Sri Lankan Film – ABA the legend of the royal dynasty at Sandeshaya Sri Lanka

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A journey back to the heroic period

CINEMA: Fifty years of Sri Lankan cinema and a list of 1062 films from Kadawuna Poronduwa to Sankara. Among its variety of themes, it is surprising that only six films (Asokamala 1974, Sirisangabo 1952, Sandeshaya 1960, Sigiri Kashyapa 1966, Weera Puranappu 1978, and Weera Madduma Bandara 1984) have been based on the rich and legendary past of Sri Lanka.

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More than two decades later, another historical movie will join their queue. Unlike its predecessors, this will not be a tragedy. This is Aba, the tale of the Ruhunu era. The heroic story of a prince destined for the throne. This brings forth the myth and mystery connected with the birth of Prince Pandukabaya – a birth which rocked a whole kingdom and brought a whole line of princes to establish Sri Lanka’s richest era in history- the Ruhunu kingdom.

This is the story behind Jackson Anthony’s newest film. Sajith Anuththara, Ravindra Randeniya, Malini Fonseka, Sabitha Perera, Kanchana Kodithuwakku, Saumya Liyanage, Shriyantha Mendis, Dulani Anuradha, Lucien Bulathsinhala, Madu Madhava Aravinda, Bimal Jayakody, Wasantha Dukgannarala, Wasantha Moragoda, Kasun Chamara, and Janith Banuka are among the main cast. This film is produced by Justin Belagamage and Rajindra Jayasinghe. The Muhurath ceremony of Aba took place at the Water’s Edge on June 1.
Daily News 06 Jun 2007

ABA the legend of the royal dynasty begins…

CINEMA: A problem has arisen about the pedigree of the dynasty since even the Mahawansa does not answer the problem of who Pandukabhaya’s father was. The film Aba is an effort by Jackson Anthony to find an acceptable answer through a cinematic way. In order to find an answer to the genetic problem, the legend of the Great Royal Dynasty of the Ruhuna has come out in the form of an historic film.

“We shall be attempting to provide a cinematic insight into the perennial question that has relentlessly plagued the Mahawansa, the great historic chronicle of Sri Lanka. In this endeavour, we shall strive to reawaken the origins of the illustrious Royal Dynasty of the Ruhuna, which is shrouded in mystery and has been a subject of great debate and controversy. As is fashionable among some academic and scholarly circle, it is inappropriate to consider as myths, the stories or legends revealing the birth of a nation, be they orally carried or recorded. The enduring historic and human relationship ingrained in those legends, tales or stories, have a timeless and universal value. We are strongly persuaded to believe that our cinematic effect to bring forth this exposition involving an epochal event, birth and the childhood of Pandukabhaya that occurred about 2300 years ago in the history of this nation – will help instill a good measure of positive thinking into our present day society whose consciousness has been unremittingly ravaged by centuries of colonial bondage and such other disconcerting experiences” Jackson Anthony pointed out.

Although the Sri Lankan film industry has already marked its 50th year, there are only six films out of the 1062 films from the very first film Kadavunu Poronduwa to Sankara which reveal our great history.

It is interesting to know that no other historic film has been produced after Weera Madduma Bandara screened in 1984 until Aba commenced. Al these six films have a tragic end. Aba is an exception.

Justin Belagamage and Rajindra Jayasinghe, both chartered accountants, co-produce the mega movie Aba for Mandakini Creations. Aba is the first-ever movie undertaken in Sri Lanka by a team of chartered accountants whose profession and life philosophy are customarily believed to be unexciting and dull. The producers expect Aba to become a landmark and momentous production in the history of Sri Lankan cinema for its sheer magnitude in scale, choice of technology and methods used and its extraordinary cinematic quality.

“Being the co-producers we believe that Aba will be case study in the film industry and it will pave the way to upcoming good productions in the future” Justin Belagamage said. “As accountants we are engaged in ‘numbers’ throughout the day. Hence we drew our attention to another field while we had a little leisure. Fortunately, I came to know that Jackson has been looking for a producer for a long period for his new film which carries a historic theme. Then we met Jackson and discussed and finally we decided to produce Aba. If we couldn’t get the contribution of Jackson we would never produce Aba” Belagamage said.

Considering the public view of the film industry that it is not profitable, we were compelled to ask Rajindra Jayasinghe the reason for him to decide to produce Aba.

“You see, in the competitive world there are many fields to invest money rather than investing money in film industry. But we believe that a good film production may be profitable” Rajindra replied.

For the first time in Sri Lanka’s film industry, a computer program has been used for budget management process of Aba. “We would like to share this computer program with other film producers in our country. As we want to develop the industry, we would like to offer the program free’” Justin Belagamage said.

We entered the palace of Price Aba built at Ardigala ancient temple premises at Angamuwa in Rajanganaya. In fact the keen film crew constructed a palace worth watching. Jackson had been travelling all over the island searching for an appropriate location for a long time. Finally we were lucky to have this ideal place for the film where it has natural security needs for a palace such as rock caves and water pools” Jackson said.
Daily News 25 Jul 2007

Pandukabhaya signifies The founding of the great hela dynasty

TALKS ABOUT HIS LATEST CREATION ABA
We encounter in international arena a myriad cinematic creations based on epics, myths and great legends. In a country with 2500 years history and in which many fear to handle such a daunting task, with his latest creation ABA, Jackson successfully confronts the enormous challenge of dealing with a grand cinematic creation. In this interview, Jackson talks about many aspects of ABA which marks a distinctive high point in his long journey of creative endeavor.

Tell us something by way of introducing ABA

ABA is based on the story of Prince Pandukabhaya. It deals with a series of events that took place about 2400 years ago in the Panduvasadeva palace in the City of Upatissa. Information and data for this story come from archeological sources, folklore and legends. Also there are controversies among the historians about Pandukabhaya on many issues. It is quite reasonable to treat Pandukabhaya as the foundation of the Great Hela Dynasty in the country. Mahavansa mentions of a nation founded by Prince Vijaya, but neither the archeological evidence available to us nor the history of the Ruhuna Dynasty supports that claim. Even our stone inscriptions mention of a royal dynasty founded by Aba. Therefore, there is reason to believe that Pandukabhaya was the first sovereign king of the country.

Vijaya was an Indian immigrant and following his arrival in the country, there was a succession of migrations especially from India. Consequently, there was a time when the political power of the country was in the hands of the Sinha clan that came from India. This land was governed by Sinha clan from Vijaya, to his nephew Panduvasadeva and his son Abhaya. Original inhabitants of this land, the Yakshas, staged revolt after revolt to drive out the alien rulers and regain their rightful legacy. The time of Pandukabhaya’s birth marks a crucial phase in this conflict. I make the conflict between these two parties the focal point in my story. This is not a clash between two ethnic groups—it is a conflict between two clans; two tribes. It is Pandukabhaya who brings the conflict to a successful conclusion. After Pandukabhaya, there were no clashes between Sinha clan, Yakshas, or Nagas. Pandukabhaya was the hero who ended it all.

This creation should be valued not only for its story with its incredibly ornate tapestry; it also gives us a perspective of our rich history. Not only does he finish off the incessant power struggles for the reign among the clans and tribes, Pandukabhaya also builds the City of Anuradhapura as a symbol of political stability. King Mutasiva was Pandukabhaya’s son and Devanampiya Tissa was Mutasiva’s son. Mahinda Thera arrives in Sri Lanka during Devanampiya Tissa’s time and it was during this period that this country experienced an unprecedented cultural resurgence.

In the movie Doramandalawa, the village where ABA grows up, has been constructed with stunning magnificence.

ABA is Unmada Chitra’s son. He was born in the shadow of death. According to Chitra’s horoscope, this child was destined to secure the political power after slaying all his ten uncles—Chithra’s brothers. Fearing that this prophesy would come true, uncles plot to kill both Chithra and her son. It was because of the intervention of Bhadda-kachchayana, Chithra’s mother, this assassination attempt was thwarted. Bhadda-kachchayana was Pandu Sakya’s daughter and was, therefore, a relation of Prince Siddhartha, who later achieved Buddhahood. In order to assure the safety of the child, she secretly dispatched him to the village known as Doramandalawa.

In fact, Doramandalawa was a very prosperous community; one that was self-sufficient in every way. It was not a pre-historic village where people lived in rock caverns. Members of that community produced all they needed for their sustenance. It was a village of glory and I tried to recreate this magnificence with intense vibrancy.

We believe that your movie contains the largest set ever constructed after the Sandesaya (fortress).

It is not only the sets that make this movie a gigantic enterprise. Everything about ABA is gigantic. Past is more gargantuan than the present and, therefore, recreating such a past in visual terms is in itself a gargantuan enterprise. The importance of the background in these visuals cannot be overstressed; not even a blade of grass from today’s environs can creep into a background that existed thousands of years ago. I had to go to great lengths to maintain the integrity of these compelling visuals.

How difficult was it to discover the location for this background?

I spent almost two years on this task. Udeni Subodhi Kumara, the Art Director of this movie, helped me tirelessly during this entire period. We traveled length and breadth of the country looking for the most appropriate spot for this background. We walked day and night in places such as Kudumbigala, Bambaragastenna, Kotadamupola, in the Eastern province but, sadly, couldn’t use any of these locations due to security reasons. Finally I chose locations such as Rajanganaya, Nochchiyagama, and Kala Oya, situated to the south of Anuradhapura. I wanted a location to build a royal palace. Ancient kings went in search of lands of triumph, so to speak, to build their palaces. I also did the same. I wanted a land with a colossal and sprawling rock. Security of the king was a major factor, a key consideration, in ancient palace architecture. I find such a location in Rajanganaya which is an archeologically significant region—one built by King Parakramabahu under southern rule.

For the village, I had in mind a vast area surrounded by the jungle and sheltered and speckled by the canopy of the tree cover. Thus I find the Ittikulama tank. When we found it, the tank had run bone dry. In the midst of the dried out tank was a massive grouping of kumbuk trees. We decided to build the Doramandalawa village on that location and that is where much of the action takes place.

We know that an army of actors, thousands of them, play roles in this movie. Casting for the movie must have been a nightmare experience.

Given the nature of the story we had to find real people to cast in the movie; real sons and daughters of the soil – strong, sun-scorched and conditioned by natural elements – and engaged in agricultural and other productive endeavors. We needed about 570 such people and we traveled for long periods of time looking for them and photographing them. In addition to that, I use almost 2,000 more people as extras.

Recreating costumes, jewelry etc., relating to the 4th century B.C. would not have been easy either?

Vasantha Srinath had already sketched all these things on drawing paper. It was hard labor for him to do it as I envisioned them. I had been on a quest of an epoch and a culture where people were dressed in the glory of the colors of the rainbow. Nilhan Seneviratna is a highly creative dress designer in the country. It is he who traveled across India for weeks on end, searching for costumes, fabrics, jewelry etc., that would do justice to our project, and I highly value his contribution in this regard. The skilled hair stylist by the name of Lalith Dharmawardene did the same in search of wigs to fit a people who had let their hair grow long rather than cut them. All these people used the prototypes developed by Vasantha and sketched on paper. Vasantha Vittachchi, our make-up artist also got all he needed for his trade from India. Even the dances in the movie are contemporaneous to the period they portray. Chandana Wickramasinghe is the creative choreographer who handled this difficult task. His free-flowing style succeeded in finding a synthesis, a fusion, with my thinking and my research in this regard. I must also mention about the fighting in the movie. Our traditional martial art form is known as ‘Angam.’ For this I sought the services of Guru P Karunapala who is an ace in this art form. He is quite acquainted with the elementary form of his trade. Mostly, I used his talent and skills to train Sajitha Anuttara, who is playing the role of Aba, and Saumya who is playing Habara, and also Dulani Anuradha, my new-found, who is playing a main role in the movie. I guided all these players in fighting as well as dancing.

Renowned international directors and also some prominent directors in the local scene, use story boards in planning their work. It is believed that story boarding was used extensively in making ABA as well.

This creation is one with a strict and exact grammar. In the movie, I am exploiting much of the inventive techniques and grammar that have been found so far anywhere in the world in movie making. I chose this arduous course for a good reason; even a slight slip-up would become a massive blooper in a gigantic movie of this nature. I drew all the story boards myself. When I went on the set, it was never my intent to just shoot ‘something’. I always had a definite and precise objective in my mind. Suminda Weerasinghe, my cinematographer, brilliantly came off in capturing on film what I already had ‘filmed’ in my mind.

You used computer technology in making this movie?

That’s right. My editor is Ravindra Guruge. He imported some dedicated computer equipment to do the special effects of this movie. All the 3-D and graphics of ABA is done in Sri Lanka in his TVT lab. This movie is a one hundred percent Sri Lankan creation. We seek Indian support only for printing and sound mixing. From all this I expect to produce a first-rate Sri Lankan movie that will be unqualifiedly acceptable to the international audience. My expectation is to gain access to the international market. This was my objective even before I first sat down at the table to write the first sentence in the script.

Earlier you told me that there were interesting experiences while making this movie.

Yes. The first thing I did was to visit Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura with the script in hand. Together with Mr. Belagamage and Ms. Jayasinghe, my two producers, I dedicated it to the Bodhi. During the dedication process, I requested the monk who performed the ritual to give me a leaf from the bo tree. He said that he would give me one after we had finished the ceremony. But lo and behold, at that very moment, a leaf from the Bodhi falls right in front of us. In any case, I am one who has great reverence for Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and the Sacred Tooth Relic. I even start my shootings after the chanting of Pirith. Ittikulama tank where we built the Doramandalawa village is notorious for going under water even after a slight rain. We built the set on the dried out tank and started to shoot when the heavens above began to gather ominous dark clouds and threatened to flood the village. I had no alternative but to seek the help of the monk in the village Buddhist temple. He took me straight away to the shrine room of the temple where he chanted Pirith and blessed the project. He also took me to the Vishnu temple and made a plea. It may sound rather bizarre but believe me, when I came out of the temple, all the signs of a deadly downpour that existed before, had disappeared altogether with the sun smiling down again.

This is not all. Torrential rains started coming down on the Ittikulama tank just after we had completed the last scene on the last day on that location. By that time we had loaded all our stuff on to the trucks to move out. In no time the tank went under water. It was so bad that we had to pull the trucks out of water using tractors. If one wants now to see where the Doramandalawa village once existed, it is not there any more. It disappeared completely with the deluge.

Shooting. How long did it take?

73 days, to be exact. Ashok, the technician who worked as the assistant cameraman for the Hindi movie ‘Ashok’ did not believe we could pull it through in such a short period. Ashok came from Prasad Labs in Chennai who hired us the cameras. His estimated that a movie of this magnitude needed at least 110 days to complete. But he congratulated me when I finished the movie in 73 days. Ashok was the person who worked with us as the person responsible for the camera equipment we got down from India and also as assistant to Suminda Weerasinghe, our cinematographer.

I must also remember with utmost gratitude, the contribution made by people who have not been mentioned here; skilled and prominent artistes such as Malini Fonseka, Sabita Perera, and Ravindra Randeniya. These people gave their magnanimous best under very trying circumstances lending their talent, energy, and reputation to make ABA a great Sri Lankan movie. I thank them profusely for this.

Also, I have launched the web site www.aba.lk in order to transact with the international. It contains much of the information you wish to know about the movie. This is an attempt to take to the international arena the pride of our history, our nation. Heroes in ABA are not inept and inconsequential ‘heroes’ one customarily meets in the contemporary cinema across the world. These are real full-blooded heroes who laid down their lives to build this nation of ours.

And it is in this context, more than anything else, that ABA qualifies to be a movie of true epic proportions.
Interviewed by Udesha Sanjiva Gamage for Sunday Divaina,
April 06, 2008

JACKSON’S CINAMATIC CONTRIBUTION TOWARDS THE MOTHERLAND

‘Juliettge Bhumikava’ marked Jackson’s initial foray into the world of film making. That was as far back as 1995. Since then there was not a whimper of another Jackson movie. Recently, however, he broke his creative silence by announcing that he was going to produce another blockbuster epic by the name of ABA.

Jackson has a celebrated career in acting—no contemporary Sri Lankan actor possesses his performing skills or his stage personality. At the ABA muhurath ceremony held at the Waters Edge early this week, Professor Patrick Ratnayake of Kelaniya University equated Jackson with that of Mel Gibson, the American movie icon.

Mel Gibson is renowned for his method acting. He too honed his acting skills in the early part of his career by performing on stage. Like Jackson, Gibson is also one who has an insatiable appetite for historic themes. The whole world was bowled over by The Brave Heart, a film based on the Scottish War and which Gibson directed after years of research into the history of the conflict. The movie won several Oscars. Thereafter, he went in search of further historic themes. Apolcalypto, a story about a Mesoamerican tribesman’s experience during the dying days of the Mayan civilization in Mexico, and The Passion of Christ are two subsequent Gibson films that took the world by storm.

Epical tradition occupies an important position in the world cinema. It was during the time of Seven Samurai and Rashomon of the Japanese cinema, our own Dr. Lester James Peiris produced Sandeshaya in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan history has a long and rich history full of epic characters and which is replete with heroism and gallantry. If one takes the genealogy of kings of Sri Lanka, save a few exceptions, most of them are valiant and formidable personalities which are not readily found in the histories of most other nations. Yet the question that invariably confounds us is as to why the epical tradition has failed to take root in the domain of Sri Lankan cinema. Of the 1062 movies produced in Sri Lanka, starting with Kadavuna Poronduwa up to Sankara, only six have been based on historic themes, namely, Ashokamala (1947), Sirisangabo (1952), Sandeshaya (1960), Sigiri Kashyapa (1966), Veera Puran Appu (1978), and Veera Madduma Bandara (1984). These are, however, essentially tragedies that cannot be regarded as epics in any sense.

Our neighboring India has produced a large number of movies which fall into the category of epics. The movie Ashok which was a creation of the combined effort of Sharukh Khan, the super star of contemporary Indian cinema, and Juhi Chawla, and Mangal Pandey in which another Indian movie idol Amir Khan featured, have helped the Indian identity firmly establish its roots in the cinema of that country.

There are unmistakable signs that Jackson’s second movie ABA will signify the beginning of a new era in the Sri Lankan cinema. This movie will denote the true beginning of the epic era of our cinema. ABA has surmounted the first and the biggest obstacle in making a colossal epic movie—finding a willing and capable investor. Up to now, we had been in the habit of making movies to suit an available budget than find a fitting producer who is capable of funding the movie’s budget requirements. Other countries have discovered ways of funding the requirements of a movie while at the same time finding reliable means of recovering the costs with substantial returns. Justin Belagamage and Ms. Rajindra Jayasinghe have made history in Sri Lanka by investing a colossal amount of money to make this gigantic movie.

The ABA script that had been gathering dust in Jackson’s office drawer (under his arm pit, some say!) breathed its first at the Muhurath ceremony held on the 1st day of June 2007 at the Waters Edge hotel. Now Jackson can heave a joyous sigh of relief. Now it doesn’t matter to him that he had been going round in circles for two years looking for a producer to bring ABA to life. Now it also doesn’t matter to him that he sacrificed several opportunities that came his way for major acting breaks in the hope that he would start shooting ABA some day soon. He now has.

It is palpably apparent that Sri Lankan cinema has so far failed to discharge its true duty towards this country. Had it succeeded in doing so, our contemporary society would not have hit a pessimistic nadir as it has done now, resulting in a negative collective national psyche. Nor have some of our movie makers been audacious enough to make movies that merely display their technical ingenuity, but in the process betray wholesale the proud past of this nation. It is not only the politicians of this country who should bear responsibility for this great betrayal—our film makers also must share the blame for this to varying degrees.

We must start from where we have gone wrong. We must make an earnest effort to find out where we have got it all wrong. At least now, action must be initiated to pass on the epic tradition of our nation to the theatres. Movie makers in the caliber of Prasanna Vitanage and Jayantha Chandrasiri are sure to travel further along the path now cleared open by Jackson Anthony. It is believed that they are planning to move in the same direction by producing two movies in the genre of epics. It would auger well for the country as well as the future of Sri Lankan cinema, if other film makers too draw inspiration from this emerging trend.
Gamini Jayalath, Dinamina, June 08, 2007

PANDUKABHAYA SIGNIFIES THE FOUNDING OF THE GREAT HELA DYNASTY

JACKSON ANTHONY TALKS ABOUT HIS LATEST CREATION ABA
We encounter in international arena a myriad cinematic creations based on epics, myths and great legends. In a country with 2500 years history and in which many fear to handle such a daunting task, with his latest creation ABA, Jackson successfully confronts the enormous challenge of dealing with a grand cinematic creation. In this interview, Jackson talks about many aspects of ABA which marks a distinctive high point in his long journey of creative endeavor.

Tell us something by way of introducing ABA

ABA is based on the story of Prince Pandukabhaya. It deals with a series of events that took place about 2400 years ago in the Panduvasadeva palace in the City of Upatissa. Information and data for this story come from archeological sources, folklore and legends. Also there are controversies among the historians about Pandukabhaya on many issues. It is quite reasonable to treat Pandukabhaya as the foundation of the Great Hela Dynasty in the country. Mahavansa mentions of a nation founded by Prince Vijaya, but neither the archeological evidence available to us nor the history of the Ruhuna Dynasty supports that claim. Even our stone inscriptions mention of a royal dynasty founded by Aba. Therefore, there is reason to believe that Pandukabhaya was the first sovereign king of the country.

Vijaya was an Indian immigrant and following his arrival in the country, there was a succession of migrations especially from India. Consequently, there was a time when the political power of the country was in the hands of the Sinha clan that came from India. This land was governed by Sinha clan from Vijaya, to his nephew Panduvasadeva and his son Abhaya. Original inhabitants of this land, the Yakshas, staged revolt after revolt to drive out the alien rulers and regain their rightful legacy. The time of Pandukabhaya’s birth marks a crucial phase in this conflict. I make the conflict between these two parties the focal point in my story. This is not a clash between two ethnic groups—it is a conflict between two clans; two tribes. It is Pandukabhaya who brings the conflict to a successful conclusion. After Pandukabhaya, there were no clashes between Sinha clan, Yakshas, or Nagas. Pandukabhaya was the hero who ended it all.

This creation should be valued not only for its story with its incredibly ornate tapestry; it also gives us a perspective of our rich history. Not only does he finish off the incessant power struggles for the reign among the clans and tribes, Pandukabhaya also builds the City of Anuradhapura as a symbol of political stability. King Mutasiva was Pandukabhaya’s son and Devanampiya Tissa was Mutasiva’s son. Mahinda Thera arrives in Sri Lanka during Devanampiya Tissa’s time and it was during this period that this country experienced an unprecedented cultural resurgence.

In the movie Doramandalawa, the village where ABA grows up, has been constructed with stunning magnificence.

ABA is Unmada Chitra’s son. He was born in the shadow of death. According to Chitra’s horoscope, this child was destined to secure the political power after slaying all his ten uncles—Chithra’s brothers. Fearing that this prophesy would come true, uncles plot to kill both Chithra and her son. It was because of the intervention of Bhadda-kachchayana, Chithra’s mother, this assassination attempt was thwarted. Bhadda-kachchayana was Pandu Sakya’s daughter and was, therefore, a relation of Prince Siddhartha, who later achieved Buddhahood. In order to assure the safety of the child, she secretly dispatched him to the village known as Doramandalawa.

In fact, Doramandalawa was a very prosperous community; one that was self-sufficient in every way. It was not a pre-historic village where people lived in rock caverns. Members of that community produced all they needed for their sustenance. It was a village of glory and I tried to recreate this magnificence with intense vibrancy.

We believe that your movie contains the largest set ever constructed after the Sandesaya (fortress).

It is not only the sets that make this movie a gigantic enterprise. Everything about ABA is gigantic. Past is more gargantuan than the present and, therefore, recreating such a past in visual terms is in itself a gargantuan enterprise. The importance of the background in these visuals cannot be overstressed; not even a blade of grass from today’s environs can creep into a background that existed thousands of years ago. I had to go to great lengths to maintain the integrity of these compelling visuals.

How difficult was it to discover the location for this background?

I spent almost two years on this task. Udeni Subodhi Kumara, the Art Director of this movie, helped me tirelessly during this entire period. We traveled length and breadth of the country looking for the most appropriate spot for this background. We walked day and night in places such as Kudumbigala, Bambaragastenna, Kotadamupola, in the Eastern province but, sadly, couldn’t use any of these locations due to security reasons. Finally I chose locations such as Rajanganaya, Nochchiyagama, and Kala Oya, situated to the south of Anuradhapura. I wanted a location to build a royal palace. Ancient kings went in search of lands of triumph, so to speak, to build their palaces. I also did the same. I wanted a land with a colossal and sprawling rock. Security of the king was a major factor, a key consideration, in ancient palace architecture. I find such a location in Rajanganaya which is an archeologically significant region—one built by King Parakramabahu under southern rule.

For the village, I had in mind a vast area surrounded by the jungle and sheltered and speckled by the canopy of the tree cover. Thus I find the Ittikulama tank. When we found it, the tank had run bone dry. In the midst of the dried out tank was a massive grouping of kumbuk trees. We decided to build the Doramandalawa village on that location and that is where much of the action takes place.

We know that an army of actors, thousands of them, play roles in this movie. Casting for the movie must have been a nightmare experience.

Given the nature of the story we had to find real people to cast in the movie; real sons and daughters of the soil – strong, sun-scorched and conditioned by natural elements – and engaged in agricultural and other productive endeavors. We needed about 570 such people and we traveled for long periods of time looking for them and photographing them. In addition to that, I use almost 2,000 more people as extras.

Recreating costumes, jewelry etc., relating to the 4th century B.C. would not have been easy either?

Vasantha Srinath had already sketched all these things on drawing paper. It was hard labor for him to do it as I envisioned them. I had been on a quest of an epoch and a culture where people were dressed in the glory of the colors of the rainbow. Nilhan Seneviratna is a highly creative dress designer in the country. It is he who traveled across India for weeks on end, searching for costumes, fabrics, jewelry etc., that would do justice to our project, and I highly value his contribution in this regard. The skilled hair stylist by the name of Lalith Dharmawardene did the same in search of wigs to fit a people who had let their hair grow long rather than cut them. All these people used the prototypes developed by Vasantha and sketched on paper. Vasantha Vittachchi, our make-up artist also got all he needed for his trade from India. Even the dances in the movie are contemporaneous to the period they portray. Chandana Wickramasinghe is the creative choreographer who handled this difficult task. His free-flowing style succeeded in finding a synthesis, a fusion, with my thinking and my research in this regard. I must also mention about the fighting in the movie. Our traditional martial art form is known as ‘Angam.’ For this I sought the services of Guru P Karunapala who is an ace in this art form. He is quite acquainted with the elementary form of his trade. Mostly, I used his talent and skills to train Sajitha Anuttara, who is playing the role of Aba, and Saumya who is playing Habara, and also Dulani Anuradha, my new-found, who is playing a main role in the movie. I guided all these players in fighting as well as dancing.

Renowned international directors and also some prominent directors in the local scene, use story boards in planning their work. It is believed that story boarding was used extensively in making ABA as well.

This creation is one with a strict and exact grammar. In the movie, I am exploiting much of the inventive techniques and grammar that have been found so far anywhere in the world in movie making. I chose this arduous course for a good reason; even a slight slip-up would become a massive blooper in a gigantic movie of this nature. I drew all the story boards myself. When I went on the set, it was never my intent to just shoot ‘something’. I always had a definite and precise objective in my mind. Suminda Weerasinghe, my cinematographer, brilliantly came off in capturing on film what I already had ‘filmed’ in my mind.

You used computer technology in making this movie?

That’s right. My editor is Ravindra Guruge. He imported some dedicated computer equipment to do the special effects of this movie. All the 3-D and graphics of ABA is done in Sri Lanka in his TVT lab. This movie is a one hundred percent Sri Lankan creation. We seek Indian support only for printing and sound mixing. From all this I expect to produce a first-rate Sri Lankan movie that will be unqualifiedly acceptable to the international audience. My expectation is to gain access to the international market. This was my objective even before I first sat down at the table to write the first sentence in the script.

Earlier you told me that there were interesting experiences while making this movie.

Yes. The first thing I did was to visit Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura with the script in hand. Together with Mr. Belagamage and Ms. Jayasinghe, my two producers, I dedicated it to the Bodhi. During the dedication process, I requested the monk who performed the ritual to give me a leaf from the bo tree. He said that he would give me one after we had finished the ceremony. But lo and behold, at that very moment, a leaf from the Bodhi falls right in front of us. In any case, I am one who has great reverence for Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and the Sacred Tooth Relic. I even start my shootings after the chanting of Pirith. Ittikulama tank where we built the Doramandalawa village is notorious for going under water even after a slight rain. We built the set on the dried out tank and started to shoot when the heavens above began to gather ominous dark clouds and threatened to flood the village. I had no alternative but to seek the help of the monk in the village Buddhist temple. He took me straight away to the shrine room of the temple where he chanted Pirith and blessed the project. He also took me to the Vishnu temple and made a plea. It may sound rather bizarre but believe me, when I came out of the temple, all the signs of a deadly downpour that existed before, had disappeared altogether with the sun smiling down again.

This is not all. Torrential rains started coming down on the Ittikulama tank just after we had completed the last scene on the last day on that location. By that time we had loaded all our stuff on to the trucks to move out. In no time the tank went under water. It was so bad that we had to pull the trucks out of water using tractors. If one wants now to see where the Doramandalawa village once existed, it is not there any more. It disappeared completely with the deluge.

Shooting. How long did it take?

73 days, to be exact. Ashok, the technician who worked as the assistant cameraman for the Hindi movie ‘Ashok’ did not believe we could pull it through in such a short period. Ashok came from Prasad Labs in Chennai who hired us the cameras. His estimated that a movie of this magnitude needed at least 110 days to complete. But he congratulated me when I finished the movie in 73 days. Ashok was the person who worked with us as the person responsible for the camera equipment we got down from India and also as assistant to Suminda Weerasinghe, our cinematographer.

I must also remember with utmost gratitude, the contribution made by people who have not been mentioned here; skilled and prominent artistes such as Malini Fonseka, Sabita Perera, and Ravindra Randeniya. These people gave their magnanimous best under very trying circumstances lending their talent, energy, and reputation to make ABA a great Sri Lankan movie. I thank them profusely for this.

Also, I have launched the web site www.aba.lk in order to transact with the international. It contains much of the information you wish to know about the movie. This is an attempt to take to the international arena the pride of our history, our nation. Heroes in ABA are not inept and inconsequential ‘heroes’ one customarily meets in the contemporary cinema across the world. These are real full-blooded heroes who laid down their lives to build this nation of ours.

And it is in this context, more than anything else, that ABA qualifies to be a movie of true epic proportions.
Interviewed by Udesha Sanjiva Gamage for Sunday Divaina, April 06, 2008

Winner of the PEOPLES’ AWARD FOR THE BEST ARTIST at the Awards Ceremony of the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) 2007, Jackson Anthony is a highly acclaimed and gifted professional whose talents in diverse areas in the field of performing arts in the Sri Lankan entertainment industry have been widely acknowledged. He has an honors degree in the Sinhala Language & Literature from the University of Colombo and has studied for his Masters in Mass Media. Julietge Bhumikava marked his initial foray into the field of movie direction. This movie won him the MOST PROMISING DIRECTOR’S AWARD at the Critics Awards Ceremony. Since then he has gone on to win more than 20 Best Actor awards and today he is recognized as a prolific and exceptionally talented actor in the contemporary Sri Lankan cinema. He has also won numerous accolades for his contributions in drama and television whilst his productions for the television have secured the highest public ratings. Maha Sinhale Vansa Kathava (The Great Chronicle of the Sinhalas) is one such programme he produced for the television for several years, and it is considered as a historic milestone in Jackson’s work for social accomplishment through the mass media.

More Pictures…

BACKGROUND

Jackson began his career in arts in the early 1980s in the field of stage drama in which he showed exceptional skill and talent as an actor, producer and a script writer. With the advent of television in Sri Lanka in the late 1970s, Jackson took to TV with a flourish, writing, producing, directing and acting in numerous teledramas and anchoring major TV programmes. 1990s saw him blossom as an extraordinarily gifted artiste whose knowledge and talents transcended many boundaries in the field of performing arts including Stage, TV, and Radio.

Jackson is also a much sought-after keynote speaker in events related to arts and culture and has been a major contributor in developing the curriculum of the National Drama School initiated by the National Youth Services Centre and also of the Performing Arts Course conducted by the SLITI (Sri Lanka Television Institute).

In recognition of his services to the performing arts in the country, Jackson was honored by the government of Sri Lanka with the title Kala Keerthi in the year 2005.


HONOURS AND AWARDS    
     
STAGE    
   

1980

“Gampaha 80” Drama Festival
•  Best Actor
•  Best Script
•  Best Production

1983

National Drama Festival
•  Best Supporting Actor – (METHANIN MARUWENU )

1986

National Drama Festival
•  Best Actor – (MARATSADE)

1987

Divaina Sama Drama Festival
•  Best Actor – (MARATSADE)

     
TELEVISION    
   

1992

UNDA Awards
•  Best Actor – (KADULLA)

1992

Lankadeepa Vijaya Awards
•  Most Popular Actor of the Year – ^lvq,a,& (KADULLA)

1995

Sumathi Awards
•  Best Actor -(PITAGAMKARAYO)

1996

OCIC AWARDS
•  Best Actor -(AKALA SANDYA)

1997

UNDA AWARDS
•  Best Script – (MAHAMERA PAMULA)

2002

Sumathi Awards –
•  Award of Excellence for Media – (Maha Sinhale Wansakathawa)

2003

Sumathi Awards
• Award of Excellence for Media – (Neighbour Talks)

2004  

Sumathi Awards
• The Best Current Event Prog. (YEHELY)

CINEMA    
   

1996

Critic Awards
•  Most Promising Director – (JULIETGE BHOOMIKAWA)

 

UNDA Awards
•  Best Actor – (LOKU DUWA)

1997

Sarasaviya Awards
•  Best Actor – (BAWA DUKA)

 

Presidential Awards
i. Best Actor – (BAWA DUKA)

 

OCIC Awards
•  Best Script – (BAWA KARMA)

1998

Critic Awards
i. Best Actor – (GINI AWI SAHA GINI KELY)

 

Presidential Awards
i. Best Actor – (GINI AWI SAHA GINI KELY)

2001

Presidential Awards
i. Best Actor – (ASWESUMA)

2002

UNDA Awards
i. Best Actor – (AGNIDHAHAYA)

2004

Presidential Awards
•  Best Actor – (SOORIYA ARANA)

2004

Sarasaviya Awards
•  Best Actor – (RANDIYA DAHARA)

2004

OCIC Awards
i. Best Actor – (RANDIYA DAHARA)

1997

TOP TEN Award
i. Cultural Achievement – Organised by Welwatte Jaycees.

2005

 

NATIONAL Awards
•  Kalakeerthi

2006   President awards
• BEST ACTOR – (GURILLA MARKETING)
     

OTHER HONORS AND TRIBUTES

 

1997

TOP TEN Award
•  For Cultural Achievement – Awarded by Wellawatta Jaycees

2005

National Award
•  Title of Kalakeerthi awarded by the Government of Sri Lanka in recognition of the services rendered towards enriching and uplifting the performing arts sector in the country

2007

Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM)
People’s Award for the Best Artiste

Sajitha Anuththara ( ABA )

   
     
Name:
  Sajitha Anuththara
     
Role:
  Aba
     
Role Description:
  Main Role of the Film ( playing the character of Prince Pandukabhaya )
     
Past Films (With the  year):
  Off Road (Germen Film) – 2001
Sooriya Arana – 2003
Kurula Pihatu – 2004
     
Awards:
 

2005 – Presidential Awards ( Merit Award )
2004 – Sarasavi Film Awards (Merit Award)
2005 – Signis Sri Lanka (Certificate of Merit for Creative Auxiliary Contribution)

Incoming search terms for sinhala movies:

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Address Na – ඇඩ්‍රස් නෑ Sinhala film by Jackson Anthony

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