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