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Film review:

Sankranthiya signifies conflicting human relations



STILL: Sangeetha Weeraratne and Bimal Jayakody in a scene from Sankranthiya

CINEMA: Sankranthiya of Anurudda Jayasinghe is a faithful creation based on the script of Professor Nimal Senanayake. The narrative is complete in its component parts like the setting, characters, actions, events, conflict and resolve.

The vividity of the social setting is sacrificed to two restricted situations, the natural environment around the Mahakandarava tank and the colonial type mansion.

The key characters are limited to three - the bearded old animal scientist/anthropologist type professor who always makes use of animal/monkey behaviour to elucidate human behaviour; his young and pretty wife entangled in a sensational conflict and his young energetic support assistant who helps in his research studies.

The human relationships of these three characters are portrayed through powerful signifiers. In particular the language used by the professor teeming with puns, his searching movements and his queer trap of his feigning to be lost in the wood signify his suspicious character woven around his pretty young wife.

The assistant on the other hand playing his guitar beside the bonfire on the bund of the vast tank at night while the professor’s wife makes advances towards him are quiet subliminal expressions.

W. Jayasiri, Sangeeta Weeraratne and Bimal Jayakody quite efficiently perform their respective roles in particular in the final conflict resolving shot sequencing. The audience may identify themes like educational power, authority, alienation, ambiguity, sexuality and boredom in varying degrees associated with the three characters.

The gaze of the audience will not be uniform. The editing of the film has ensured continued flow of visual images, despite jump cuts by darkening have marked the relationships as well are the boundaries of the visual messages.

At one time, the audience will be sympathetic towards all the three characters. At another time the audience will take the side of the pretty young wife and the focus of sympathy would be on the young assistant. In the end the old man has to die perhaps disproving the Freudian philosophy.

Sankranthiya is not a closed film although there is a beginning and an apparent ending. But the end is yet another beginning. The creators of this film have been faithful to the narrative style without searching for new approaches in its presentation.

But this approach has not impeded authenticity. It is neither an entertainment film nor a serious film. There are no songs and dances as in a popular Hindi film. But it is not devoid of a lyrical tenor. There is cultural mixing.

Tradition is not completely lost. The cottage keeper worships God Aiyanayaka at the news of the professor’s sudden disappearance, while the assistant informs the police. Finally the question arises as to the meaningful content of this creation. Is there a penetrative insight into the social order or human life?

Well, adopting a post-modernistic view the audience will fail to identify a single definitive meaning or a sublime reality inculcated by it. Instead this creation stimulates and impinges on the imagination of the audience to appreciate and extract a variety of meanings and conclusions.

In Sri Lanka movie attendance is continuing to decline and the television has become a way of life.

However, knowing well that the fate of the struggle to regain the movie audiences from the television, it is heartening to appreciate the enthusiasm of dedicated new talented creators for their interest in the cinematic medium. Before the advent of the television the movie was undoubtedly our way of life.

Sankanthriya would not be an economically successful boxoffice film with any impact on our popular culture.

But because of the polarised status of the population, there would be some selective strata of viewers who would like to see new films carrying different view points. In particular the positioning of the audience towards Sankranthiya would generate a discourse on it.

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