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Ira Handa Yata, film in rich texture

The award winning filmmaker Benett Ratnayake has already created pristine impressions among the Sri Lankan filmgores with his remarkable cinematic creations like Aswasuma (Compensation) and Sulanga (The Wind). His recent production Ira Handa Yata (Under the Sun and Moon) has won the award for the best film in an Italian Film Festival, the Honourable Jury Award at Los Angeles Film Festival and was nominated for the best performance award at the 23rd Singapore International Film Festival. Ira Handa Yata is multi-generic Firstly; the audience becomes exposed to the war situation that existed in this country at its peak form.

Secondly the immediate and perhaps the late adverse effects of this war are exposed. Thirdly the sensitive issues of human concern and bondage within the backdrop of the war are highlighted. Fourthly a risky mission to satisfy the dying personís last wish attracts audience attention.


A scene from Ira Handa Yata

Lastly the unexpected meeting of previously unknown hearts and building strong human relationships are revealed with retrospective insights. All these strands make Ira Handa Yata, multi-generic with a rich texture. The central theme revolves around the human impact of the war situation which is largely psychological. The dynamics of the brutal war and the young lives entangled in it directly and the effects of war that spread and penetrate the emotional and physical lives of the beloved families near and far are portrayed in this film through human explorations.

The film also hints about ethnic harmony and economic development as essential needs for human development. Benette Ratnayaka has employed a cast around 30 for making his film a success apart from the technical and musical contribution. Saumya Liyanage is the key performer and he is appropriately supported by Udara Ratnayake. Saumya in particular expresses his in born talents in the close up scenes where emotions are revealed through gestures and facial expressions. Mahendra Perera, Palitha Silva, Roger Seneviratne, Bimal Jayakody, Suminda Sirisena, Rangana Premaratne, Ajith Lokuge and Jagath Beneragama dominate among the male performers. Chandani Seneviratne, Kausalya Fernando, Veena Jaykody, Suvineetha Weerasinghe and Damitha Abeyratna are among the female cast.

All do their parts with dexterity. Sheryl Becker and Dharshini Tasha though new to the cinema, too show their performance colours. Bimal Jayakdoy as the rebel leader and Damitha Abeyratna as one of his rebel codices reveal their despotic and ruthless features in their performance while Kausalaya Fernando, rebel commander with a broken arm shows some human feeling towards the suffering prisoners though she too also belongs to the rebel gang. Palitha Silva appears to be a real anti- ethnic mad hatter who sots innocent people.

His military performance is ruthless and cruel as he gunned down an innocent mother and father while they were pleading for their lives. In this scene Veena Jayakody and Nadarasa Sivum excel in their performances though their appearances are brief. Suvineetha Weerasingha as the mother of the key character, Mahasen Bandara right from the beginning of the film bends towards a melodramatic performance. She ascribes every mishap happening to her son as an outcome to his marriage with a Tamil girl Kiruba.

The Sinhala major Mahasen (Saumya Liyanage) loved and married Kiruba (Tasha Darshini). Kiruba has been the sister of a rebel cadre. The main conflict appears to be this love affair. Mahasenís motherís melodrama heightens when she tries to grab Mathesonís daughter in frenzy. On the other hand Candani Seneviratne as the sister of Mahasen seems to understand the situation than the mother The structure of the film is not descriptive and narrative There are flashback scenes and events that break up the monotony of narration.

Further the shifting of war scenes to scenes of human emotion too break the monotony of the film. Ratnayake has also tried to create a sense of belonging and identity among those engaged in the war pertaining to the land that they are fighting for. Further the clash of cultures between the two sides engaged in the war through the web of beliefs, social rituals and language practices could be identified by the intelligent filmgoer. Ratnayake has crated this film with a firm conviction that the idea if history repeating itself should be dissolved away of ever.

This is perhaps the strong message that Ratnayake is trying to drive in and fix firmly in the minds of the intelligent audience. The Aristotelian model with the three components Action, Time and Place are quite well in harmony. These three unite impressively to win the audience credibility. Benette has made imaginative use of time to compress the events over a period of 30 years by presenting thoughtfully selected military and personal episodes.

The war torn environment is portrayed as a harsh place in flux than at ease. Anarchy, violence, suffering and death have been largely accumulated to the rebel side. Bennette has attempted to present both points of view about the war situation. One of the devices that Bennette employs in this film is the paradox which makes this film so compelling. The unconventional marriage between a Sri Lankan Sinhala Army officer and a pretty Tamil girl is a reassuring theme that adds colour, conflict and relevance to the entire film.

The style of the film is essentially realistic. The characters converse in common Sinhala and Tamil vernacular. The phrases and sentences are simple, short and packed with action and meaning. There are no long philosophical sermons. There is no poetry and or rhetoricís that are difficult to understand. However symbolism and metaphorical use of language are discernable even in the dialogues among the Army personnel even during tragic situations. Emotions are not expressed eloquently. This is expected of well disciplined Army officers who operate in an emotionally restricted battle front.

As expected, the language used by the Army personnel is a deviation from the normal standard. Vague utterances are uncommon among the Army personnel. There are no requests but orders. Every word or phrase or sentence uttered is context sensitive and pragmatic. Aspects of imagery and symbolism are quite rich in its texture. The passage of time has been shown firstly with a leafless tree and later with the same tree fully covered with leaves.

Fish struggling for life in mud with scanty water connects appropriately with the key character fighting for life following a head injury. Guns and bombs are symbols of power and terror which are used by both parties and the different forms of military uniforms speak of their power and status. Bennette has shown a remarkable scene of a sudden influx of vehicles of all sorts and human beings of all types including school children crossing a wide open bridge to symbolize the spirit of liberty or freedom demarcating the end of war. The audience would begin to feel the comfortable soothing effect of this scene and make a sigh of relief. Events of the past continue to influence the present and the future.

The prisoners held by the rebels often remember their previous horrible experiences. It may be difficult to sympathize with some of the characters in this film as they are self absorbed and selfish as in the case Mathesonís mother. But the audience would take the side of the key characters who come together mainly through human understanding and liking discarding ethnic differences. The film presents a message that a sense of belonging is essential to human happiness with harmonious sharing of human beliefs and values.

Further there is another subtle message too. The film suggests that we should be realistic-seeing the two sides of the crucible of conflict.

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