Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 10 July 2016





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Seeking familiarity:

The Strange Familiar

Several years ago I asked dramatist and filmmaker Indika Ferdinando how he believes the premise and authority of the writer and director are maintained as separate functions when they are done by the same individual. He said it is somewhat a contest between the egos of two ‘cultured savages’ when both those functions reside within one individual

Director Malith Hegoda (on left) and the scriptwriter Boopathy Nalin Wickramage.

How close to the true experience of marital life and all its strive can two bachelors get when they set out to deliver a story of a married couple of around thirty five years of age with a six year old child where a painful breakdown of communication has given rise to a household ripening with domestic discord? It may sound like a heady proposition for argumentative discourse or debate, and that is why I for one would look forward to the chance to watch the Sinhala film - Dekala Purudu Kenek (which has its English title as The Strange Familiar) written by Boopathy Nalin Wickramage and directed by Malith Hegoda.


Several years ago I asked dramatist and filmmaker Indika Ferdinando how he believes the premise and authority of the writer and director are maintained as separate functions when they are done by the same individual. He said it is somewhat a contest between the egos of two ‘cultured savages’ when both those functions reside within one individual. However, when I sat down to discuss with Wickramage and Hegoda it was obvious through what they shared with me that scriptwriter and the director of Dekala Purudu Kenek, had no savagery arising between them to claim dominance over whose ‘vision’ must prevail. Rather it seems the two young artists who share a camaraderie rooted in their school days at Ashoka Vidyalaya had mutual respect for each other’s talent factor that goes into the creation process of the work, and willingly offered the other exclusive space to perform his respective function to ensure Dekala Purudu Kenek successfully made it from paper to cinema.

This is the first feature film the duo have created although not the first script that was intended to be collaboratively realised as a film. “The first one we wanted to do is still a pending aspiration.” Said Wickramage to which Hegoda added, “And we are still hopeful of making it happen.” Budgetary constraints which are the bane of nearly every filmmaker in countries like ours stand as the obstacle in that regard.

Wickramage said the topic of the ‘family’ and its evolution as a unit that forms human society from both a sociological and anthropological basis has been of interest to him for a long time. When it came to scripting Dekala Purudu Kenek he then had already considerable theoretical/academic material on the subject in his arsenal to begin his approach to form the deeper underpinnings of the story to reveal the present form or nature of the human collective known as the ‘family’ and how it has changed from what is perceived in its traditional sense. Wickramage as an art critic admits to being a political activist with a decided left-wing orientation. He believes his approach to politics and engagement of ideological discourses bears a leftist basis and that it has reflected in his scripting of this film.

“People can ask how two bachelors can get a sound idea of the inner workings of a young married couple. I think there are enough scientific approaches in the study of human psychology and behaviour to allow us to gauge it fairly well even though we may have not lived out that experience personally.”


I asked if their objective was to deliver a point of observation or to speak from a point of empathy as insider perspective. They both said their project was intended to take on the vantage of bachelors looking at a domestic problem with empathy where the point of view they adopted was to bridge the gap between observation and subjective empathy. That is what they are attempting to deliver to their viewership.

Looking at what social conditions affect young families and how young parents deal with domestic issues is no doubt a subject area that will kindle the interest of many a Sri Lankan. At a time when the divorce rate in the country is skyrocketing perhaps the perspectives works of cinema that deal with this subject can offer food for thought. “We spoke with a lot of people and about how relationships have problems.” They said admitting that it was not a formalised interview research method that was adopted to gather perspectives of people whose life experiences can offer material to the development of the script. And the investigation of relationship problems was not limited to married couples alone they added.

By and large the responses the duo have got from within the Sri Lankan cinema community have been positive after it was first screened on 5th of December 2014 as part of the European film festival held in Colombo and then afterwards was screened on 6th of May 2016 as part of the Derana Film Festival where the film bagged the award for Most Promising Director.

While a host of interesting comments had come their way one person had even told Wickramage he should stop writing art critiques and write more scripts. Although Wickramage and Hegoda had a process of ongoing discussion between them about the story the actual writing was done by Wickramage alone and was not intruded upon by the designated director. And of course the courtesy had been reciprocated when the time came to bring the script to life before rolling cameras. There had in that sense been a very strict division of functions between the writer and the director who had shared a common idea as to what the artistic outcome of their collaborative efforts would be. Trust and mutual respect for the others skills and abilities had clearly played a decisive factor in the fruition of this project.

A scene from the film

One rather decisive turning point had been when M.D Mahindapala had commented on a certain scene in Wickramage’s script. “It’s not that I wasn’t open to constructive input and suggestions from others when it comes to creative content.” Said Wickramage who along with Hegoda admitted that the suggestions advocated by Mahindapala had enriched the scene in question, and as a result it was one of the scenes most enjoyed by those who had watched Dekala Purudu Kenek.


In terms of style and technique the duo told me what they envisioned and designed on was a realistic style that reflects speech and body language patterns that can be seen in urban middle-class Sri Lanka. I said that I believe bilingualism is a reality of urban Sri Lanka which is not largely dealt with in many works of cinema today. Both the writer and the director immediately said that was a factor they kept sight of and adduced into the dialogue of the film. This significant factor had been material in their casting decisions they said.

“It’s a very talkative film you could say.” Said Wickramage and further commented on the dialogic factor. “We Sri Lankans talk a lot. It’s a social fact. And the talk may not always be relevant to the main subject or issue that is at the centre of a conversation. If you think about it a lot of people talk a lot of nonsense when they intend to talk about some matter and should be talking to the point. And sometimes people keep talking about the problem rather than addressing the problem.” This factor said the duo was very consciously made visible in their narrative.

Between Wickramage and Hegoda there had been a covenant with several principles. Each will maintain his authority while performing his respective function and that the outcome will be acceptable to both of them. They both had agreed there would be no changes to dialogue. Bringing out the ‘character flavours’ as Wickramage put it would be a fine development between what’s in the script to what Hegoda envisions as ‘cinematically linguistic’ if I may so give phrase to their idea, in delivering the essence of the story.

Hegoda feels due to unavoidable budgetary constraints the directorial output couldn’t fully recreate what Wickramage ‘readout’ to him before the camera was set to bring into ‘motion’ the scripted words. Wickramage however said he believes Hegoda did justice to the script.

Produced by Lal Hegoda, Rasanga Dissanayake, Mohomed Adamally and Nadheera Adamally, Dekala Purudu Kenek will hopefully reach the cinema circuit soon and prove to be a work of cinema that speaks of our times and reflect a facet of how the modern urban Sri Lankan family with its myriad of issues and complexities wades through ‘life’.


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