When his debut film Anjalika topped the charts, everyone was expecting actor cum director Channa Perera to cash in on his success and follow it up with another movie.
However he took more than five years to make with his second movie. Kalpanthaye Sihinayak, he guarantees is no ‘illusion’ as the film is based on extensive historical research. It had also not been limited to mere planning like his previously projects Sanda Diya Salu, Kalpa Charika and The Golden Starfish, all of which had to be halted in pre-production stage due to various issues. With Kalpanthaye Sihinayak slotted for release next year Daily News ‘Projector’ spoke to the director. Excerpts:
Q: What took you so long in making Kalpanthaye Sihinayak?
A: I tried to make an Indian co-production called Sanda Diya Salu two years ago. Work halted due to various problems. This disappointed me because I tried hard to make the movie for nearly a year.
Kalpanthe Sihinayak too took about two years to finalize. I take time to plan my projects. I do not believe in doing a hasty job. A quality production takes time because there are many areas to focus on. Even Hollywood directors like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg take around four years to make a movie. I can’t guarantee if these films will top the box office but I believe quality output are time consuming.
Q: Kalpanthe Sihinayak was previously titled Mirigu Yathra. Why did you change the original name?
A: I felt that the previous title is more towards the classical side. I believe the new name triggers the audience’s interest. The story is quite different from Anjalika because two youths, Kalpa and Menaka, are in search of the technology used by King Ravana in creating his flying machine, the Dandu Monara (Flying Peacock). This is an adventure love story. I believe that this is feature is signified by the film’s present title.
Q: So Kalpanthe Sihinayak is not purely based on fiction?
A: That’s true. I have read a lot about King Ravana. I was very interested in him from my school days. King Ravana had all round knowledge. He knew about technology, medicine and many other wondrous aspects. He was pretty much like a scientist or an engineer. The Dandu Monara was his brainchild. Kalpa believes that the secret of the Dandu Monara technology lies buried somewhere.
The Dandu Monara is believed to function not out of fuel but from mercury. Kalpa wants to unearth this fact and on his quest he meets Menaka. Later we realize that Menaka’s ancestors are from King Ravana’s clan.
Q: What are the key aspects that you specifically took to consideration when you made your comeback?
A: We are facing more competition than in the past because the theatres are simultaneously showing Hollywood and Bollywood productions. These movies are made using the latest technology and a lot of money. It is a bit difficult to compete with them in the technological angle so we have to make use of our creativity. We have good directors, actors and technicians in our hands.
We can compete with world cinema making full use of these resources. I have centred on a new aspect, hunted for unseen locations, brought lots of hidden facts to light and used certain features which came through my experience in making Anjalika for Kalpanthe Sihinayak. I personally believe that I have made a much better production than my debut film.
Q: Your leading lady is an Indian actress. Why did you choose a relatively new comer like Chaithra Chandranath instead of a well known actress?
A: We need to create an international market for our movies and for that we need to invest suitable factors. That is why I chose to feature Pooja and shoot Anjalika in Malaysia. Later the Madras Film Society invited me to screen the film in India. The audience comprised Indians and Pooja being featured in the film worked as a plus point. They were eager to see one of their actresses in a foreign movie. My first choice for Menaka’s role was a well known South Indian actress.
However the South Indian Film Society prevented her from coming to Sri Lanka. I had to postpone shooting for three months. I had no other choice but to go for a new face. Chaithra is from Bangalore and she is quite suitable for the role. She was a newcomer when she acted in my film but now she had done three Indian films. That means she had made it to the limelight. I believe that at certain section of the Indian movie buffs will be interested to watch a Sri Lankan film that she had starred in if Kalpanthe Sihinayak takes to India.
Q: You were the lead actor in Anjalika. You are the main actor in your second film as well. Doesn’t this get in the way of your directing?
A: Problems mainly emerge from the acting side because acting is like meditating. Therefore playing a dual role does have a certain impact on my acting but I have around two decades of experience in this field. I have made several teledramas and acted in them too. I have not had many issues. We do have problems in the production side and sometimes an artiste has to shoulder a bigger workload than he is intended. It is something I have come to accept and get along with.
Q: You once commented that we need to make medium budget films during this era. Do you still stick by your comment?
A: Certainly but it is not the budget alone which decides the fate of a film. Some high budget films have failed at the box office while some low budget productions have brought in the cash.
It’s how you present your production which counts. We need to have an average budget for a film. This is basically between 15 to 25 million. However the amount differs according to the subject of your film. It is impossible to make a historical movie out of this budget.
Q: Have you made plans to work on another project after Kalpanthe Sihinayak?
A: I will start working on a children’s film named Basuru towards the end of the year. There will be graphics and a lot of special effects in the movie.
Mahesh Sathsara Maddumarachchi has penned the script. Kishan Kulasena is producing the movie with me.
Q: We heard that you are miffed with Pooja Umashankar because she backed out of working in your movie.
A: Not at all. Pooja became quite busy after acting in Anjalika. She got lots of offers to act in Sri Lankan films as well as Indian productions. I couldn’t get her on board Kalpanthe Sihinayak because she was going to get married.
Her father wanted her to quit acting for that. I learnt that Kusa Paba will be her last film before marriage.
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