Monday, 05 August 2002  
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Punchi Suranganavi (Little Angel)

by E. M. G. Edirisinghe

Punchi Suranganavi is an exceptional film with a fast moving plot never static in mental or physical movements, creates an astonishing impact on adult-mind as well as on child-mind. Its rapid changes of sequences yields it a pace that the viewers are kept busy with changing mood between imagination and reality. Unsavoury events in the past are magnificently rekindled to give life to what the film wants to convey to every layer of viewership. Imbalance and feelings of insecurity pining within are manifested in the character, conduct and attitude of people to each other in the society.

Violent domestic quarrels leading to eventual parental break-up could leave a child wailing, and totally stunt with detrimental side-effects on the growing child-mind reproducing similar violent aggressive conduct. This psychological factor provides the nucleus for a moving film to grasp the ethnic issue from within the constitution of man and child.

The movie carves its path on two different phases. In the pre-1983 riots era, it was an imaginary situation of estranged parental life causing infantile derangement in a child. And, in the wake of ethnic riots it was the phase of ground reality of ethnic violence that moves the film to a destination to convince the necessity of ethnic harmony. It is a journey from impressions of imagination to imprints of reality.

When riots destroyed peace and harmony, the mother of Sathya (Nithyavani Kandasamy) says that only when the Tamils and Sinhalese become friends once again, they would come back to a Sinhala home. This is an historical peer into reality and an appeal to adult sense to awaken them to hazards of 1983. The filmmaker had worked on a wider perspective based on a profound vision to bring peace and understanding to the country. That buttresses his cinematic effort to travel from imagination to reality.

Smashing of glasses and bottles by Sampath (Tharaka Hettiarachchi) is in consequence to his mental derangement caused by being a witness to parental violence unleashed relentlessly at each other. His fits of anger saw no bounds. It is so violent and so protracting that one audience would have been made impatient to see an early end to the eerie act.

Visual representation of deranged child mind consumes a greater part of the film which gives it a violent environment. This build up was used to meet the need to prepare the ground for the transformation of Sampath into a very intelligent peaceful child with the companionship of Sathya providing the emotional and psychological back-up. Sampath stunned and dumbed by the incessant commotion at home, was able to speak freely when he came into contact with a loved one irrespective of the community to which she belonged. Tolerance and compassion is what a child needs and not the ethnicity. It is a lesson to the elder to teach the basics of how to be a human being.

The filmmaker has created two worlds to get his strong message of harmony across to the audience - one for the adults and the other for the children. The world of children is full of joy, beauty and unity, is extremely honest and real. But the adult world is filled with ambition, selfishness and hypocrisy fanned by religious, ethnic and linguist bias causing untold harm to the world of humanity. The blissful innocence and ignorance of children had made their life sweet and beautiful. "The child is the father of man" is the underlying theme woven into the narrative beside the sensitive issue of ethnic relations.

In the midst of politically created inter-racial hatred and domestically created infantile mental violence. It mirrors the class distinction of the two main representatives of the two communities, Perera (Sriyantha Mendis) and Velu (S. Selvasekeran). When Sathya nurtured by nature around, played with improvised toys and enjoyed traditional games and sang folk songs, Sampath invested with luxuries, expensive automated modern toys and television sets but, confined himself to a palatial house has comfort and riches forced on his 'poor' mind in contrast with 'rich' mind of poor Sathya. Riches, power and position is the refuge of many racists whether of the North or the South, the movie tries to delicately establish.

The filmmaker's innovative talent in awakening the hidden or dormant enthusiasm for pleasure, and expression of tender feelings is remarkable. Satya and Sampath in close affectionate relationship is fascinating and a treat to watch. For example, remotely controlled toy-jeep, holding of hose-pipe with water sprouting in the formation of a flower, English lessons, cycling, watching TV all played together are events collectively woven to paint a picture of charm and spirit that puts the children away from the world of adults.

How this film ends is more momentous and emphatic to any discerning viewer. It appeals specially to children displaying inherent capacity to teach and guide the adult on the right path. In a persistently amiable journey at a rapid sequence-changing pace transmitting a vision sharply driven into the audience, it tells, the children are free and happy in their own company with no constraints of religion, race or language hampering their natural companionship and universal understanding.

Music is situational innovative and refined heightening the intensity of emotions and sentiments running in child-mind. The day Sathya was brought to Perera's mansion, the live titillating melody played loudly in the background at the time she reached the main gates with her father, is suggestive of the gentle times to come for the two children with experience of bitter times being swept aside.

However, Perera being rich, educated and belonging to the socially elite class,it is puzzling how he failed to understand the psychology of his child even after the doctor's advice on its mental state. Moreover, his disposition is unusually contrary to his level of social and official frame of living. In fact, he by character and performance is too rash and below average for his executive position.

Nithyavani Kandasamy as Sathya and S. Selvasekaran as Velu are superb with the latter giving the best performance in the film.

As a living embodiment of innocence, loyalty and humility, he symbolises the contradiction of dedication of a humane-being to a 'non-human being'. Racism is used whenever it suits man at political, economic or personal level. "May all beings be happy" seems to be the theme underscored in subtle cinematic language of the former theatre personality turned film personality.

Explore love through Proof

Arun Perera and Lakshika Kamalgoda.

The Combined Theatre Company presents the Year 2000 Puiltzer Prize winning play, Proof by David Auburn at the Russian Cultural Centre on August 15,16 and 17 at 8.p.m.

The production is directed by Vinodh Senadeera, and directs a cast of 4 talented young performers. Vinodh has been the director of the CTC's last production, "Ropes of Sand", an original play which was written by Michael de Soyza. The Combined Theatre Company is hoping to produce plays on a regular basis, introducing new actors and actresses to the local stage.

One of the most acclaimed plays of recent seasons, Proof, explores the unknowability of love as much as it does the mysteries of mathematics. On the eve of her twenty second birthday, Catherine, a young woman who has spent years caring for her brilliant but unstable father, Robert, must deal not only with his death but with the arrival of her estranged sister, Claire and with the attentions of Hal, a former student of her father's who hopes to find valuable work in the 103 notebooks that Robert left behind. As Catherine confronts Hal's affections and Claire's plans for her life, she struggles to solve the most perplexing problem of all: how much of her father's madness-or-genius-will she inherit?

The lead role of Catherine, is played by 21 year old Lakshika Kamalgoda, a past student from Holy Family Convent, presently teaching speech and drama. To her the character of Catherine, is challenging, as she has to depict many sides to her personality. It's a character which is still finding 'a true place in society'.

Troy Manatunga, has had a variety of theatrical experiences while at S. Thomas' College, performing both in Shakespeare and contemporary plays. He has also had much exposure in lighting and set designing, and plays a key role in this production as well. The character of Hal is difficult as, it's pretty much a normal human being. His reaction to the rest of the people in the play varies, from love to hatred to anger.

Exhibition of Shattered Barriers

Some of walter’s creations.

The third solo art exhibition "Shattered Barriers", presented by Walter Kulasooriya will be held from August 9 to 11 at the Lionel Wendt Gallery from 10 am to 7 pm, each day. The exhibition will be inaugurated by the Central Bank Governor A. S. Jayawardena, Economic Reform, Science and Technology Minister Milinda Moragoda and Public Administration, Management and Reforms Minister Vajira Abeywardena.

Walter Kulasooriya has thirty years experience in the field of arts. He does not belong to any school of art and does not have pupils. "Shattered Barriers" will portray laughter, tears, joys and sorrows of the common man whom he considers as his tutors.

From 1997 to 2001 he has won the Presidential award for the arts competition organised by the Ceylon Society of Arts. The State award for arts and sculpture was also won by him in the year 2000.

According to Kulasooriya his exhibitions have been held in many parts of the world. The interesting expressions in the many paintings at the "Dear Park" of Giritale and Le Kandyan Hotel, Kandy and Sola Garden of Galle belong to him.

Sarath's exhibition of paintings and drawings

Among our painters today, Sarath stands out as one who has established his identity very clearly especially in drawings. He has his own way with his pen or brush, and unlike others, he concentrates on depicting political and religious hypocracy with venom and irony. It takes time to get to know the real theme of a particular work, and thanks to the comments of the artist I was able to understand some of them which I had not studied with attention, in my haste to cover the entire presentation, at one go.

He is one artist who does not shy away from inconvenient and unconventional attitudes and prejudices. Right in the midst of a war which has tentatively been suspended, most of us in the South go about as if we were in a land free of all human conflict. Sarath for one, does not shirk to present the harsh facts of existence. For him the overriding symbol is the skull. They are strewn in front of dagobas, churches, kovils and mosques. Marriage takes place with a bride groom on crutches. Environment is also at the receiving end of this war. When all trees are cut down, a 'deva' brings a sapling of some plant from heaven. Buses are really armoured chain driven vehicles running over people crushing them mercilessly in the process.

His drawings are not cartoons, or realistic depiction of anything. His skill with the pen and brush enables him to create a work of art out of present day reality. He is not banal in that, as he uses his symbols with irony and elan to communicate his feelings.

When he first appeared on the artistic scene he seemed to be too literal in expression. He looked like another kind of cartoonist. But today he has matured into a truly creative artist, whose reach goes well beyond normal day to day events or topical subjects. There is a feeling that he has got behind the cant and hypocracy one comes across in life. In this his clever use of symbolism is all too evident.

After George Keyt we have not had an artist who could combine the conventional and modern, except for Sarath. Most of our artists have sacrificed the heritage that is theirs for the cliches of impressionism. The West has completely transformed them, and there is hardly anything that has roots in the lived life of our community. On the other hand we have also some who are still using traditional models, and approaches as a way out of the modern impasse. It requires unusual talent to be both modern, and be sensitive to one's own culture.

- Tilak A. Gunawardhana

Sampath Bank

Crescat Development Ltd.

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