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Que Sera, a cinematic ‘Koan’


A scene from the film

“Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep. Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But, will they come when you do call them?”

William Shakespeare

When Zen Buddhist teachers train their pupils in spiritual discipline, they saddle each of them, with an intricate riddle. These spiritual puzzles are so knotty, that, normal levels of thinking cannot unravel them.

The pupils have to strain their minds hard, pushing their thought-processes, beyond usual limits.

This intense effort results in sudden revelations, awakening the mind into startlingly new perceptions. These Zen Riddles, are termed ‘Koans.’

Their solution leads to Katsu – spiritual liberation.

To me, director Parakrama Jayasinghe’s Que Sera, is a cinematic ‘Koan’, pushing the filmgoer’s mind into an unorthodox state of cinematic experiencing.


Director Parakrama Jayasinghe

Response

In the first instance, the average cinemagoer’s response is quite likely to be a state of sunned bewilderment. He will, consciously or routinely, begin to explore his inner being to discover what kind of echo he can elicit, out of the snatch of song (Que Sera) that functions as the title of this film.

Whether one is familiar with this song or not, the aura of associations that has grown around this piece of music, transmits a subtle message to us.

Incidentally, this song, possesses a fairly long history. In our day, Que Sera Sera (what will be, will be)” had found its way into Alfred Hitchcock’s film - The Man Who knew Too Much (1956).

But, even in 1956, the song had a far flung past. It had been adapted back in the 16th century as an English heraldic motto. The song evokes a feeling of sophisticated resignation to one’s allotted destiny. Again, it implies giving into inevitable Kamma.

Awareness

Director Parakrama Jayasinghe, named his film that way. I am quite certain, with a complete awareness of what he was doing.

His cinematic narration, is propelled forward, by an assortment of characters, that receives their lot, with a non-grumbling acceptance.The film opens with a visual sequence, that observes a solemn funeral service, at the public cemetery.

Such an inaugural scene, will invariably administer at least a slight visual shock, on Sri Lankan viewers – especially the central theme evolves around a funeral parlour.

The director handles with an admiration and an impressive creative poise, the morbidity, implicit humour and the intriguing mystery, pervading the totality of the film with an adroit cinematic skill. If one were to observe with care, one could appreciate his cinematic imagination, especially in his deployment of the actors and actresses in bit parts.

This creative adeptness is especially evident in the cameo role, rivetingly played by Damith Fonseka depicting a gangster boss from the lower depths.The director achieves a praiseworthy triumph when he seamlessly merges the seen world with the world unseen.

The average Sri Lankan film director invariably proves creatively unskilled, when he attempts to handle both spirits and humans together. But, director Jayasinghe, deploys the two categories – the humans and the spirits – with stylistic ease, as if they always co-exist.

The director is equally deft in manipulating trilingual dialogue conversations drift from Sinhala into English without registering even the slightest trace of awkwardness in the transition.

While providing what at times seems a morbid entertainment, Que Sera adopts a cynical objectivity. If a sustaining philosophy is muted to an undertone in this film, it can be summed up this way: “Behold the starkly true nature of man. There is little idealistic glory to his way of existence. He exploits what is exploitable.”The acting levels of the totality of the cast are restrained by a cinematic discipline. The director sounds a moral note as well. The avenging ghost is finally persuaded to forget the human style of revenge and to exert a “ghostly” sympathy and understanding towards the fickleness of the mere humans. Most players in the film have a difficult demand placed upon their character portrayals. They must, in most instances, adopt a finely balanced duality – communicating seriousness and humour touched by a trace of cynicism and irony.

In a team of this stature, all names qualify for kudos – Hans, Michelle, Yoshini – for instance.It is a vast pity, if films of the calibre of Que Sera are not duly recognised, for their unambiguous contribution towards the enrichment of the cinematic art of our land. Director Parakrama Jayasinghe has quite effectively indicated the limits of the truly possible for creative film-makers of this land.

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