10th August, 2003 Volume 10, Issue 4
Reflecting back on post colonial Sri Lanka
film speaks of the socio-cultural darkness that descended upon and came to
grip the once self-sufficient society consequent to British colonisation.
a time when history is no longer taught in school and slogans are being
credited as artistic expressions of the present day socio-political dilemma,
Sudu Kaluwara nudges you to take a look back, and reflect on a sub culture
created by the social upheaval that stemmed from colonisation.
film also marks the graduation of its director Sudath Rohana from tele drama
director to filmmaker. His tele films Avidu Andura, Niranandaya, Beddegedara
show the reflective streak, his desire to gather seeds from history and to
deal with colonial and post colonial themes with an adult flavour.
The intrusive presence of the Portuguese, Dutch and the British has made
this society one lacking an identity. Today we have only a confused idea and
hence the lack of nationalistic thinking. I wanted to discuss how an
independent nation became such slaves to a sub culture thrust upon us,"
says Rohana. Hence the English title given to the film, "
film shows the mosaic of Sinhala society, its many linkages, its strengths
and the complexity of human feeling. This social fabric was torn asunder
with the imposition of Western values and a consumer culture, which
recognised only those who climbed the social ladder, no matter what the
means of climbing was. It made landowners tenants on their own land,
rendered the self sufficient landless and raped a culture that took pride in
non-competition and supported each other. In this sub culture, the old
Sinhala traditions were quickly forgotten.
example, adults would not consume liquor in front of their off spring. The
hesitation of Maddu Nilame (Buddhadasa Withanachchi) to have a drink in
front of his son Dingiri Banda (Palitha Silva) in the early frames of the
film has drastically changed towards the middle. Here, the father actually
has a drink with the son-seated next to him.
the film seeks to mark the evolution of the rural economy. The transition of
a self-sufficient agricultural society into that of a consumer culture where
money is the deciding factor and the conferor of status is aptly
demonstrated in Sudu Kaluwara.
When I first read N.T. Karunathilleke's
Ulugedara Arachchi I immediately felt a surge of emotion. I realised that I had
something to say, visually when it came to this story. It spoke of the
dramatic and drastic evolution of the rural society, alteration of values
and the creation of a new business class people", notes Sudath.
is this novue riche class that gets represented in the film by Seemon (Sanath
Gunathilake) who plundered the wealth of villagers, made quick money by
hoodwinking unsuspecting villagers and eventually exploited them, both
economically and sexually.
who flourished under the new system were those subservient to the colonial
masters. Seemon was truly the epitome of a shrewd vendor. And Dingiri Banda
(Palitha Silva) replaces the outgoing Archchila all because he has a
thriving friendship with the colonial masters. But is it the same
associations, the same people who eventually plunder his own ancestral
wealth and denies him that, renders his relatives poor and destroys the
culture of which he is a creation."
is why, Sudath believes that even today, the beneficiaries of this system
would rather not condemn colonisation. The arrival of Wilson Herald, a
planter who transforms a natural forest, fondly called the mukalana by the
villagers signified was used, he says to signify the transition. The entire
village is soon portrayed as being in the firm grip of Wilson and Seemon.
ways are seemingly different. But the end result is the exploitation of all
sorts," urges Sudath.
he does try to portray that amidst the social upheaval, what does not change
or what is able to transcend cultural barriers is love. This is where the
film takes a sympathetic view of the white man who has been otherwise
portrayed as the ruthless acquirer and plunderer of a village's natural
also wanted to discuss the political nuances of the introduction of the
Wastelands Act. It provided for the acquisition of uncultivated land but led
to the acquisition of drought- affected hence uncultivated land, the
cultivated and even the natural forests," says the director.
Sudath is careful to manipulate the characters. The viewer would feel more
sympathetic to Wilson and dislike Seemon, the local. " It is the human
fraility that I wanted to depict. Sometimes, the real beneficiaries were a
handful of locals like him who found the social transition a good backdrop
to climb the ladder".
sexual exploitation of the villager hence, happens when Seemon keeps a
village woman, Lamie as his mistress and shrewdly manipulates her to grab
her land. Wilson in contrast loves the innocent village damsel, Heen Menike
and wishes to marry her though the cultural differences are often bought out
to justify the denial of such a union.
pregnancy precipitates events in the village, marking the complete
revolution of a culture. Her mother drowns herself and her uncle Podi Nilame,
now indebted to Seemon becomes a tenant cultivator on his own land turns his
gun on the white man in rage.
tanks bear silent testimony to a village that has undergone a sea change and
come to a tragic end. Hence, it is the story of the fragmentation of a
society that continues to date.
Sudath says, part of the tragedy is the lack of understating of history as
culture. It is the golden string that bound the society together.
still feel that we were more just self-sufficient, contained and prosperous
in many ways. This quality remains robbed from us even today. That is why we
are still seekers of an identity, 55 years after independence" says a
he believes that the film also signals the end of the sex, scandal and crude
jokes era of the silver screen. "Our comedies are tragedies because
they don't inspire wit and humour. They are unbearably crude. I needed to
prove that we still can strive for better things," asserts Rohana.
his creation sometimes begged for adult scenes, or a hint of it. For
instance, Wilson and Heen Menike are seen in the open fields, often talking
to each other. And then comes the shocking revelation of her pregnancy
without a hint of the development of their relationship to a physical level
which causes a slight credibility crisis.
I am still learning too, specially this being my first movie. I think a hint
of proximity should have been added to ensure more credibility. But I wanted
to preserve it as a 'family film' so that the youngsters would not be denied
access to it. Otherwise, its educational thrust would have been lost. I
actually made this for the new generation that has been deprived of their
lessons in history," adds Sudath.
is quick to point out that the open fields and the young lovers in
picturesque backdrops were not included for mere aesthetics. " It was a
look at a society that was open. Also, the availability of space before
these restrictive impositions were thrust upon us. The entire village
enjoyed the benefits of the muklana, it sustained the people and a culture
both until it was owned by an individual."
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