Selvam salutes SL's march to harmony
could have made an action packed commercial film and earned bucks by
screening it at theatres but we thought that the message of ethnic
harmony embedded in Selvam is more important to the country. We are not
a group that takes revenge from others. If that is the case there will
be no rehabilitation camps for ex-LTTE soldiers'
Embodying a title which denotes prosperity, actor and screenplay
writer turned film director Sanjaya Leelaratne's debut movie Selvam will
hit the CEL circuit cinemas from November 25. Shot entirely in Jaffna
after the three-decade terrorist era Selvam unites the Sinhala, Tamil,
Muslim and Burgher clans together in one reel.
Produced by M Mohamed, the story revolves around a selfless hero who
strives to nurture harmony among the civilians after the three decade
conflict. It highlights the heroism of the forces and projects the true
situation of the north where Tamils and Sinhala people are able to
communicate and get along hand in hand.
Q: Selvam focuses a lot on the
government and especially on President Mahinda Rajapaksa's role in post
terrorism. Some have even said that the film is a pro government
A: We made the film
without political agendas or aimed at any precise groups. The story
unfurls within reality. Much like a documentary Selvam portrays the true
situation of the north.
Sanjaya Leelaratne. Picture by Tennyson Edirisinghe
The government has a hand in all the events that are taking place
after the elimination of terrorism. I will not be able to focus on these
incidents without mentioning this fact.
I have not highlighted development plans like road constructions and
transportation. My topic was on the change of peoples' attitudes which
we witnessed during shooting.
The elections too were held in the north after many decades. That is
an important aspect in the country's history and the poster in the
closing scene was inserted to signify that idea. Schools have opened
doors and children can once again engage in their studies without fear
of being killed on the way or kidnapped by the LTTE.
Youths get a chance to carry on with their life and communicate with
their peers. They can find partners and carry on with life unlike in the
past when they were forced to join the LTTE at the age of 15.
Just because I portray these ongoing incidents they say I have
campaigned for the government. Would I be campaigning for King
Rajasinghe if I made a historic film based on his period?
Q: The film also deals with the hero
A: We all have heroes from
our childhood. It changes with time. Personalities like Che Guevara,
Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt have a large fan following.
Selvam gets to know that the LTTE had killed his parents and it is
natural that he feels gratitude towards whoever that eliminated the
movement which destroyed his family. In this case it is President
Rajapaksa who had spearheaded the event. Therefore he becomes Selvam's
hero. Likewise a member of the opposition can be another's hero. It
differs from person to person according to their personality and needs.
Q: Why did you give the movie a Tamil
A: Selvam means prosperity
in Tamil. We chose the name because we felt that the country is
gradually entering a prosperous era. Selvam also happens to be a name
and we used that for our main character to enhance this nation. We have
also incorporated prosperity to the song. We planned the visuals at
length because that was our best means of driving home the message.
Many people asked me why I decided on a Tamil name for the movie. Our
concept cannot be branded as Sinhala or Tamil so why should I give a
second thought trying to find a Sinhala title for my film?
Q: You are an actor, a screenplay
writer and a teledrama director. How would you describe your experience
in directing a film?
A: I have written the
screenplay for a lot of financially successful films. Many of those
directors invited me to make a film. However I was not in the right
mindset to take on the challenge. I took my time and finally when
terrorism ended I was inspired to make a film about life getting back to
normal in Jaffna.
The army had done its duty and now it is our turn to take up our
responsibilities. One is to make sure that terrorism will not be able to
lift its head again in this country. I can contribute to this concept
through my field by lacing love and understanding among the ethnic
I faced many challenges in the film. Joe Abeywickrama was blind at
that stage but he acted in the movie. I flew him to Jaffna on a plane,
conducted shooting and returned him back to his home. It was costly but
he fitted the role of Sathyavelu's grandfather.
Shalini Tharaka had acted in teledramas but she was not used to
acting for a film. In such instances stage and teledrama actors overact.
Their slightest movement is detected and shown on a broad scale on the
wide screen. Therefore they need to learn to tone down their movements.
Q: Selvam has introduced two new
faces to cinema.
A: Directing Shanthalingam
Gokulam, an ex-LTTE soldier, was very challenging. He portrayed
Pushparaja's role opposite Shalini Tharaka. He had been fighting for the
LTTE for eight years and had been in the rehabilitation camp when we
found him. I found it difficult to direct him because he had not acted
or danced in front of a camera. We did not have a choreographer for the
film so I had to conduct the dance sequences.
The LTTE had painted a different picture of the Sinhala people to
youths like Gokulam. He had only been with the LTTE and army and met
Sinhala civilians only after he was chosen for the film. As we began
shooting he realized that the Sinhala people welcome him as a member of
their clan. He couls well be the first terrorist in the world to turn
The child who acted as Selvam is Danny Abhinesh. We chose him out of
about 240 children who came for interviews.
Q: You have commented that the Jaffna
citizens were very supportive to you and the team. Care to share some of
A: Our shooting was mostly
done in Valvattithurai which is LTTE leader Prabhakaran's village. We
also shot a couple of scenes in Prabakaran's school. We were unsure
whether there will be problems from the people but the villagers were
friendly. They treated us to homemade delicacies like dosai and vadei.
They lent us their homes and shops for shooting a moved away for a
couple of days. Some even refused the money that we tried to give them
for lending us their property. They enjoyed watching us shoot the film.
They were relieved that terrorism is over because they suffered
immensely during that period. They did all this because they love their
new found freedom.
Q: The film won an award at the UDC
Business Awards 2011 in Malaysia.
A: The award is given to a
director for his debut film. We sent applications, DVDs, a synopsis of
the film, details about the locations and a profile about Gokulam. They
were pleased with our concept and gave us the award.
The credit goes to our whole team because the cast and crew were the
backbone of the project. The award is a good example of the
international public's acceptance of what had been projected in the
film: people living in harmony in the north, the elimination of
terrorism and the forces being made up of disciplined and well mannered
Q: Post war there has been a cluster
of patriotic films. In this light why do you think the audience should
A: A lot of films were
based on the terrorist and post terrorist situation of the country. War
and conflict are global issues. Our film is not about the conflict
though we talk about it at various stages. We do not show the army or
LTTE shooting in the battlefront. We project the lifestyle of the north
as it is today. National harmony is our main theme. We link the north
and south with elders' blessings. This is what should happen in the
future and if this is practiced there will not be attempts to revive
conflicts among ethnic groups within the country.
Do you hope to continue with film
A: Certainly. I will begin
shooting for my second film in January. It is based on Sri Lankan women.
It pinpoints the trials that a girl faces from birth to death. She is
bound by social norms and traditions and if she tries to break free, the
society degrades her position. I wish to make a movie which earns
respect for women.
Timberlake talks In Time
Justin and Amanda in In Time
The film deals with the idea that a small group of wealthy people
control most of the time, which is the only currency, and the remaining
99 percent are left to share what is left.
Justin Timberlake was a star at such a young age that money started
rolling in relatively early for him. So playing Will Salas would have
him tap into what it's like to not to be himself. In Time marks the
first real starring role for him as an action star.
"It's like boyhood fantasies lived out: To shoot guns and kiss the
girl and beat the bad guys. And you get to do it where Colleen Atwood
puts a suit on you. You get to drive a Jaguar. You know I told Andrew
the future looks surprisingly retro in his mind. I kind of dig that
about it. My favorite sci-fi movies are the ones where everything is not
that far off from, aesthetically, not that far off from where it is
today. But kind of has it's own uniqueness to it. I really like that
about this movie as well," Timberlake opined about his transition from a
comedy and romantic movie artiste to an action hero.
Queried on what sort of similarities he finds between himself and his
character - Will he said, "There are so many. This is the first time
that I've felt like it was the most personal. Everything that happens to
Will is so tangible, even though this is such an otherworldly concept.
Those basic feelings of revenge and contempt and wanting to change the
system I think is something that everyone can relate to, I think. I know
In Time is screening at Savoy cinema, Welawatta.
Rock and 'role'
Rockstar will be screening at Colombo Regal cinema from November 15:
The 40-year-old director Imtiaz Ali thought back to his college days
when coming up with the story for his new film Rockstar.
Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar
"All of us have seen these wannabe musicians, guys who play guitar
and want to be a westernised rock star," he says.
"I've hung around many of these guys while in college."
Starring Ranbir Kapoor and the model Nargis Fakhri in her big-screen
debut, Rockstar tells the tale of a middle-class boy named Janardan
whose efforts to become a musician are met with laughter. He then
realises that all big musicians have some tragedy or heart-break in
their lives and so he sets about creating his own. He decides that he
needs the school diva Heer Kaul to break his heart and sets about
attempting to woo her.
To prepare for the role, Kapoor took guitar lessons from the film's
composer, the music legend - and the Slumdog Millionaire composer - AR
As for Kapoor, the 29-year-old actor was adamant that his take on a
musician would not be completely westernised.
"In India we don't have a rock-star character, my character is not
influenced by Kurt Cobain or Jim Morrison," he says.
"It's more about the character's journey that spans seven years and
the influence that he has. Even the soundtrack is not particularly all
rock album songs from different genres, the title Rockstar is important
to the film, but he's not that leather jacket-wearing, guitar-breaking
cool guy that we are all exposed to. It's another take."
Rockstar is also noteworthy for featuring the final appearance of
Kapoor's great uncle, the acting legend Shammi Kapoor. The actor and
director pleaded with the man called the "Desi Elvis Presley" to come
out of retirement.
"I feel happy he did a movie before he went," says Ali. "He had not
worked in 10 years, he is an actor, his soul is that of an actor, he did
all the good things and bad things that an actor does. But he had a lot
of health issues and I feel happy that all of us contributed to making
him work again one final time, before he went away."
Heart for art
She has a passion for the arts. This drove her into taking up
aesthetic subjects at an early age and dedicating herself to various
projects, some which have seen the light of day while others which are
queuing to be shown on screen.
Nadeeka Alahakoon. Picture by Saman Sri Wedage
Clad in earthly shades and donning the role of a village lass with
ease Nadeeka Alahakoon can be spotted among the cast in Senior Prof
Sunil Ariyaratne's latest movie Kusa Paba. Born in Ruwanwella and a
student of Ruwanwella Central College Nadeeka had later moved to
Pilimathalawa, Kandy for higher studies. She is studying for her
external degree in the arts stream at Peradeniya University and
following the Higher National English Diploma at the Sri Lanka Technical
Dancing is her inborn talent. She had won many awards for dancing
during her school days. She had excelled in dancing techniques at the
Career and Educational Institute. .
"I would love to develop my aesthetic skills and take part in more
productions. My greatest loves are acting and dancing. It is a blessing
to take part in Kusa Paba. It unveiled many new aspects on the subject
to me," she noted about her experiences on the sets. Kusa Paba is not
her debut film. She had taken part in another historic movie, Sanath
Abeysekara's Mahindagamanaya. This time too she is acting in a
supporting role which she believes helped her to mould her acting
"I would love to take part in quality productions but my main aim is
to become an English teacher. I am also into compeering and wish to
engage in that as a part time career," Nadeeka said adding that she also
pens poems and short stories as a hobby.