Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 22 November 2009





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The Road from Elephant Pass

In Sinhala, it is Alimankada. It is Arneiirav in Tamil.

Director Chandran Rutnam

You have it as Elephant Pass, in English. Whatever the language you resort to, you cannot help but aver, that Director Chandran Rutnam's 'Alimankada,' is a distinguished film, among distinguished films.

A scintillating slew of significant Sinhala cinema works, shimmered recently on the silver screen. "Alimankada" premiered at a red-carpeted celebration, for the glitterati, amidst faint echoes and subdued resonances of a mini-Oscar night.

The film deserves all the glamour that is lavished on it, as it provides an astonishingly rich and rare cinema experience..

To begin with, its thematic subject matter possesses a compelling and sizzling contemporaneity. The sustained internal conflict, made "Alimankada" a household name, with a whole series of mixed feelings woven around it.

In the slip-stream of the dramatic and historic victory, that vanquished the evil forces of terrorism, Alimankada has taken on a new significance. It has entrenched itself in the mass-mind, as a dreaded spot of death and destruction. The Isthmus, that had been favoured by elephants for ages, as a convenient passage, in their transit from the south to the North acquired a military potentiality since it proved a strategic plum.

A scene from the film

In the making of his film, director Chandran Rutnam was inspired by the award-winning work of fiction "The Road From Elephant Pass". Author Nihal de Silva, won the Gratiaen Prize and the award for the Best Sri Lankan Literary work in English for 2003, for this novel. As tragic irony would have it a terrorist land-mine claimed him victim. With his experienced eye, director Chandran Rutnam at once realized that the novel was exquisite cinema material. In his deft screen-play Chandran Rutnam, gleans the telling essence of the original story-line, without, in any way, faulting the pace and the rhythm of Nihal de Silva's original narration.

In the recent history of Sri Lankan films, no other cinema work compels such absorbed attention as "Alimankada" does. I must state it quite clearly, that, this is the stark truth and is not at all clichetic hyperbole.

As the film opens we see an isolated military checkpoint, in a windswept, god-forsaken and arid landscape near Pallai. From then on, director Chandran Rutnam sweeps the viewers along, in the trajectory of the fleeing duo, who are fuelled by a palpable sense of keen tension. My considered view of the matter is that, in no other Sri Lankan film of high quality, has there been such a rivetting and long-sustained joint performance by a man-and-woman duo, reacting so efficiently to situations that veer from moment to moment, as the professional piece of acting done by Captain Wasantha (Ashan Dias) and Informant Kamala (Suranga Ranawaka). Director Chandran Rutnam has wrested and wrung out these two players a debut contribution, that is undoubtedly memorable.

At the beginning, the two of them are hissing enemies, brought together by circumstances determined by the troubling conflict.

Each needs the other for the success of the mission each one is committed to. One is compelled to ensure the other's survival, without which the aim of each one cannot be fulfilled. How the film portrays these contradictions and appositions is at the heart of the cinematic achievement of "Alimankada". When they traverse a harsh terrain together, they have to act with a sense of mutuality. At first, such transactions are impersonal and routine.

But, when they jointly confront danger, an incipient emotional attachment begins to stir.

This imperceptible transformation has become, in the film, a test of the acting skills of the duo. Captain Wasantha is adamant in his unswerving sense of patriotism. Kamala Velayuthan, is uncompromisingly entrenched in their struggle, which she views as a war of liberation. The dialogue lines in the film, are trilingual in some instances, contributing substantially to the authentic feel of the cinematic portrayal of the social context of the film.

The film is a triumph of cinematic discipline. I would go a step further and say that the film is an impressive instance of cinema decency.

A sturdy well-built soldier, excessively affected by human hungers and a comely young woman in a desolate wilderness, developing an increasing admiration for the enemy - ally, invariably conjure up carnal fantasies. But, the director records their burgeoning emotional involvement with a praise-worthy sense of good taste.

Ashan Dias as Captain Wasantha and Suranga Ranawaka in the role of Kamala Velayathan play their first film roles, eliciting surprise and admiration in the viewers.

Suranga Ranawaka, living the role of Kamala, speaks a lingo, which is a mixture of Tamil and Sinhala.

She is so thoroughly immersed in her role, that, she does not even for a moment, forget the verbal style, her role demands.

All such adjuncts as settings, costumes etc., are quite carefully arranged.

A special word of acclaim is due, to the adept editing of the film. The editing is so adept that, the pace and the rhythm of the film are uniformly sustained.

The genius behind the total film is versatile Chandran Rutnam. Through his unparalled experience in every area of film-making, garnered during a life-time as it were, he has presented to viewers a delightfully balanced, technically adequate cinematic narration.

All those, who take pride in Sri Lanka's art and culture should see to it, that people right across the land, savour the experience of relishing a really well-made film, through the effort of indigenous talent.

LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)
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