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Saturday, 26 January 2002  
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Sunday Observer

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Sondura Warnadaasi - an Opera
by Khemadasa

They say music is a universal language. If so Master Khemadasa is a person who speaks to the world through his creations.

After a lapse of two years, Sri Lankan music aficionados will get an opportunity of experiencing another masterly creation by the veteran musician Premasiri Khemadasa when his latest opera "Sondura Warnadaasi" will be presented at the Lionel Wendt Theatre tomorrow (27).

"Sondura Warnadaasi" is based on an interpretation of 'Kanawera Jathaka' where Warnadaasi, the leading courtesan of the city falls in love with a leader of dacoits. The dacoit leader is no other than Bosath, the Buddha in a one of his births.

Maestro Khemadasa possesses a vast knowledge of theory and practise of both Eastern and Western music. Khemadasa has created music for films, theatre and teledramas in different styles and remarkable rhythms for over four decades.

As a path-breaking musician, he made a unique contribution to the local music as he gifted two operas (Manasa Wila and Doramadala) and one cantata (Pirinivan Mangalyaya).

Opera "Sondura Warnadaasi", no doubt will be another creative explosion. This Jathaka story has every component of an opera, Khemadasa says, explaining why he specially selected it. "Besides, it has a contemporary value and is true even today." Eastern raagas synchronised with Western harmonies will produce scintillating music in this opera.

"This is not enough. More music experiences such as operas and cantata should be created if we are to improve local music.

There is a discerning audience for music," added Master Khemadasa.

The libretto of this opera is by Lucien Bulathsinhala. Costumes and stage-decor are designed by Upali Herath while make up is by Buddhadasa Galappaththi.

The opera is presented by a team of students from the School of Performing Arts - Khemadasa Foundation.


Children's film on parental love

"Irasma", a Sinhala film focusing on children, directed by Ariyaratne Vithana will be released soon.

Scripted by Ariyaratne himself, "Irasma" unravels the story of a girl - Irasma - who is as strong as the sun and as soft as a flower, who has lost her parents' love and struggles to regain it. The film is enriched with the music of Victor Ratnayake. Photography is by Suminda Weerasinghe and the Lyrics are by Kumaradasa Saputhanthri.

The art director is Milton Perera and make up is by J. Suranimala. Denzil Jayaweera edited the movie, whose theme song was performed by Nanda Malani. Hirushini Abeygunawardana (childhood) and Ama Wijesekera (teens) play the role of Irasma. Others in the cast include Iranganee Serasinghe, Douglas Ranasinghe, Moreen Charuni, Duleeka Marapana and many child artistes.

This is the first children's film funded by the Film Development Fund of the National Film Corporation. It is presented by the Children's Film Society of Sri Lanka.


Unnerved by the presence of The Others

Even though I was seated with others to watch The Others at the Odeon at Kensignton High Street, I felt a chill down my spine just minutes into the first reel. That was more than enough to convince me that The Others was no ordinary horror movie.

This is an old-fashioned thriller, set in Jersey during the Second World War. Nicole Kidman is Grace, who lives in a large mansion with her two children Anne and Nicholas.

Grace is waiting for her husband to return from the warfront. Both children are ultra-sensitive to light, which means that all doors and windows have to be kept shut at all times.

Grace is somewhat unsettled by her children's claims that the house is haunted. Nicholas insists that he has seen David, a ghost child of the others living in the mansion.

Grace does not believe the children's rantings at first, but later hears unnatural sounds coming from all directions.

It is into this 'haunted' house that three servants including a dumb girl step in from virtually nowhere. They have apparently responded to an advertisement, but Grace is not so sure. Sinister things happen all the time, as Grace sees the world crumble around her.

This joint US/French/Spanish production directed by 29-year-old Spaniard Alejandro Amenabar (his English language debut) is simply a breath of fresh air in the otherwise staid world of horror movies. It does a fine job without glitzy special effects or conventional ghosts that haunt other horror flicks.

Amenabar has discarded expensive special effects (the film cost only US$ 17 million to make) in favour of the sheer doom and gloom that pervades over Nicole's character.

This is easily one of the best performances by Nicole - it is impossible to forget the scenes where she inspects every nook and corner of the house with a lamp in hand, straining to hear the eerie sounds and yet striving to maintain her composure.

The two child actors (Alakina Mann and James Bentley) give two sterling performances. Do not expect things to happen quickly in this movie - they don't. Instead, Amenabar guides you step by step, offering one or more heart-stopping moments along the way.

Finally, the movie literally bangs you right on the head, giving your brain an enigmatic ending that can take a lifetime to comprehend.

Yes, it is the ending that takes your breath away. Just when you thought that ghost stories have run their course, Amenabar gives us the ending that no one has ever thought of.

More than anything else, it is the final few scenes that justify the film's title. See it for yourself, you will be scared witless. That is exactly how I felt as I left the theatre and merged into the crowds at Kensignton.

Crescat Development Ltd.

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