Jayantha Chandrasiri is an unconventional director brings a film, Historic Legend King Dutugemunu at Sandeshaya Sri Lanka

Jayantha Chandrasiri is an unconventional director brings a film, Historic Legend King Dutugemunu at Sandeshaya Sri Lanka

is an unconventional teledrama director and film maker, who has explored myriad of social issues with deep insights into geneses of them. He is best know for his path defining teledramas such as Weda Hamine and films such as ‘Guerilla Marketing’ which offers insight into the overarching influence of consumerism and society dictated by wimps and fancies of media and vigorous marketing. His latest venture on will portray the much talked about historical figure in an entirely different light as a vanguard of reconciliation and racial harmony.
This is the first time Jayantha discusses on his production Dutugemunu in detail with media

Jayantha Chandrasiri is an unconventional director brings a film, Historic Legend King Dutugemunu at Sandeshaya Sri Lanka
Film by Jayantha Chandrasiri

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Film Details
Name : Dutugemunu
Colour : Colour
mm : 35 mm

Main Actor : Sriyantha Mendis
Main Actor : Jackson Anthony
Main Actor : Thumindu Dodanthenna
Main Actress : Kusum Renu
Main Actress : Yashoda Wimaladharma
Director : Jayantha Chandrasiri
Producer : Maalee Hettiarachchi
Producer : Thusitha Halloluwa
Producer : Shantha Hettiarachchi

Actor : Arjuna Kamalanath
Actress : Nilanthi Dias Karunarathna
Actress : Damitha Abeyratne
Actor : Kamal Addararachchi
Actress : Kumari Munasinghe
Actor : Dimuthu Chinthaka
Actor : Rex Kodippili
Actor : Buddhadasa Withanaarachchi
Actor : Buddhika Jayarathna
Actor : Saranga Dissasekara
Main Actress : Kusum Renu
Main Actor : Sriyantha Mendis
Main Actress : Yashoda Wimaladharma
Main Actor : Jackson Anthony
Main Actor : Thumindu Dodanthenna

Editor : Ravindra Guruge
Make-up Artists : Wasantha Wittachchi
Art Director : Sena Mambulage
Art Director : Eral Kelly
Music Director : Nadeeka Guruge
Producer : Maalee Hettiarachchi
Producer : Thusitha Halloluwa
Producer : Shantha Hettiarachchi
Director : Jayantha Chandrasiri

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Q: Looking back on your career which commenced with theatre, with ‘Sarasvathi’ in 1979 and with plays such as ‘Oththukarayo’, how do you perceive the changes that occurred in contemporary Sri Lankan theatre?

A: ‘Sarasvathi’ was the outcome of training and knowledge of drama acquired through a workshop conducted by a German Trainer to produce a team of professional actors and actresses. He selected twenty five youth through advertisements on media and I was one of them. However, I believe my career in drama commenced with ‘Ath’ produced in 1985. At the time I perceived drama as a weapon which could penetrate the complex society and enlighten the audience of the reality. On the other hand, actors like Kamal Addaraarachchi, Jackson Anthony and Sriyantha Mendis who played different roles in my dramas, were motivated by series of workshops I conducted at Shalika hall.

Compared with dramas in 1970s, I do not see much contextual difference in contemporary dramas; as in those days, today adaptations are made and translations of dramas are done. However, the weaknesses in original plays which were in 1960s and 1970s, are still there and some of the original dramas are weaker on many aspects to original dramas produced in 1970s.

‘Ath’ was highly appreciated by critics such as Sugathapala de Silva, Ajith Samaranayake and Tissa Abeysekara. It was rather unconventional and most of the critics did not understand the play. Sugathapala de Silva, Ajith Samaranayake and Tissa Abeysekara prepared the audience. ‘Ath’ became a model. Though I did not produce adaptations or translations, in fact my all three dramas were original productions; I read and watched large number of translations and adaptations of dramas.

Except Jayalath Manoratne who produced scores of original dramas including ‘Lokaya Taniyayak’, ‘Talamala Pipila’, ‘Guru Taruwa’ and Rajitha Dissanayake’s original productions, I do not see any leap of development in original dramas produced in Sri Lanka. Though Jayalath Manoratne produced translations and adaptation, his most potent expression is in original productions. I believe that original dramas have still space for improvement. A large number of translated dramas were produced and I would think they were very successful, especially translated dramas by Dharmasiri Bandaranayake and Prasanna Vithanage. They became subjects of public discourse but I still believe in producing original dramas.

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Q: Your subsequent entry into the medium of television with award wining teledramas such as “Weda Hamine”, ‘Dadubasnamanaya’, ‘Akala Sandaya’ and “Rejana’ not only marked an important milestone in your career but also in Sinhala teledrama which was more or less , confined to a triangular formula woven around middle class families and their day-to-day gossip. As a director, how do you assess the contribution that your teledramas made in terms of changing perception of the media teledrama in Sri Lanka?

A: From the very beginning of my teledramas I thought of making a change to the existing formula of teledrama scripts. By the time, there were some notable experiments that had been done with teledramas such as Damma Jagoda’s ‘Paligu Menike’, Parakkrama Niriella ‘La Hirudahasak’ and D.B Nihalsinghe’s ‘Dimutu Mutu’ which was the first teledrama. Most of them were of the view that teledrama was not a creative medium.

By then television viewers were around five hundred thousand and now it is over 800, 000, 00 and I had the question how if it could not be an art. With the experience in theatre and knowledge of cinema acquired through reading and watching and self-study of films, I entered the production of teledramas. As ‘Weda Hamine’ was not compatible with the formula of teledramas of the day, sponsors were reluctant to finance the teledrama. It was produced by Sunil Ratnayake on behalf of Teleview and People’s Bank came forward to sponsor the teledrama without any advertisement shown in the middle of the teledrama.


I firmly believed that teledrama is a medium of art and wanted to break the formula where the teledrama is revolved around middle class family issues. I wanted to present a creation which stirred imagination of the audience.

‘Weda Hamine’ is aimed at depicting the rise of elites in a symbolic manner.

I think my contribution was to take the audience towards a new dimension.

When I produced the next teledrama ‘Vesmuna’ I had no problem of finding sponsors. A lot of people could not watch the teledrama as it was the first teledrama telecast on MTV which was telecast on UHF for the first time in Sri Lanka.

‘Dadubasnamanaya’ became a hit and it became the best and most popular teledrama at the first Sumathi Teledrama awards. Earlier cinema actors/actresses and directors were reluctant to engage in the production of teledramas. But subsequently they came into the medium.

Q: Perhaps, the most famous or controversial film you made was ‘Guerilla Marketing’ in which you severely criticize the system and power of media over people in influencing their ideas and formation of perceptions. Most critics drew parallel with a certain politician who had a similar coaching by a team of Public Relation experts similar to the pre-election coaching of Gregory Maha Adikaram. Among other things, you have highlighted the inseparable nexus among politics, media and marketing. Do you think that Sri Lankan audience grasps the embedded message in the film?

A: I believe that society has been transformed from a consumer society into media society. That does not mean that consumer society is withered away.

The common feature of this consumer society dictated by marketing has no commercial discipline. The developed world also has consumer or marketing society. The difference between consumer society in Sri Lanka and those societies is that these societies function under a commercial discipline.

Good and services in Sri Lanka is of inferior quality compared to developed societies. We always get the duplicates. It is also valid to art. I saw this tragedy. Politician has also acted as merchant and his customer is the voter. Most of the people could not understand the underlined message in the film. False good and false images become the order of the day. Ultimately what are left behind are only pseudo values and images. I used schizophrenia as a potent metaphor. The patient imagines that he or she speaks with a fantasy and interacts with it. Though we are not patients we also live under the spell of this fantasy. As an artist I wanted to destroy this.

Q: I gathered that you have embarked on making a film on the legendary king Dutugemunu. Dutugemunu was the king who united the country defeating the Tamil king Elara. In the present context how would it be receive by the audience? Does it in the long run hamper the ethnic harmony in the county and would be used as a weapon by racists to fan communal hatred?

A: The film ‘Dutugemunu’ is being created not as a work that would damage ethnic harmony but as a creation that would really enhance harmony among diverse races. Although I can not spell out the modus operandi of achieving this, I could state the scope of the subject is defined with a universal ideology.

We have large number of heroes in Sri Lankan history. However, Dutugemunu is the only righteous hero. He does not fight for material gains but to protect a humane ideology. I believe that Buddhist philosophy is the only ideology which serves the well being of all. That does not mean that there are no other great philosophies. If one is dedicating his life for the protection of that philosophy he is a righteous hero. Dutugemunu’s war is not a physical war and it is not the war that rulers perceive. The story of this righteous hero that I am going to create therefore would be universally applicable.

Q: “Dutugemunu” would be an epic film with a lot of dramatic situations.

Have you already done research into the historical figure of king ‘Dutugemunu’ and the period in which he lived?

A: There is a belief in Vedic philosophies that if one dies for the protection of that philosophy; he would be born in heaven. But according to this philosophy even if you fight to protect it you will be born in hell if you kill people.If one is fighting for the protection of Dhamma, he would eventually spend more time in the never ending circle of birth and death. So it is a great sacrifice. Dutugemunu knows this and therefore he is a righteous hero. I have already gathered all the material to prove this. He is an extraordinary hero. When the prince Dutugemunu is in hiding in Kotmale, he falls in love with a village lass Ranmenika and he eventually marries her. When he becomes king, he makes Ranmenika the queen.

When Ruwanwali Seya was built, king Dutugemunu imposed a degree that those who work in the construction should be paid for the work. He should, surely, be an extra ordinary personality. Another fact that vindicates this is that king Dutugemunu stops the march at Anuradhapura and invites king Elara for a duel in order to protect the lives of Tamil elites and Elara’s relations who would otherwise be destroyed in an attack on them in Anuradhapura. What would happen if Dutugemunu would defeated in the duel? All that was gained through war would be of no value.

Q: How significance is the character of king Dutugemunu in the present context?

A: I based the film, by and large, on legends. In addition, I have used all editions of Maha Vamsa and Deepavansa, Thupavansa, Rajavaliya, Rasavahiniya and legend. I have taken a long time to research on the subject. At first, my idea was to make a teledrama on king Dutugemunu. But I thought later that the story is more suitable for the medium of cinema. I have also read most of the fictions on king Dutugemunu. It is relevant in the present context because of the aspect of ethnic harmony in the story.

The character king Dutugemunu is a great humane character endowed with human qualities. It is about a historical figure who promotes ethnic harmony. To achieve that end, he has used not politics but humane qualities. I believed that this hero has been hidden in history and in fact, he is virtually turned upside down by some elements due to misconception. What I am going to do is to make the character stand on his feet.

Q: Have you already selected the cast for the movie?

A: I have not yet finalised the cast.

Q: How do you perceive the character of King Dutugemunu and his abiding influence of racial relations in Sri Lanka?

A: The story of Dutugemunu can be used to enhance racial harmony. In fact, it is one of the objectives of the film. Though the task of the artist is not to solve social issues, artist can interpret and analyse them. The weapon that can be used to solve national question is wisdom and the hero who provides that wisdom is Dutugemunu. There are host of heroes who salvaged Sri Lanka from invaders. Elara was a Machiavellian and he could have brought the country under his fold. But two great characters king Kawantissa and Dutugemunu foiled this Machiavellian politics and established righteous politics. This will contribute to promote ethnic harmony. There is no racism in the story. Respecting Elara’s tomb is not only a mark of respect to Elara but to respect the living and Tamils. No one was banished but integrated into the administration and that is the unification. King Dutugemunu built a kingdom that all of its citizens could enjoy life in it. That is the story of Dutugemunu.

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