space. Is it that endless
infinity that possesses
all the answers? Is it the dream that is always just beyond
reach? Is it every heartache ever faced? Is it all the confusion and
sorrow and joy? Is it the mind's tunnel that hides so much? Is it
the best or worst that we are? Is it all? Or is it nothing?
in/on/within/between was the theme of this year's Artlink workshop
and exhibition sponsored by The British Council, Alliance Francaise,
Goethe Institute, Vibhavi Academy and co-sponsored by the Lunuganga
Trust and Hotel Serendib.
involved in various fields of art and design from the UK, France,
Germany and Sri Lanka took part in this year's workshop. The project
aimed to attract young, innovative, amateur designers and visual
artists looking to cross boundaries between art, architecture and
workshop was held at the late Geoffrey Bawa's Lunuganga residence
situated in Bentota. A sprawling and beautiful piece of property,
the artists were encouraged to use raw materials from the land for
were divided into three groups, 'Spicy', 'CG Play G' and 'Untitled'
and encouraged to explore their surroundings, their reactions to the
environment and to each other.
results, judging from the exhibition last Sunday, were quite
interesting to say the least. Confusion, restriction, shame, freedom
were just some of the subjects that had been dealt with. Twine and
barbed wire, wood and string, trees and human bodies, all came
together to form a collage of matter, grippingly twisted away from
their common purpose into an exercise for the imagination.
Semini of the group Spicy: "It was an opportunity for me to
know who I am. I felt a need to break all barriers." Ruwini in
the meantime was ecstatic about the opportunity to exchange ideas
and work with people from different cultures. Michael, from the UK
was pleased with what he had seen and said it was a great
experience. Buddhika, a third year furniture-designing student from
the University of Moratuwa said his wire frame creation was a
reaction to the surroundings of Lunuganga.
exhibition of the work was held at The British Council from Saturday
October 9 - 16. It was scheduled to be held at the Alliance
Francaise and Goethe Institute thereafter.
Soya or Boungiorno Italia
is greener from the other side
Soya or Boungiorno Italia is about Sri Lankans
forced by poverty, lawlessness and uncertainty to seek El Dorado
overseas, and the privations they have to undergo to achieve it,
only to find the past never leaves them, and the affluent West, like
every other paradise on earth, is greener from the other side.
if one were to say this and hold his peace, he would be doing great
injustice to Boodee Kirthisena, writer/director of Mille Soya. For,
within the fairly conventional storyline described above,
Keerthisena has created a masterpiece that brings out in fascinating
detail what it is to live in deprivation and the lengths it pushes
those in such circumstances to break free of their lot.
film, in Sinhala, (with snatches of Italian when the location shifts
to Italy) and sub-titled in English, starts in a Sinhala-speaking,
coastal village. Pradeep (Mahendra Perera), an amateur musician -
the type you find along the semi-urban, Roman Catholic areas on the
south-western coast - and Princy (Sangeetha Weeraratne) are among a
group of friends from the village who decide they will not endure
such deprivation any more but seek their fortune in Italy.
there is an insurmountable problem. Asians and other coloured
foreigners coming to Italy for employment are hated by the natives
as intruders on the hunt for cheap jobs, and shunned by immigration
authorities that see them as lawless troublemakers. Therefore this
band takes what has become a beaten track. They pay an employment
agent a hefty sum of money to smuggle them without papers to their
destination. However, the employment agent (Ravindra Randeniya)
disappears mid way, leaving them stranded in Bulgaria.
by such odds they use native wit, which includes negotiating with a
man in Bulgaria, to take them across to Italy. Their ordeal includes
climbing treacherous mountain terrain girt in snow and losing some
of their comrades to the police and to asphyxiation by travelling in
a coach's airless baggage compartment.
in Italy, they find the reception is not as warm as they expect.
Jealousy, infidelity and friction arising from living in a community
on the downside of society, makes life as cheerless as what they had
lived in Sri Lanka. Life for Pradeep is dreary but endurable.
However, ghosts from his past in Sri Lanka are not easily banished.
They haunt him throughout and compel him to make the single-most
important decision he has to take when overseas - to return.
film delineates starkly the consequences of modernisation and the
debilitating effect it has on human beings. It is a statement on all
Sri Lankans, but especially on the underprivileged, which, thanks to
the open economy and the invasion of all types of influences and
gadgets are told of the myriad opportunities available to them, but
barred by cruel circumstances from using those.
gulf between opportunity and achievement leads to lassitude,
ceaseless planning and daydreaming, which are well portrayed by
Pradeep and his friends. But the effects of the global economy do
not stop at making healthy, able-bodied young men sit around
unemployed, drinking and smoking pot. It strikes at the very heart
of living, on a society's sense of community and cohesiveness.
Soya explores this theme in two related ways - through the portrayal
of unremitting and violent conflict, and by what would, in
conventional terms, be regarded as lawlessness.
is seen at different levels. Violence at an interpersonal level is
seen between Pradeep and his brother (played by Lakshman Mendis).
His brother believes Pradeep is ne'er-do-well who spends his time
doing the unproductive work of a musician.
Pradeep compounds this by brushing with the law, his brother has had
enough. He assaults Pradeep and throws him out of the house.
Interpersonal conflict creates unpleasantness between those crossing
to Italy when adversity overtakes them. It mars relationships in
Italy too when Pradeep's love for Princy upsets the friendship
between him and her brother (played by Kamal Addararachchi), leading
is also explored in terms of political violence. Factionalism during
electioneering breeds, conflict between different groups in the
village, climaxing in a death that makes Pradeep decide to return
home. Politics cannot be removed from sleaze, corruption and
violence that go to make people like Anton (Anthony Surendra) rich
on ill-gotten wealth.
the film brings out the ethnic and religious conflicts in our midst.
Though the village is not set in the war zone, there are constant
references to the war. One is by the sailor friend of Pradeep's.
However, the references are matter-of-fact and not with the emotion
that stereotyped members of the armed forces speak about their
dedication to fight to save the motherland. But the war is palpable
enough when a bomb explodes, killing people and rendering
surrounding buildings smouldering wreckages.
conflict in Sri Lanka, on the other hand, is not treated in the same
matter-of-fact way. Princy's brother opposes her relationship with
Pradeep because she is a Christian and Pradeep, Buddhist. The
director brings out the irony of the situation because Princy's
brother and Pradeep are good friends and they both come from a
village where there is religious harmony.
in Italy, when it comes to a love affair between Pradeep and Princy,
her brother - who, by the way, is very unchristian in all what he
does - opposes the relationship. It goes to show how puritanical,
intolerant and xenophobic diasporic communities become.
conflict is not only seen, it is also heard. The language
Keerthisena uses in the dialogue is terse, violent and littered with
obscenities. In fact most of the time it is spat out rather than
there is conflict associated in the trade the villagers ply for a
living. It is here that violent conflict meshes with lawlessness, a
factor mentioned above as a consequence arising from the
disintegrating communal ties brought about by modernisation.
Pradeep's mother (played by Veena Jayakody) survives by distilling
moonshine. So do other families. Moonshine leads to constant
skirmishes with the law.
is lawlessness? Why do people get on the wrong side of the law?
Right through the film Keerthisena keeps probing the question. It is
not that those who indulge in lawlessness are evil men and women. It
is that the villagers have to sell moonshine to live. Unless a risky
operation by boat is undertaken to transport hooch in defiance of
the police, home fires will not burn. To the policemen, the
villagers are indulging in an illegal act, but that is how the
community survives in a world where everything has its price.
unsustainable nature of our conventional ideas of law and order is
questioned further en route to Italy. Pradeep, Princy and their
friends cannot enter Italy legally; they have to avoid border
guards, drive concealed in baggage compartments and constantly be on
the watch for the police who might ask them for papers.
way one's status in society - especially when an illegal immigrant -
determines one's relations with the law is also portrayed with force
in the film Dirty, Pretty Things. But the two films show different
treatments of the subject. Whereas Dirty, Pretty Things is about how
persons who are deemed illegal immigrants use illegal means to
overcomes evil in society, Mille Soya shows the web formal
institutions weave around the individual on the underside of
society, whether in Sri Lanka or Italy.
treats the twin aspects of violence and lawlessness with great
sensitivity. The brawls are brutal and revolting, but not
unrealistic as they are in stereotypical action movies made both in
the West and South Asia or sadistic and meaningless as in The
Passion Of The Christ that is now running in some of our local
lawlessness is portrayed in a completely matter-of-fact way and
totally without sentiment. Unlike in the conventional Sinhala film,
there are, mercifully, no sermons.
film relies greatly on realism to get its message across. Mahendra
Perera gives a very realistic performance of an artiste/musician who
is also street smart enough to survive. His casting is perfect:
Pradeep's stature, his long hair and a slight but perceptible
diffidence in manner bring out the artiste in him. But at the same
time he is no softie.
is tough enough to survive the rigours of the journey to Italy as
well as Princy's bullying brother. The naturalness of the
performance is seen in the other characters as well, such as smooth
talking job agent (Randeniya) and Pradeep's mother (Jayakody).
element of realism also comes across in the dialogue, to which
reference was made earlier. Not only is it abrasive, it does not
dwell on sentiment or suffer long speeches. What is more, the
dialogue is peppered with humour and wit and occasional obscenities
that make it very natural. The English subtitling too is done very
creatively, where the translator has taken liberties but without
losing the essence of the original.
and most important, the setting of the entire film is in the homes
of poor people. Whether they are hovels in a moonshine brewing
coastal village in Sri Lanka, in a tiny bed-sitter in Italy or a
shed erected for a little-known provincial band to perform, the
setting gives no illusion about the fact the film is about the lives
of the poor.
is no attempt to seduce an audience by portraying luxury, thereby
helping them escape the hard realities of life. In fact the only
portrayal of affluence is an Italian villa where Princy works as a
cleaning maid, and the home of Anton, who has built it from
realism comes out in the deft editing. Ravindra Guruge does a very
good job with quick cuts from scene to scene till around the tail
end of the film. The pace tends to slow down in last 15 minutes or
so, with Pradeep's reminiscences of his amorous dalliances with
Princy and his hopes of returning to Italy tending to tire the
viewer with long, slow sequences. But then the director has to
compromise if he wants his product to be a commercial success!
Soya is a fine film. Its uniqueness does not lie in presenting the
trials of those going abroad for a better life. Its unrivalled merit
is in exploring why people go overseas braving the obstacles in
their path. The film is not about abject poverty and people
wallowing in it. It is about poverty and what the human spirit does
to master and overcome the limitations of one's circumstances.
Soya is a 'must' for Sri Lanka's middle class. It will give them
something to think about before they next exclaim, "Our people
go as illegal immigrants to Italy and spoil Sri Lanka's name - and
now even decent people like us cannot go there." But then, will
insight to a creative mind
Ranaweera is no ordinary painter. A look at his paintings makes
one wonder what goes on in this painter's mind. Inspired
by what he saw around him Ranaweera has been successful in
painting figures of gods and men. Most of his paintings portray a
combination of lines, colours and figures. But for Ranaweera, each
of his paintings has a story of its own.
on the work of Ranaweera, expert and critic of literature, Edwin
Ariyadasa says this young artist has his creative roots deep in the
soil of this land. "His life is a product of the rural life to
which he was born and in which he was raised. His soul, his
spiritual being and his inner self are all the result of the
cultural forces that stem from his childhood," says Ariyadasa.
to Ariyadasa, those who take more than a routine interest and are
profoundly animated by the pageant eventually grow up into being
creative artists, men and women of reflective thought and
exceptionally gifted people. "Ranaweera has always been
sensitive and is very much the outcome of his rural, cultural
heritage," Ariyadasa said.
says: "Only the vague trace of a personal style can be seen in
Ranaweera's early works. But today, Ranaweera has developed into a
creative person with a decided perception of his own. He is enriched
with an individual vision while his work stands out due to his own
motifs of expression."
latest work focuses heavily upon themes that are derived from
various religions and their practices. His painting titles include
'Abode of Gods,' 'Lonely Gods,' 'The Monks,' 'Vesak Lanterns,'
'Creative God' and 'Stupa Cult,'" says Ariyadasa.
Prof. Ashley Halpe says: "He spends hours creating
idiosyncratic figures of Gods and men, mendicants and guardians,
hours on the meticulously laid our backgrounds and inner spaces
created with hundreds of thin pen strokes, squiggles and whorls,
with pointilliste brushwork with unpredictable and unfashionable
splotches of pastel colours."
the figures he evokes have been drawn with swift audaciously elegant
lines producing whimsical mouths and noses, suddenly staring or
weirdly hooded eyes with drapes, accoutrements, tridents and what
you will, sketched, sometimes just suggested with marvelous economy
to Prof. Halpe, there are totally unpredictable spaces and inspired
collocations in a quirky world that is surely the unique vision of
an instinctively original mind despite the deceptively simple
identifications in terms of Buddhist themes and tales.
exhibition of traditional Indian
sarees and shalwar fabric
will be held by Thangam Mathai of Chennai. Known by the label
Mayuri from Chennai, Mathai has for over 20 years upheld a tradition
in producing woven, printed, embroided and artistically and
creatively designed sarees and fabrics to suit the women of today.
variety of silk, tussel, crepe, cotton and colourful block printed
material will be on sale from Chennai. The exhibition will be held
on October 22 and 23 at 49 1/1 Layards Road, Colombo 5.