of the island nation is facing.

Going back to the past how they started liking cinema Kalpana said “We were film fans from the younger days and we equally enjoyed all forms of art. Our father selected the lyrics form as his medium of expression and we decided to choose cinema as our medium of expression,”.

“We enjoyed any type of cinema. We were not prejudiced to any type of genre. Initially we were attracted by local movies like ‘Handaya’ then we watched Hollywood movies like ‘Jungle Book’, then we liked Bollywood films like ‘Sholay’ and even Sri Lankan movies like ‘Muwan Pelessa’ and films acted by Vijaya Kumaratunga,” he went on to say.

The turning points for the two brothers with regard to cinema was their journey to the United States after their Advanced Level examination. “By going to the US the spectrum was opened to us and we were able to watch any film we preferred,” says Vindana who first joined Columbus College of Arts and Designs in Ohio to learn graphic designing and story board designing. “That school was famous for animations and lot of graduates from there went to work for Disney. Our animation dean was from Hollywood and there I got to meet visiting art directors and directors from Hollywood.”

“Aiya has a collection of Disney movies. Starting from some of the early Disney movies like ‘Steamboat Willie’ and ‘Bambi’. He also has a major collection of epic movies and film literature. We had the access to learn about movies and we got the best use of it,” Vindana, the younger brother said.

A number of Kalapana’s friends are right now big names in Hollywood and in the animation industry and are attached to companies like Disney and Pixar. “Dan Scanlon who directed the animation movie ‘Monstrous University’ was one of my colleagues,” says Kalpana.

Asked as to why he did not want to go with them and get himself based in Hollywood, Kalapana says it was the time factor that stopped him. “Once you are in an animation film project you are stuck for 6 years. The way Pixar company work is, story pitching goes for more than two years and the rest of the film goes for four more years. In a career of 15 to 20 years you will only be able to work in a three or four movies.”

“Those days I wanted to work for Disney but now I want to do more live action films”, Kalpani added.

“Aiya went to the US 23 years ago and he is a US resident now. He will be based in the US and will be visiting Sri Lanka for his film work but I will be based here” says Vindana.

Vindana was graduated from the University of Kentucky on Computer Engineering.

“While nearing the studies because of the facilities available I conducted independent studies on cinema. I had the freedom to pursue my interest. Then I moved back to Sri Lanka and started working as a consultant of media, communication, IT and marketing plus ‘Quizzing’ which was my pastime. I am a quiz master and I have a team and my team is the top ranking quiz team in the country. I also published the first English language book on quizzing. I have compiled quiz for the inaugural season of the local version of ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ on Sirasa TV and Pentathlon on TV One. Other than that Im also a quiz master and a quiz compiler. Film making is also pastime because it is not an industry that one can be sustain,” says Vindana.
‘Premaya Nam’ also had a series of screenings from Beijing to Hollywood. For nearly two years two brothers were going around the world with the film.

“We had a sellout Hollywood screening. Then we had a feastival run from Beijing to Shanghai, Goa, Kerala, Bangalore, Florida, London, Madrid, then back to India and back to California,”  Vindana described.

However according to the brothers the film screening in Jaffna was one of the best experiences as Tamil speaking audience which would hardly watch Sinhala cinema embraced the film whole heartedly.

“At the film discussion after the screening in Jaffna,someone from the audience said this film did not need a language,” Kalpana said.

Describing another experience they said “In Goa when we saw our film there was a girl wearing a salwar and at the end of the film she stood up and addressing the audience said “I am a Sri Lankan and this is a movie from my country and I’m so proud to be a Sri Lankan.”

The two brothers also spoke where Sri Lankan cinema could be placed in the international map.

“Iranian cinema has reached the world in a certain way. Coming from a county like Sri Lanka that is the level we can reach. We can make a name. We can compare ourselves to countries like China, Korea or Taiwan. Their films are being remade as Hollywood and Bollywood,”.

“Comparing our cinema to any other cinema would not take us anywhere. Even in Bollywood they had to stick to Bollywood tradition and identity. If they break out of the Bollywood tradition they fail. The only way we can win the global audience at least to some extent is by preserving our own identity and making films based on that.

“We can draw inspirations from other countries but we cannot emulate them. That is where we go wrong”

We can’t have Iranian culture are European culture. We need to see that artistic films that are made here is watched by our audience.

We had a huge movie going audience in 1960s and 1970s but they could not keep up to the other alternative medium of cinema. All the other countries maintained these standards.

You need more mainstream films not only artistic movies. There is a monetary value. Having established a mainstream medium will help all the other alternative genres.

Our industry has been polarized. At one end there are festival movies. Then you have highly commercialised film, nothing in between. So the industry has been polarised. As long as we have cinema with our own identity without emulating others we will have a future.

Hollywood recognise Iranian films for being Iranian films. Making films with Sri Lankan identity does not mean exploitation. Showing only the bad and negative aspects of it. That is why local audience are not watching them.

We cannot project human form at its lowest level as our cinema. If we do that we would not be able to be successful locally or internationally.

During the 60s we had a good industry. Other than India we were ahead of other Asian countries. They were nowhere but we went downhill and they rose in global audiuence. They started making films keeping their identity. Ever since we start loosing our identity we lost the global audience.

Speaking about their movie ‘Premaya Nam’ they said“It is a movie about a mental disorder but we did not want to make a film that would create mental disorder for the audience. No matter our intentions are film has been the most influential form of storytelling about humanity” Vindana said.

Vindana was open and humble to share the source of the story. “It is my own story that I struggled along with my nearest family being part of that. We are not candid about it”.

They were grateful to the National Film Corporation chairman and the theatre owners in  which the film would be screened. He was also grateful to Dr. Kapila Ranasinghe from the Mental hospital “he had the trust on us. They gave us total freedom. The two brothers were also grateful to the chairman of the National Film Corporation, Ridma and CEL circuit and all the theatre owners in whose theatres the film would be screened.

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