Self-exiled in France, Sri Lankan filmmaker, Pradeepan Raveendran’s debut feature ‘Soundless Dance’ is now available online through his website Pradeepan who left Sri Lanka at the age of 20, is an award winning filmmaker whose films focus mainly on Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict. Coming from a family of photographers, Pradeepan first became a still [...]


“I am not an Eelam Filmmaker but a Sri Lankan filmmaker”


Pradeepan Raveendran

Self-exiled in France, Sri Lankan filmmaker, Pradeepan Raveendran’s debut feature ‘Soundless Dance’ is now available online through his website

Pradeepan who left Sri Lanka at the age of 20, is an award winning filmmaker whose films focus mainly on Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict. Coming from a family of photographers, Pradeepan first became a still photographer and mastered working in dark room and then digital lab. In France Pradeepan shifted from still images to the moving images making his short films and then the feature. The film a French-Sri Lankan production set around the destiny of a young Sri Lankan Tamil migrant and the psychological trauma he goes through.  Pradeepan explained why he wanted to be a filmmaker and specially make films on Sri Lanka.

From where did you get the inspiration to be a filmmaker?

our family there were many photographers. We had number of uncles who did photography and one of my Grand Uncles has worked even as a photo-journalist. My father told me how this uncle put his camera in a paper bag during 1956 riots and took some photographs which were even won acclaim abroad. Having seen his photographs, he had been presented some expensive lenses from Russia. Photography was in my family and from my childhood I would take photographs, develop them, worked in the dark room and also at Digital laboratory.

You were originally from Jaffna and Negombo, you  can converse in both Tamil and Sinhala. How did your life in two different areas influenced your cinema skill?

I have lot of happy memories in Jaffna. Our house was by the Jaffna Fort. But during the war my parents realised that we could not be educated being in Jaffna and decided to shift to Negombo, my mother’s home town. It was during the war and we were not able to come to Colombo but when my maternal grandmother died citing it as a reason we shifted to Negombo. But there we were virtually refugees as we were shifting from house to house on rent. Sometimes we could live in a house only six months as landlords asked us to vacate as we were Tamils. We shifted nearly 12 houses during our stay in Negopmbo and I was longing to get back to Jaffna. Just five days after the A9 road was opened during 2004 ceasefire I secretly went back to Jaffna. But while in Negombo I made it a point to learn my Sinhala and make Sinhalese friend.

While in Sri Lanka did you think of becoming a filmmaker?

I did but I did not have the opportunity to do it as video cameras were expensive.

You are making films on Sri Lanka while living in France. Why don’t you come to Sri Lanka and do it?

I don’t want to come to Sri Lanka with a Sri Lank passport. Though I am not a French citizen here I have some freedom to express myself as a filmmaker. But if I come to Sri Lanka I will lose even that as well. I don’t think as a Tamil filmmaker I would get the freedom to make films with my political perspective. That is why I don’t want to come to Sri Lanka with a Sri Lankan passport. I have some freedom here. I believe no one can put me into trouble. I need freedom to do films. If I come there I should be able to do my work. Also I don’t want to come to Sri Lanka permanently because if I come I will not be treated as an equal Sri Lankan. My view is that Tamils are not treated equally. This is my point of view. This can be interpreted in a negative way. One might ask why can’t you come to Sri Lanka because there are so many Tamils living here. I know how I received second class treatment. Until I am assured that I can do my cinema work freely, I don’t want to come to Sri Lanka.

It’s not only Tamils there are other minorities like Muslims, Burghers, Christian and many more. As an artiste why don’t you look at this inequality in a broader perspective?

Before the LTTE chase away the Muslims from the North, the Muslims too were came under the category of Tamil speaking Sri Lankans. Anyway what Tamils and Muslims are facing in Sri Lanka is a Constitutional problem. A Sinhala majority government cannot solve this problem with a constitutional solution. That is the root cause of 30 years long war. But after so many losses by the Tamils, they are treated as losers. Now we need trust. Let’s forget about everything and go forward. We should build a trust and that could be done only with a constitutional framework.

As a filmmaker and an artiste isn’t it your role to unite people and use your art for that purpose?

I know that there is inequality within the Tamil society as well. For example the treatment of low cast Tamils in Sri Lanka is an issue. The treatment given to them is so bad. For hundreds of years we could not find a solution. Coming back to unity, reconciliation is important. Every one needs an assurance and it should be for true unity. For true unity trust should be developed. In the film I show there are so many divisions within the Tamil society as well. It is not only Sinhalese it is among the other communities also.

I am not an Eelam filmmaker but Ilangai meaning Sri Lankan filmmaker. When Tamil groups asked for an Eelam, as I can remember it was only the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS) that included hill country Tamils. From there, many debates took place on the meaning of Eelam. According to me Sri Lanka is a country with different colours and at the same time there are many grey areas. We cannot divide Sri Lanka as black and white. At the same time when comes to the Tamil people,  it is not only North and East Tamils but Tamils all over the country. The Tamils who could go about freely and do their work in their own language.

It is not only Tamils but there are number of Sinhalese filmmakers who had to face problems for their works of art specially films they made on the ethnic war. Some of those films were not allowed to be screened in Sri Lanka. Isn’t it that this issue of freedom of expression is not ethnic but how you express yourself?

I honour those Sinhala filmamkers for what they have done and also what they had gone through. I am inspired by them. I am a filmmaker who was inspired by Sinhala cinema more than Tamil cinema. I have great respect for filmmakers like Prasanna vithanage, Asoka Handagama and Vimukthi Jayasundara. They too would have been castigated as Tigers but when I do that I too would be called a Tiger. But the danger we face is different. When we were living in Colombo and Negombo and we had to register our names and were viewed with suspicion always. The Sinhala filmmakers are respected in a different way. But if I do the same thing the repercussion is not the same.

Q: Now that you are in France, do you want to continue to make films on Sri Lanka?

I am interested in the local scenario. It is very important to me. I think I will continue to make films about Sri Lanka or on Sri Lanka. My film is a 100 percent French film. All the producers are from France. But it is about Sri Lanka and I am from Sri Lanka. Even though more than half of the film is set in France, there are many scenes related to Sri Lanka. So for me this is a French-Sri Lankan film.

‘Soundless Dance’ now on Online

Young filmmaker Pradeepan Raveendran’s debut feature ‘Soundless Dance’is now available for online viewing.

With a special concessionary rate of USD 3.70 for Sri Lanka and India,the film could be watched through the link while the link for the rest of the world is

International premier held at the 43rd Atlanta Film Festival in the USA, ‘Soundless Dance’ won the award for the Best debut feature film at the Jaffna International Cinema Festival. It was also featured at the Dhaka International Film Festival – Bangladesh, Tasveer South Asian Film Festival – USA, Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival, the South Asian Film Festival Of Montréal – Canada, Film Bazaar, India and Sirahununi International Film Festival 2019 in Batticaloa. 

Pradeepan’s short film ‘A Mango tree in the Front Yard’ was the official selection at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2009 and it was nominated for Golden Bear award. His second short film, ‘Shadows of Silence’ premiered at the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes international Film Festival in 2010. They were also screened at many prestigious film festivals including the Rotterdam film festival in the Netherlands and the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland.


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