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Sunday, 24 May 2009





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Gamperaliya a pointer in France:

Glamour of Language of Cinema

`Gamperaliya' which was shown at prestigious Cannes Film Festival under the category of Cannes Classic and commercially released, for the first time in France, was polled as the second popular film in France. It was a watershed in Sri Lankan cinema as it marked Sri Lanka on world cinema although a commercial failure in Sri Lanka. Earlier, Dr. Lester James Peries's `Wekande Walauwwa' (Mansion by the Lake) was also commercially released in France. It is obvious that universal acclaim for Gamperaliya comes from the fact that it was made by a director well versed in the language of cinema and creativity.

Martin Wickramasinghe Dr. Lester James Peries

In `Gamperaliya', the film had to stand on its own. It is the plain, story feel, sense of realism and above all, I would say, the feeling of truth about characters that came out of this great novel by the great writer may loose some of the original power in the translation into another medium. It was released in December 1963 and it was sent to 12th International Film Festival held in Delhi. The chairman of the jury at the Film Festival was Satyajit Ray and on the jury there were Lindsey Anderson, Russian Director and Polish director. The film won Golden Peacock Award. I won Golden Peacock award twice.

This is the first time `Gamperaliya' has been released commercially in another country. From what I hear from the distributors in France that the film has come second in the poll where the popularity is concerned and second to Clint Eastwood's film, a popular film maker in France," says Dr. Lester James Peries. Ironical that UNESCO awarded Felini Gold Medal in 2003 to Dr. Lester James Peries and Clint Eastwood and today the two films are screened in France.

Based on the Sinhalese novel `Gamperaliya' by legendary Sinhalese writer Martin Wickramasinghe, the film Gamperaliya was produced in 1963. The film which won Grand Prix at the Indian Film Festival and was selected for last year's Cannes Film Festival in its special section Cannes Classics Restored (CCR) has been restored in America by the University of South California (UCLA). The restoration Unit at the UCLA is entirely funded by Packard who are responsible for the restoration of Gamperaliya. The film was restored as a result of strong recommendation by a distinguished French critic Pierre Rissient to the visual and audio perfection by Rob Stone and Jere Guldin.

Reggie Siriwardene

`Gamperaliya' captures the uneasy change the village of Koggala faced at the tail end of the nineteen century. The film is unique in the sense that it not only codifies in cinematic terms the socio-cultural transformation of the milieu but also the emergence of market economy and middle class of Sri Lanka. Kaisaruwatte's family and Majestic Walawwa, which is a potent symbol of decaying feudalism, declines against the backdrop of rise of the new rich portrayed by Piyal.

Unlike the landed gentry, Piyal is English educated and industrious youngster who subsequently amassed a fortune thanks to emerging market economy.

Though Nanda was given in marriage to Jinadasa, Jinadasa disappeared in the face of bleak economic prospects. Nanda marries Piyal symbolizing triumph of middle class over the landed gentry. It's also the end of feudal set up. The film Gamperaliya is marked for its non-dramatised natural cinematic diction and its adherence to the novel.

`Gamperaliya' (Changes in the Village) was released in Sri Lanka in 1964. With an impressive script by Reggie Siriwardene and camera by William Blake, `Gamperaliya' captured the outdoor scenes in their most natural form. The music for the film was by W.D. Amaradeva. The cast comprised Henry Jayasena (Piyal), Punya Hindeniya (Nanda), Wickrema Bogoda (Tissa), Trilicia Gunawardene (Anula), Gamini Fonseka (Jinadasa), Shanthi Lekha, David Dharmakeerthi, Tony Ranasinghe and Anula Karunatilake. The film was produced by Anton Wickremasinghe.

A scene from Gamperaliya: A creative fictionalisation of reality

When Lester cast Gamini Fonseka for the role Jinadasa, Martin Wickramasinghe expressed his serious doubt over the selection. He said, "My God Lester that is not my Jinadasa. He is supposed to be a thin and quiet man. This one is a boxer."

However, when Wickramasinghe watched the film, he said that in fact Jinadasa was a far more vivid character than in the book. Among other things, Gamperaliya won the first ever international award for a Sinhala film when it was awarded coveted Golden Peacock Award at the Delhi International Film Festival. Although Lester could not attend the Delhi International Film Festival, he recalled later in the book Lester by Lester as told to Kumar de Silva, "I did not go for the festival since I was shooting some difficult sequences in `Delovak Athara' (1966). I gave my ticket to Gamini Fonseka, who had acted in the film for free.

" was very happy he was there. Given the circumstances in which film was financed and made, and the fact that it was one of the finest international Juries, I thought I missed something which would not happen for a second time in my life. It did happen miraculously though in 2000 when the Delhi Film Festival gave me a Golden Peacock for a `Lifetime Achievement'. Other winners have been Michelangelo Antonioni, Bernardo Bertolucci and Liv Ulman the actress."


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