Daily News Online

Monday, 27 February 2012






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Mistress of wit and banter

Not many are remembered with such great fondness and affection as she is. During her heyday, she riveted and thrilled her audience with vociferously delightful stage performances.

Mercy Edirisinghe.
Picture by Wasitha Patabendige

No flattery is needed to say that Mercy Edirisinghe’s jovial presence in the field of art is not one that would ever fade away. Still very much loved by her fans, Mercy is yet to put a stop to her creative adventures.

“I will act till fans get fed up of me,” she says with a smile.

Then she eloquently notes, “Stars fade. They shine for a moment and then fade away into thin air but great artistes are evergreen. They glimmer forever. They are very much like the all seeing sun and the bracing moon. They stand above all and outshine everything.”

Mercy, the buoyant soul she is, joined Daily News ‘Projector’ to have a jovial, yet intellectual discourse on the current state of Sri Lankan theater and cinema.

Q: How do you compare today’s Sri Lankan art to your days?

A: The 70s was a golden time for Sri Lankan art. Both drama and cinema prospered during those days. But after the 70s, the whole industry went through a barren period. I believe things are on the rise again. Yet, I feel that we are still not getting enough good creations.

Sometimes people make creations for the sake of getting awards. Sometimes they do them to fulfill their mercenary purposes. I am not saying that money or awards are not important, they also do play a role in harnessing talents, but those factors shouldn’t be the main focus.

The other factor is that sometimes dramas do not travel around the country. During our days we used show our dramas in every corner of the country. Now matters are restricted to certain theaters around Colombo.

Q: Do you see any specific faults in the younger generation?

A scene from ‘Diyamanthi’

With Vijaya Nandasiri in ‘Ran Kandha’

With Jackson Anthony in
‘Tharawo Igilethi’

A: Sometimes they do not stick with stage-ethics. For instance, these days’ people portray sexual content in a very raw, blunt manner. Even during our days, we spoke about such issues, but we did that in a very subtle manner. We did it while keeping aesthetic elements alive.

Q: Don’t you feel that the seniors are being overly critical about the younger artistes?

A: Well, I don’t look down upon younger artistes. I encourage them. I believe there is great talent and potential there. We should invest their talents.

The fact is that they shouldn’t focus solely on mercenary purposes or creating something for the sake of getting awards. Art is a sacred thing and they should always remember to show their respect towards it.

Q: In the current social system, how practicable is it to engage in art related work without focusing on mercenary ends?

A: If you do a good production people will always embrace it. A good creation will ultimately make money as well.

For instance I did a role recently in the ‘Amanda’ teledrama and I got great responses for it.

Most teledramas revolve around monotonous storylines these days. It is important that people come up with good creations. There has to be novelty.

Q: Don’t you feel that our cinema industry is still stagnating, despite all the big budget films that came recently?

A: I do feel that way. This happens mainly because some film directors do not have the proper training or professional expertise to express themselves through cinematic imagery.

Q: What are your views regarding the current cinema trends, especially on big-budget films like ‘Aba’, ‘Kuveni’, ‘Kusa Paba’ and so forth?

A: Yes, there is an obvious trend. People invest millions to create such films. I feel it is a waste. I think we could have come up with better creations if we invest the money for other productions.

There has to be a certain sense of novelty in every creation. However when people keep coming up with the same genre of movies over and over again, viewers lose interest.

Q: What genre of art form do you prefer most?

A: I prefer drama above anything else. The drama is where real action takes place. Everything is live and existence.

Q: Was it difficult to shift from the stage to the wide screen?

A: It was not challenging for me at all. In dramas you have to act with heightened senses.

Your emotions and everything have to be hyper. In a sense it is a form of over-acting. But in cinema, you are acting for the camera and it is very much a toned-down version.

Q: Is there a particular reason why you stopped acting in films after a certain period?

A: I stopped doing films at a certain stage because I didn’t want to end up as a comic icon. There was a time when all I got was comic roles. I felt that is enough.

When I first started acting on cinema, I got the chance to play major roles. Vasantha Obeysekara’s such as ‘Diyamanthi’ and Palangatiyo’ are on top pf the list. I really enjoyed giving life to his characters.

Q: Do you hope to make a return to theater again?

A: I do. We are going to do a remake of the 70s drama ‘Kavruvath Enney Naha’. It is an absurd play. I recently did a film. It was directed by a young director called Nilantha Hapanweera.

I feel it is a good movie. It is about the cultural conflicted that existed between our ancient Vaddas and the Sinhalese commoners.

Q: Other than art related work, is there anything new that is happening in your life?

A: I started a rest-house in my hometown Warakapola last December. It is called ‘Mercy Edirisinghe Hela Bojun’.

We serve unique Sri Lankan food on buffet terms. The idea is to treat locals with rare forms of Sri Lankan dishes with a sense of uniqueness. I spent weekends at the guest house.

Peyton’s ‘Mysterious Island’

In the sequel of sorts to 2008's ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’, ‘Journey 2: the Mysterious Island’ features Dwayne Johnson (replacing Brendan Fraser) as stepfather Hank Parsons to teen Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson).

Scenes from ‘Journey 2’

The action begins when Hank agrees to escort Sean to the South Pacific to find his missing adventurer grandfather (Michael Caine), who has sent out a coded S.O.S., somewhere from the area.

After enlisting help from tourist guide Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) and her goofy helicopter pilot father, Gabato (Luis Guzman), all four end up stranded on a bizarre tropical island with giant lizards, miniature elephants and huge bumblebees.

The good news is that they locate the grandfather on the island; the bad news is the group discovers they must leave quickly, before it sinks from under their feet.

Shot on location in and around Oahu in Hawaii, the movie is part family comedy and part exotic, computer-generated 3-D fantasy.

For the more refined, ‘Journey 2’ also references Jules Verne's ‘The Mysterious Island’ and ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’, and hints at Robert Louis Stevenson's ‘Treasure Island’ and Jonathan Swift's ‘Gulliver's Travels'.

“I didn't look at Journey 2 as doing a sequel, I looked at it like I was shooting a reboot,” said director Brad Peyton, who made a name for himself on the animation side.

Peyton enjoyed a breakout with the 2002 award-winning short, ‘Evelyn: The Cutest Evil Dead Girl’, which picked up a Genie nomination. That led to Tom Hanks’ production company, Playtone, hiring him to write and direct the cartoon, ‘Spider and the Fly'.

Before ‘Cats and Dogs’, he also produced the stop-motion, 13-episode comedy series, ‘What It's Like Being Alone’, for the CBC.

Naturally, the special effects in ‘Journey 2’ are Peyton's strength. But he knew going in that headliner Johnson would bring a whole new dimension to the project.

“Whatever he does, he wants to own it,” said Peyton of Johnson. “His enthusiasm elevated the other actors.” Also helping cast and crew was the location filming on secluded parts of Oahu. Those included Waimea Valley, China Wall, Kualoa Ranch (where much of ‘Jurassic Park’ was filmed) and Halona Beach Cove (where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr shot their famous beach scene in ‘From Here to Eternity’).

The movie will begin screening at Liberty cinema from March 1.

Bringing ‘Oscar’ home

By now every cinema enthusiast’s eyes are glued to the results of the 84th Academy Awards and speculations have either proven correct or wrong. Just before we wrap up this year’s Oscars let us have a look at the career bests of some of the top favourites vying for the crown.

Meryl Streep

Martin Scorsese

Glenn Close

Woody Allen

Several of Hollywood's biggest names — including Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, Glenn Close and Woody Allen - have had a strong year on the 2011-12 awards circuit: But how does this season compare to some of their career high points?

With the Oscars on Sunday adding to their already heaping totals, we took a look at how this year stacks up to some of these titans’ past triumphs.

Meryl Streep

The most-nominated actress in Academy Awards history has had a strong year — stronger, in fact, than 2002, when she gained heat from two films, ‘Adaptation’ and ‘The Hours,’ and stronger than 2006, when she played an ice-queen fashion editor in ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ And it's been a better run than her ‘Bridges of Madison County’ year of 1995.

Streep turned Margaret Thatcher in ‘The Iron Lady’ for her nomination. If she notches a best actress win, she'll top her previous hottest year - 1982, when she won an Oscar for ‘Sophie's Choice.’

Glenn Close

With turns in movies such as ‘Fatal Attraction’ and ‘Dangerous Liaisons,’ Close had some very strong years in the 1980s. But her gender-bending role as ‘Albert Nobbs’ in 2011, bests them all. Even if she walks out of the awards venue with her arms empty, Close will still have topped her bunny-boiling year of 1987, when she of course played a vengeful mistress in ‘Fatal Attraction.’

Woody Allen

Woody had one of the best years in awards history in 1977, when he was nominated for a rare Oscar trifecta of best writer, director and actor for ‘Annie Hall’ (he won for director and writer).

Can he get close this year? He had worked wonders as writer-director on ‘Midnight in Paris’ and might just end up grabbing the golden statuette.

Martin Scorsese

If you're the much-acclaimed, often Oscar-deprived Martin Scorsese, perhaps no year will compare to 2006, when ‘The Departed’ won you your first golden statuette. Best picture and best director wins for ‘Hugo’ will be an added bonus to his career. But the filmmaker has still had a year to remember — his landmark year of 1976, when ‘Taxi Driver’ was released.

The cast and crew of ‘Parapura’. Picture by Nissanka Wijeratne

Generations of artistes on screen

Popular actor Cletus Mendis is shooting for his maiden movie ‘Parapura’ (Generation).

Ranjan Ramanayake won the award for the most popular
actor at the seventh SL IM Nielson People’s Awards Night for the fifth occasion held a special function to pay tribute to some of the artistes and media personalities who had helped him find success. Here Ranjan felicitates
Senior Prof Sunil Ariyaratne and director Hemasiri Sellaperuma.
Pictures by Nissanka Wijeratne

The movie brings together several generations of artistes on one reel. The cast comprises Ravindra Randeniya, Sanath Gunatileke, Jeevan Kumaratunge, Buddhadasa Vithanachchi, Ranjan Ramanayake, Palitha Silva, Dilhani Ashokamala, Kanchana Mendis, Nita Fernando, Kumara Thirimadura, Roshan Pilapitiya, Ajith Weerasinghe, Chillie Thilanga, Dilanga Mendis, Gamini Jayalath, Gamini Ambalangoda, Teddy Vidyalankara, Sampath Kumaratunge and others.

‘Parapura’ is produced by Cletus Mendis, Basil Jayasooriya and Srimal Jayasooriya.














Gael Garcia Bernal

Bernal to play Zorro

‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ star Gael Garcia Bernal will lead the cast of ‘Zorro Reborn’. The project will be the first major ‘Zorro’ film since 2005's ‘The Legend of Zorro’, in which Antonio Banderas played the swashbuckling Latino legend. Sony executives are also developing a prequel to their two hit Banderas films, based on Isabel Allende's 2005 novel ‘Zorro’.



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