15th February, 2004  Volume 10, Issue 31


















The Garden and Sakman Maluwa

By Vinodh Senadeera 

Very often, adaptations from texts made into films prove that the book seems to be far superior when compared with the film. Not always so. The Garden is one exception. The short story by Godfrey Gunatilleke, is a tightly knit story, which revolves around Tissa, Prema and The Garden. A masterpiece, because it depicts a typical class, interwoven with some excellent symbolism right through the story. The minute detail writing clearly gives the reader an insight into the little intricacies, which hover around the characters and its environment.

Sri Lankan movies have over the years changed onto the positive side, where one would see not only some decent plots and acting but also some movies really do make a great effort in creating some excellent cinematography, which enhances the movie on the whole. Judging from various awards which some of these films win, clearly puts our local films into the international arena and actually worthy of entering into major competitions. Gone are the days where some of these films, rely on play back songs where dance routines and costume changes take precedence. Finally, there comes a movie which not only is created beautifully, but where an entire family can witness without the embarrassing moments.

Centre of attraction

That's what I liked about the film Sakman Maluwa. Having read the short story, I was anxious in seeing the interpretation adapted for screen. Of course, knowing full well, the cast and its director, one expected something of quality. And I wasn't disappointed.

The entire movie circles around  The Garden which becomes the centre of attraction.

 "Tissa turned the damp earth with the digging fork, cautiously avoiding the young plant. He was squatting beside the bed of coleus, his sarong stretched neatly without one wrinkle." (The Garden) And this becomes the opening of the movie too. Tissa and his mother share a passion - gardening. Gardening becomes a passion for him, it is where he longs to spend time, ably assisted by Jamis, who seems to have been with this family for decades. For Tissa, " it was not just gardening  but mere occupation for his spare hours." Even after his marriage to Prema, they both take to mending the garden.

The symbolism of the garden then becomes the place where their marriage too takes a different turn.

The film focuses on the marriage between Tissa and Prema (Sanath Gunatilleke and Kanchana Mendis), excellently. The age gap does become a stressful factor although not at the beginning but certainly when the younger brother arrives from Russia. Tissa is able to see a different angle to his wife's behavior when she reacts with his brother.

Tissa's character  seems simple - work, wife and gardening. But with all this, he seems to suffer from an insecure complex. And this is brought out well. When his mother tells Prema, " It is all because he loves you, be it jealousy or suspicion, they are all to do with the fact that he loves you." Gunatilleke's performance is commendable; he brings out Tissa's character very closely to the text. His behavioral changes at different stages in the film clearly comes through, especially when his brother arrives and the final climax when he claims Polonga. His entire world collapses when Prema runs away without helping him and giving him the mamoty in order to kill the polonga. The final scene brings his inner conflict when he confesses to his wife his true emotions.

Sensitive manner

Kanchana Mendis's role as Prema is excellent. The little nuances in her character comes out in a very sensitive manner. Her fear, her enthusiasm, her love is brought out in a very subtle manner. A refreshing performance. Never does she over act at any point in the film. Her immediate reaction when seeing the polonga is natural, obviously dominated by fear. She too feels the pressure in marrying a man very much older to her but she adapts until she looses faith in him, and finally she does make it very clear that it is him who needs to change saying that although the polonga was killed, the actual polonga is deep inside his heart.

The supporting roles too add a lot of colour to the film. The performances of Irangani Serasinghe and vasanthi Chathurani are brilliant. Even the role of 'Jamis' who provides a sense of humour comes out as that typical walauwa servant.

What I liked most in the film was the atmosphere. The garden always being natured and looked after was very symbolic. The little trip to the temple behind the background of visitors chanting songs was typical of village life. Mostly the physical death of the polonga and Jamis burning it in silhouette while Tissa walks into the house was very poignant.

The music added a lot of expression to the movie. The traditional Sinhala classical music with the blending of the Western when the son comes from overseas was remarkable.

But I wished the story ended like the short story - in ambiguity. The fact that Prema tells Tissa to change his way of thinking gives a  two way end to the story. But the short story reads as follows:

For the first time the sense of being a stranger in his world assailed Tissa. The darkness which followed into the room reminded him that the lamps had not been lit. Rising from his bed he groped his way with an unsteady step, into the dinning hall. Out of the growing night, suddenly a koha called, and his notes cool and clear as spring water, breathlessly ascending, and then, beginning again. It startled the lonely listeners, like as immaculate dew-crop which one surprises under a blade of grass, in the dull heat of the day.

Well, it is a matter for the director. And as thought, the movie was excellent. Intriguing, and fascinating. What more does anyone expect from two hours of perfect entertainment.

Life On The Mississippi 

By Lakshman de Silva 

Among those interested in literature, who has not read or not known about the stories, The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer  and Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn.

Some authors have preferred Artemus than their real names. Artemus Ward, Petroleum V. Nashby, Josh Billings, Orpheus C. Kerr were the pseudonyms of some of the famous authors and humourists when Samuel Langhorne Clemens began to sign himself Mark Twain in 1863.

At this time he had become a journalist and humourist. He was living and working at the time in Virginia City Nevada, and it was not unusual for some American authors and humourists in the West to write and lecture under a nom-de-plume.

Mark Twain is a pleasant ordinary - sounding name, but it had a significance especially for Sam Clemens himself. He had heard the word 'Mark Twain' called out thousands of times when he was a boy living on the banks of the great Mississippi river.

As the leadsmen on the steamboats sounded the dangers in the river, they used to cry out loud the depth of the river to the pilot and Mark Twain heard the reassuring cries. It meant two fathoms, that is, safe water.

The river played a great part in his life. He never forgot it, even when he was living far away, and the adventures of his great book take place along its shores. All the boys at that time wanted to be river pilots. And an opportunity came his way when he struck up a friendship with a pilot whose name was Horace Bixby, who was the owner of a mail boat called Paul Jones. Bixby agreed to train him and for months Sam learnt this difficult and responsible craft.

Sam has given a graphic and an amusing account of his experience in one of his great books Life On The Mississippi (1883). In the early 60s a low priced edition of this highly descriptive and interesting book was available in Sri Lankan bookshops and was even sold by the pavement booksellers.

He learnt to know the river in a way that few men other than pilots ever knew it, and he made good use of his knowledge when he became a writer. He did not remain a writer for long, as the civil war between the Northern and Southern states broke out in 1861. The river was closed to traffic, and one of the happiest periods of Sam's life came abruptly to an end.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain, was born in Florida, Missuori, in 1835. A few years later, his family moved to Hannibal, a neighbouring small town on the Mississippi. According to Sam, Hannibal was a wonderful place to grow up in. Sam seems to have remembered every moment of his life as a boy.

He remembered his friends and the fun they had together, in the school yard and down the street and along the river bank. He drew on these memories when he wrote The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn.

Sam was sent to the Sandwich Islands as a newspaper reporter to report on conditions there. He also travelled as a reporter with one of the first cruises to the Mediterranean. His descriptions of the American tourists' adventures in Europe were a great success, and they were collected together in a book entitled The Innocents Abroad (1869).

While he was on board the Quaker City one of the passengers, Charles Langdon, showed him a miniature of his sister, Olivia. Mark Twain fell deeply in love with her picture and was determined to marry her and after some difficulty with her father, a wealthy coal merchant, this he did, in 1870.

Among his other books are Roughing It (1872), The Celebrated Jumping Trog Of Calaveras Country 1865. The best known of his later books  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court  (1889).

Mark Twain was rich and successful. He adored his wife and daughters. He had many loyal friends. Towards the end of his life, lying in bed and smoking an endless succession of cheap cigars be would happily dictate to his secretary the story of his wonderful life. He died on  April 20,1910,  right after the reappearance of the Halleys Comet, which had last shone in 1835, the year of his birth.

Hello Kolu? No it's  Hello Dolly  at the Wendt! 

Indu Dharmasena's brand new rib tickling com-edy Hello Dolly is scheduled to go on the boards at the Lionel Wendt Theatre on February 21 and again from 27-29 at 7.15 p.m. The 21st show is presented by the Wesley College Parent Teacher Association.

Over a decade ago Indu encouraged by the late Richard de Zoysa, explored the possibility of writing a play based on Pulitzer award winner, Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, which was made into a great musical Hello Dolly with none other than Barbra Streisand playing Dolly Levi under Gene Kelly's inspired direction. The original stage version was produced in Sri Lanka in the 70s' by the Thomians and the late Richard de Zoysa played Dolly, and for Indu that was an unforgettable performance. Now on Richard's 14 th death anniversary, Indu's Sri Lankan version of this great play will be staged and he dedicates it to one of the greatest dramatist that Sri Lanka produced, the late Richard de Zoysa himself.

The play revolves around Dolly Lovedena, a middle aged widow and professional matchmarker, who has set her sights on the tight fisted Harendra Wanawanagadara, a rich businessman from Nawalapitiya. Harendra's niece is having an affair with Sangeeth who is just a musician. Harendra arranges Dolly to take Ayesha to Colombo in the hope that she will get him out of her silly head. Dolly is taken aback when she learns that he's also coming to Colombo to propose to Mihiri Suralowa. Harendra's Manager, Avanka and his clerk, Nuwan, who work morning till night and never gets to go anywhere, decide that they too will go to Colombo without his knowledge to have at least one day of fun. So leave it to Dolly and you are guaranteed an evening entertainment.

None other than the inimitable Kolu will play Dolly. Harendra is played by Delon Weerasinghe who himself is an up and coming playwright. Indu plays Avanka while young Gehan Cooray plays Nuwan. Dolly's capable and efficient secretary Cindy is played by Angela Seneviratne who needs no introduction. Catriona Nicholas plays Mihiri. The versatile Krys Soysa plays a cameo role as Karen who is masquerading as Ernestina Simple. Of the two private investigators hired by Harendra to keep an eye on Ayesha, Ricky is played by Yohan Caius Kumaraperuma while Dicky is played by Anushan Selvarajah and young Muzackir Nadeem, a newcomer to the local stage on alternate nights. The role of Ayesha will be played by Vraie Balthazaar who is an active Interactor. Shimmee Shameem and another newcomer Hafza Aroosi will play the role of Araliya on alternate nights. The restaurant manager, Ruddy is played by Lasantha Rodrigo while Lakmal Mudalige plays Sangeeth.

So don't miss this hilarious comedy where Indu and his gang of merry people will keep you in fits of laughter. Tickets available at the Lionel Wendt.

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