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DateLine Sunday, 6 July 2008





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Microscopic view of the systemic ailment

Walapatala - Penumbra by Vijitha Gunarathne:

Vijitha Gunarathne, produced maiden but matured artistic creation for the nation.

Set against the backdrop of 1971’s anti-systemic youth uprising, Walapatala or Penumbra, the maiden cinematic creation by Vijitha Gunarathne offers rich insights into the milieu and the socio-economic environment that triggered off the uprising.

Although the entire film is basically woven around one incident, the violent disruption of a meeting held in a classroom in the village school and series of events that it followed, the filmmaker has skilfully integrated all the principle characters in the society which represent diverse social stratus into the tapestry of the political landscape.

The impoverished village of Neboda in Kalutara District and its hapless community of villagers, who are entrapped in the vicious circle of power-pay, has been depicted, perhaps, in the most convincing manner. The evolution of almost all the characters as well as unfolding of the events and their rapid sequence is in total conformity with the plot.

What is significant is that the sheer economy of narration and the editing with razor-sharp precision to convey the centre theme of the film. Rather abrupt ending reinforces the central theme that the status quo of the village will continue despite the youth uprising.

The only unrealistic scene of the film is the scene at the guest house where the village council member Jayasundara (Jayalath Manoratne) having liquor with sergeant Banda (Lal Kularatne). The conversation between Jayasundara and Banda is out of tune with the plot.

Although Walapatala portrays a village in pre-1971’s youth uprising, it offers a microscopic view of the systemic ailment that has blighted the socio-political landscape of the country.

Walapatala(Penumbra), a pictorial poem on a serious issue.

The widespread rural youth unemployment and agricultural subsistent economy which produces very little employment opportunities for educated youth has created a fertile breeding ground for anti-systemic youth uprising.

The village politician who wields an undisputed power over the lives of the villagers and his cronies like businessman control not only the will of the hapless population but also their collective destiny. Vijitha has encapsulated the quintessential nuances of widespread social unrest in the village.

The scenes such as Piyasena angrily hitting a dog and injured Jayasoma walking along the hospital corridor amply demonstrate the sudden release of the pent-up anger of the people and social unrest brewing in the impoverished village that ultimately to blown out in a bloody uprising.

Each and every villager is caught up in the web of political manoeuvring masterminded by the village politician.

The film will appeal to cosmopolitan audience and the background music is also apt and matches well with the tempo of the plot. The filmmaker has used music effect sparingly so as to integrate it into the inner soul of the story. The score of music mesmerise the audience while technically perfectly blending with the unfolding scenes. In terms of technical application, Walapatala will stand out among contemporary Sinhala films.

The net that has been cast over the impoverished population has not spared even the members of the upper middle class. Dr. Manoharan who tries to swim against the tide as well as Dr. Delgoda, who identified the political set up in the village, is caught up in the system.

The sheer degree of power that member Jayasundara wields is demonstrated when he rushed into the operating cubicle and assaulted Dr. Manoharan who was suturing the child’s wound.

The entire scene of forcibly transferring the child at the critical moment by an ambulance to the base hospital leading to eventual the death of the child has been orchestrated by Jayasundara with the intension of getting rid of Dr. Manoharan.

However, instinctively Sumana, the child’s mother, understands the real motives of the entire episode. She states that none of them (Jayasundara and Martin Mudalai) have no real feeling toward the child and that they have become pones in the power play.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the film, apart from its cinematic excellence, skilful editing, aptly condensed narration, is the ability of the filmmaker to diagnose the systemic ailment that produces social unrest leading to the youth uprising.

From the very first scene which is the impoverished bazaar of Neboda, it is clear that half a century’s of economic planning has miserably failed to deliver results. Neboda bazaar, the hospital and the school remind the viewers not the Sri Lanka that is marching towards developed country but the Sri Lanka of seventeenth century.

Generations of politicians in the post -independent Sri Lanka should be blamed for this situation. It is this vicious circle that Vijitha has masterly portrayed in Walapatala. Walapatala will certainly be a landmark production that is entertaining as well as enlightening the audience.

Apart from its cinematography, Walapatala is excelled in terms of characterization and excellent photography. For instance, the ariel view of the Neboda bazaar and the scenes in the hospital are extremely natural and also relevant to the plot. Vijitha has also captured the pastoral village in its most pristine form.

The cast including Prof. Gamini Hattotuwegama, Jayalath Manoratne, Saumya Liyanage, Lal Kularathne, Palitha Silva, Somasiri Alahakoon and Sumana have played their allotted roles convincingly and naturally contributing to the overall success of the film. Their facial expression and delivery of dialogues is also natural and in harmony with the plot.

Vijitha Gunarathne should be commended for discussing a political issue in most appealing creative work. The illusive hope of the population that makes them to place their faith in the system is represented by the title penumbra. This hope is as illusive as a penumbra and dramatic ending suggests that the system would continue withstanding many tempests of social upheavals.

On-focused actors

Prof. Gamini Hattotuwegama as Dr. Manoharan has created real-life character in the film that will etch in the hearts and minds of the people. Dr. Manoharan, a man of principle, represents the hope though he also becomes a victim of the system.

Through the character of Dr. Manoharan the filmmaker has stressed the fact that people can overcome conventional prejudices such as cast, religion and ethnicity if he or she is committed to a worthy course.

Prof. Hattotuwegama has infused flesh and blood into the character by subtle manipulation of facial expression and through voice control. Gamini may be the only person who can fit into the fold of the character which is portrayed with exploiting subtle nuances of outlook and sentiments.

Saumya Liyanage as Dr. Delgoda plays an outstanding role in Walapatala. Dr. Delgoda is exactly the opposite of Dr. Manoharan’s character.

He is well-attuned with the system and tries to persuade and convince Dr. Manoharan that he would not succeed in taking a collusion course with Jayasundara. Saumya, who can be fitted into any mould, has portrayed Dr. Delgoda’s character with sharp features.


Jayalath Manoratne as Jayasundara plays the protagonist’s character. He represents shrewd corrupt politician who abuses people’s vote. He is also brilliant in portrayal of the character of village council member and represents the so-did -reality of the village life.

The common feature of the three characters is the application of techniques of theatre in their acting which distinguished them from the rest.

Materialism in art

Visual Art Exhibition:

Installation of non artistic material

The visual art exhibition by the students of the University of Visual and Performing Art which will be held at Lionel Wendt Art Gallery on July 11, 12 and 13, 2008, is on the theme of materialism in Art.

The present exhibition will revisit fundamental aspects of art. That is materialism in art. According to scholars, the material both literary (cement, fabric, digital print, plywood, nails and even furniture) and conventional material (techniques, skills, genre, idioms and themes) are essential for art. In elementarily, culture or all human activities is a manifestation in material. It is the ‘material culture’.

For the exhibition, myriad of material has been used. For instance, a large number of installations are also among the exhibits. By and largely exhibition offers, perhaps, for the first time, diverse forms of installations and the art lovers have the opportunity of tasting the art of installations.

“The principle different of the exhibition is to use material that are considered non-artistic and has been used for the exhibition. It has turned non-art material into art material. The unconventional media such as installation, combine paintings, collage, fireography, sculpture and photography has been used as a narrative base.

Flywood, cement, cloth and nails have also been used to manifest socio-economic changes. Some students tried to express themselves more objectively while some others have taken a subjective approach. The creations reflect on the ideological stance of the students.



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