“My second film too is likely to stir up a buzz and raise some eyebrows. It is a unconventional love story,” says internationally acclaimed director Enokaa Sathyangani Keerthinanda as she talks about her second movie Cindrella. The movie is in its editing process and will be released towards mid 2012.
Q: The film title derives from the well known fairytale. Is this a Cinderella story set in the modern world?
A: I have used the title of the film symbolically because the main female character, Isanka, faces trials similar to fairytale character. It has a fairytale element and is a youth love story. However rather than having the presence of a wicked stepmother and snobbish stepsisters, it is Isanka’s fate that is wicked.
Q: How do you intend to bring the aesthetic element in love through Cindrella?
A: Recently almost all the romantic movies made in the country have been market-oriented. They enhance the glamorous side of romance to enthrall the audience with stunning costumes, landscapes, dance sequences and incidents rather than capture it’s sensitivity. I too have taken the audience’s tastes into account but I have focused more on the aesthetic beauty behind love without harming its cinematic quality.
Though productions like Golu Hadawatha, Duhulu Malak and Gahanu Lamai are centred on love, they are enriched with cinematic qualities and the aesthetic nature of love. Love encompasses a wide range of features like the beauty, innocence, sorrow, heartbreak and a magical element.
Love is a universal topic. Romance is hackneyed in films but it will make its presence felt from the beginning of cinema till its end. We cannot avoid it. It is connected with our existence. It is timeless. The drawback is that everyone, especially Sri Lankan filmmakers, handle it in a stereotyped manner.
Q: Your second movie comes nine years after Sulang Kirilli (Wind Bird). Why did you take so long to make your second production?
A: Three local filmmakers requested me to make a movie during the past eight years. I even wrote a script for a producer but soon realised that I cannot do what I really have in mind for the movie.
My personal satisfaction is important to me. I should be able to enjoy making the film as well as watching it. I need to be honest to my creation rather than use it as a mere money making machine. I engaged in making documentaries during the past few years and decided to stay away from cinema till I get a chance to make a movie the way I want.
Q: What were the difficulties you faced in making Cindrella?
A: Though I got into filmmaking after eight years I was in touch with the field because I have an undying passion for movies. I started films from my early teens. Even today my happiest moments are when I am watching a good movie. I have watched films from all types of genres from across the world. I updated myself on the subject. This experience and knowledge came in handy while making Cindrella.
I could not spend lavishly on making the movie because I had to mortgage one of my lands to get the production costs. There were certain restrictions because of the lack of funds. I also engaged a lot of new crew members in the project and had to face some practical problems due to their lack of experience. I was under a lot of working pressure because I had to get involved in others chores besides directing so that things ran smoothly. For the first time in Sri Lankan cinema I have employed four cameramen to shoot the movie at different stages. I used a cameraman who has done music videos to shoot some of the romantic scenes.
We shot Cindrella in Hambantota and Tangalle. Most of our film directors shoot their movie in the backdrop of waterfalls and flower gardens. Our country is situated in the humid zone. I have used different locations which embody the features of the humid zone for Cindrella.
Q: You dealt with a controversial topic in Sulang Kirilli by centering on issues like abortion and illegal relationships. Now Cindrella too seems to have its side of controversiality.
A: Certainly. I believe that Cindrella too embodies a controversial streak. However I did my best to structure the movie in a manner so that the whole family could watch it together. Sulang Kirilli addresses the youth because the youth of Sri Lanka are not given a proper sex education. It projects on an unmarried woman begetting a child. This is a topic not aimed at the elder generation though the film was labeled as a film for adults. Therefore those who should have seen and gotten the moral message of the production were deprived of the opportunity of watching the film.
I have been more careful in making Cindrella so that it does not escape my target audience. Though this is not an entertainment driven commercial film, it includes features that anyone can enjoy.
Sulang Kirilli is based on a true incident. Cindrella too is pieced together using some of the real life incidents which I have faced. I also tried to link the story with the lovers who are watching the film.
We should always try to cultivate a belief which goes beyond privacy. Films like Dr Lester James Peries’ Gamperaliya and Golu Hadawatha embody a social discourse. The Oscar winning Titanic is based purely on love while The English Patient deals with love while moving on to other aspects.
There are many layers in cinema in which we can discuss purely about love or go beyond and address other social issues. That depends on the director’s choice. A film needs to embody a cinematic aspect and if that is lacking in a production we tend to label it as a commercial film. We also dub films which draw in masses as commercial films. What if the audience flocks to watch an art film? Would you call it a commercial movie as well? Hollywood movies are never categorised in this manner. ET and Titanic ran into full houses but they were rich in cinematic aspects.
A: The movie deals with a very sensitive love story that unfurls within a week’s period. The hero of Cindrella is the most important character in this tale. I did not like to use a popular actor to see his star quality to overcome Chandula’s personality. I wanted to introduce a new face.
I saw Akalanka’s performance on Sirasa Dancing Star. He has a good male physique. His face has the innocence which I wanted for Chandula’s character. He has the ability to express certain emotions through body language. I believed that there is a talented actor in him.
Akalanka did not wish to become an actor at first. We had to search for a substitute for nearly 10 months. Later Akalanka phoned me and expressed his desire to read the script. Then he agreed to do the movie.
I actually planned to cast another actress opposite Akalanka but unfortunately, due to the delay, she had to leave the project. Upeksha stepped in and fitted into Isanka’s role beautifully.
Q: It is rumoured that Akalanka and Upeksha are an on and off screen couple after working in Cindrella.
A: It is normal for people to start gossiping about an eye-catching pair in a production. I see this as a positive aspect because this shows that the audience is interested in the project. Though the fans have attributed what they have seen on screen to real life, this is also a sign that they are eagerly waiting to watch the film.
Q: Some time back you have said that Sri Lanka lacks a good film culture. Is this your present perception as well?
A: In an island which accommodates a considerably small population we have made a good number of films which have competed at international film festivals and even won a number of prestigious awards.
However we do not get a lot of response from the local audience when we screen such films at theatres. This is due to the lack of a proper discourse.
There is no proper place to distribute academic knowledge about cinema in Sri Lanka. We gain knowledge mainly from overseas. Recently Sripali Mandapa launched studies in cinema but it takes time to get the feedback.
Countries like Bangladesh and Malaysia have not made as many globally acclaimed films like us but they have an academic base in which students engage in studies and research.
Our cinema personalities are reduced to mere celebrities due to this problem.
Their role as academics is not recognised. We need to launch this discourse via institutes, universities, schools, fan clubs and on provincial level instead of talking about productions on and off at awards ceremonies or an occasional seminar.
Q: Have you planned any other projects after Cindrella?
A: I will start working on a Sri Lanka-France co-production which will star a Sri Lankan actress next year. All her dialogues will be in French.
By Ruwini Jayawardana at http://www.dailynews.lk/2011/11/21/fea20.asp
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