History in the making
Sriyantha as King Pandu
Historical films embody an enchanting aura. They bring our past to
life and rejuvenate significant milestones in history. They uncover the
ambiguity behind certain events and are like a window to an era shrouded
by grandeur and mystery. Sanath Abeysekara is known to dwell on such
topics with panache and style. His maiden movie ‘Mahindagamanaya’
brought a record number of audiences back into theatres. ‘Siridaladagamanaya’,
his second cinematic venture, too rotates around another hallmark in Sri
Anusha and Chandana as the Naga King and Queen
A star studded cast comprising Jewan Kumaranathunga, Geetha
Kumarasinghe, Dilhani Ashokamala, Sriyantha Mendis, Hesan Manjula,
Prasadi Smarakoon, Madumadawa Aravinda, Gayan Wickramathilaka, Anusha
Damayanthi, Piumi Botheju, Chinthaka Kulathunga and many others take
part in the film. The movie has completed shooting and is due to be
screened in May 2013.
Q: Is ‘Siridaladagamanaya’ the sequel to ‘Mahindagamanaya’?
A: The main theme in both films is the growth of Buddhism in
Sri Lanka. The first step of this venture was brining the Sri Maha Bodhi
to the country and that was projected in ‘Mahindagamanaya’. Later the
Buddha’s left canine tooth was brought to the country. This has a major
impact on the popularization of Buddhism. Therefore there is a link
between the two films.
Since the only two tooth relics of the Buddha existing in the world
are in Sri Lanka: one in the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy and the
other in Somawathi Stupa, it creates a similar aura to having the Buddha
living among us. It is believed that the other two tooth relics of the
Buddha are in the Naga World and in the heavenly domain of the king of
Hesan and Prasadi as Prince
Dantha and Princess Hemamala
Princess Anusha and Chandana as the Naga King and Queen s
Hemamala with friends
There is much confusion on how exactly the tooth relic was brought to
our country and where the other tooth relics exist. Some even think one
is hidden in China but there is no concrete evidence to support this
theory. I did a lot of research using the Mahavamsa and Dhatavamsa and
presented my discoveries to Ven Ellawala Medhananda Thera and discussed
with him before making the movie. We want to reveal true details
regarding these sacred tooth relics to the world.
Q: Though they brought the Buddha’s tooth relic to Sri Lanka
and had to endure many hardships in the process, Princess Hemamala and
Prince Dantha’s roles are not given due credit in history. Does
‘Siridaladagamanaya’ fill this void?
A: Certainly. They both played pivotal roles in bringing the
tooth relic to our country. There are several scenes in the film which
depict how they were ready to sacrifice their lives to save their prize.
History records that in one instance Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha
climbed onto a huge rock while being chased by enemies. The opponents
circled the rock but the prince and princess jumped off the peak. At
that moment a giant eagle swept down from the sky and took the couple to
safety. They met an Arahat on the way and caught a boat from Tamralipti
port and sailed to Sri Lanka.
Geetha as Queen
Apart from humans they had to face invasions from supernatural beings
like the Nagas as well because they wanted to steal the tooth relic and
take it to their world. There too they were able to defeat these forces
by the blessings and divine powers bestowed on them by the tooth relic.
Q: You have employed two new faces for the two lead roles in ‘Siridaladagamanaya’.
Prince Dantha’s wedding ceremony
A: One of the challenges I had to face was to locate two
individuals who have similar physical appearances to Princess Hemamala
and Prince Dantha. There is a globally renowned portrait of them and
their appearance has been etched in our mind according to that image.
Even Ven Ellawala Medhananda Thera, the Maha Sangha and our sponsors,
Ven Akaravita Sangananda Thera and EAP Chairperson Dr Soma Edirisinghe
requested me to pay specific attention to this fact. We even decided not
to do the movie if we cannot find two people to suit these roles. Our
Executive Producer Nihal Sanjaya presented a lot of youth to me and we
finally came upon Prasadi Smarakoon whom we saw in one of Iraj’s video
visuals. Heshan Manjula was selected out of around 300 who took part in
The Maha Sangha advised me to select two artistes who refrain from
eating meat, who observe the five precepts, listen to Bana and live
according to Buddhist teachings. Prasadi and Heshan pledged that they
will follow these vows in front of the Maha Sangha, the Ruwanweli Seya
and the Temple of the Tooth Relic and received their blessings before
embarking on this venture.
Though many veteran artistes and business magnets tried to persuade
me to take their children for the roles we stood by our decisions
because we took them on behalf of Buddhism and the country rather than
for our own gain.
This is a big budget movie and my producers were very supportive and
made sure that things ran smoothly for me. Therefore I was able to put
in my best efforts in directing the movie.
Q: After nearly a decade Geetha Kumarasinghe returns to the
Madumadawa as a Buddhist monk
A: Geetha returns to acting after seven years. I had
difficulty in convincing her to make a comeback but after we explained
the role to her, she agreed to give life the character. She acts as
Queen Brahmadatta. Since her generation is from the Brahmin religion,
the queen observed Buddhism in secrecy.
Q: ‘Mahindagamanaya’ deals with one era in history.
‘Siridaladagamanaya’ unfolds several decades later. How did you
distinguish the two eras in the films?
Sanath Abeysekara. Picture by Saman Sri Wedage
A: Around 90 percent of ‘Siridaladagamanaya’ is based in India
while most of the scenes in ‘Mahindagamanaya’ unfold in ancient Sri
Lanka. Shooting for ‘Siridaladagamanaya’ took place near Katukaliyawa
Wewa in Mihintale. We constructed the biggest palace made for a movie in
Sri Lankan cinema history. We also made a replica of the Temple of the
Tooth in India. Before embarking on this project I spent several months
in India exploring the areas where these kings had ruled. Therefore I
have not only read about the subject but I am an eye witness to some of
Q: Some argue that you stick to the facts and that your
creations take more of a form of a documentary than an art creation.
They say that your productions do not compel the viewers to think
further on aspects linked with the topic.
A: That is not my aim in film-making. People have various
ideologies regarding cinema however a cinematic creation should
entertain and develop the thinking patterns of the spectators.
Masses have watched my debut movie because I have identified their
needs as a film-maker. We do not have to burden them with mind-boggling
aspects to ponder over.
They hardly have time to read about these details from books. The
only thing we can do is to use arts for a fruitful gain like projecting
the importance of our history to the society. hrough this there are many
things for them to think over if they wish to dig deeper into the
Experiences of a film buff
Anthony speaking at
the book launch
Veteran journalist and film critic Sunil Mihindukula launched his
latest book ‘Picture Pissa’ (Film Buff) on July 25 at Lake House. Media
Centre for National Security Director General Lakshman Hulugalle
participated was the Chief Guest while Jackson Anthony delivered the
Mihindukula hands over a copy of his book
to Editorial Director Seelaratna Senarath
“My greatest treasures are my books and it is my personal and
professional pride. I wish to thank Lake House for lifting me up and
making me what I am today. And I want to give back to Lake House. In
this collection of books are some of the rarest books in Sri Lanka that
cannot be found anywhere in the country. These books are extremely
precious to me. I wrote a book called ‘Cinema Prekshanaya Saha
Rasasvadhanaya’. The copies of this book are in the possession of just
one or two people. Now this book is out of print,” said Mihindukula who
had authored around 20 books on cinema.
The key players at the event
In a token of appreciation Mihindukula has donated some books to Lake
House as a mark of his appreciation. These books cannot be given outside
but circulated within Lake House. Now Mihindukula is the editor of ‘Rasadhuna’.
He has worked for ‘Sarasaviya’, ‘Dinamina’ and ‘Silumina’. ‘Picture
Pissa’ is a collection of his experiences.
“It is a great thing a very great thing. And it is a good example for
others. Mihindukula is a good writer and a very humble person. The book
is very important,” said Editorial Director Seelaratna Senarath.
I have taken a risk in ‘Cocktail’- Deepika
Diana, Deepika and Saif
Even as Deepika Padukone’s latest film ‘Cocktail’ has garnered
positive reviews for its music and look, the actress says she is not
bothered about box office results.
“This film is very special to me. Personally it has been a journey
for me as an actor as I have invested in this film physically, mentally
and emotionally. I want people to enjoy and feel for the film as I do. I
am not concerned about box office, I don’t care how much money it
earns,” Deepika told reporters regarding the movie which is now
screening at Liberty cinema.
The Homi Adajania-directed romantic comedy ‘Cocktail’ stars Saif Ali
Khan, Deepika Padukone and debutante Diana Penty, besides Dimple Kapadia
and Boman Irani. “For me money does not matter. I want people to enjoy
the film. Critics and people enjoy it, in that case if the film earns
money then its good,” she said.
‘Cocktail’ is a story of three friends: Gautam (Saif), a flirt, Meera
(Diana), a girl with desi values, and Veronica (Deepika) who is a bold
and outspoken. The film is about how the friendship becomes confusing
and love gets complicated. “The film is a journey of three friends of
different personalities and then how love happens is a cocktail,”
Deepika said. Deepika was offered both the roles of Meera and Veronica
but she chose to play the latter. “This role was most challenging as I
have come out of my comfort zone. I have taken a risk. When Dinesh Vijan
(producer) asked me to pick up a role out of the two - Meera or Veronica
I thought I have already done something like Meera in ‘Love Aaj Kal’ so
why to repeat same thing, hence I chose Veronica. To play Meera would be
similar and Veronica is new and challenging,” she said.
Japanese film festival
A Japanese film festival will be held at the E O E Pereira Theatre
(Engineering Faculty) Peradeniya University, on August 17 and 18 to mark
the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Sri
Lanka. It is being jointly organized by the Embassy of Japan and the
Engineering Faculty, Peradeniya University.
The films to be screened at this film festival are:
* August 17 at 6.00 pm - ‘Wanko’ - The story of me, my family and my
* August 18 at 10 am - ‘Fukushima Hula Girls’ - The location of this
film is situated in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and
Tsunami of 2011.
* August 18 at 2.30 pm - ‘Quartet’ - This musical film celebrates the
story of a family reunited by their love for classical music than for
Admission to view these films is free of charge to the general public
and seat allocations will be on a first-come first-served basis.