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Monday, 18 February 2013

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Of Dhammi after Sugath

When Karunasena Jayalath wrote the lyrics of the song, Aadarei Mama Aaderei…Dhammi Thawamath Aadarei (sung by Sisira Senarathne and Indrani Wijebandara), there had been no plans to make the film Golu Hadawatha.


Anula as Dhammi with Wickrama Bogoda as Sugath in Golu Hadawatha

Jayalath wrote the lyrics to be in line with the same theme of his novel, Golu Hadawatha .

Sugath (Wickrama Bogoda) and Karunasena Jayalath are no more. Anula Karunatilleke who induced life to Jayalath’s ‘Dhammi’ in Dr Lester Peries’s masterpiece Golu Hadawatha , now lives a quiet life away from the entire hassle dazzle in the metro.

It seems like Dhammi’s charming and tender smile has chosen to stay with Anula, for a lifetime. A faint image of a brimming and youthful Dhammi appears before us. The one who gave life to the most quixotic lover in the recent history of Sinhala cinema is now ready to go down the memory lane and recall incidents which took place 46 years back, associated with Golu Hadawatha .

Song and film

The song Aadarei Mama Aaderei…Dhammi Thawamath Aadarei was broadcasted over radio frequently before the film was released. It became very popular among the listeners as a very romantic song.

“Jayalath had requested Dr Peries to include it in the film, although the latter had been reluctant to include a song in his film," Anula recalls with a smile.

“When the film was being shot, there was a New Year celebration in Jayalath's home town. We witnessed Sisira and Indrani singing this song at this venue,” she says.

Jayalath had first seen Anula at the Lumbini theatre. His cousin sister had shown Anula to him and said, 'Look aiya, your Dhammi is right in front of us.' I was 18 then. Jayalath did not speak to me on that day,”says Anula.

Dr Peries had been doing Delowak Athara at the time and Anula was casted in the film. Eventually on realizing Anula’s tender looks does not go with the character, Peries had come to Anula’s residence to tell her that the character in the film will be given to Suvineetha Kongahage.


Anula Karunatilleke. Picture by Ranjith Asanka

Lester had also hinted that he is reading a book during that time although he had told Anula to keep the advance payment for her character in Delowak Athara .

Recasting Anula’s character in Delowak Athara had raised a hornet’s nest in the circles. Daya Ranaweera the seasoned photo-journalist who was Anula’s husband, had been under severe pressure.

Then Peries had broken the news that Anula had been chosen for the main character in his next film Golu Hadawatha . Many auditions had taken place by that time to select actors for the two characters, Sugath and Dhammi. Sudesh Guneratne, Vijaya Kumaratunga and Buddhadasa Withanarachchi, had been some of the actors who had come for the auditions.

“Amid all the controversy, Wickrama Bogoda became Dr Peries’s Sugath and I became his Dhammi,” says Anula. Shooting began in 1967. Anula was 21 then. Wickrama Bogoda had been an actor groomed from Sugathapala Silva’s stage drama clan Apae Kattiya . He had been very popular in the drama sphere at the time and had acted in dramas such as Boarding Kaarayo, Thattu Gewal and Ran Thodu .

In 1962, Anula had acted in Dr Peries’ Gam Peraliya . In 1963 she had become the best stage drama actress at the State drama festival for her performance in Ran Thodu while Tony Ranasinghe became the best actor.

Golu Hadawatha shooting

Most of the shooting had been done in Pannipitiya Dharmapala College. Some of Anula’s fans had written to her saying that they hated her for the character she played in the film.

In the film, Dhammi a somewhat mischievous girl, drags Sugath into a love affair and eventually dumps him due to unavoidable circumstances. Sugath becomes a loner, a man without love.

Premasiri Khemadasa’s music provided much boost for the characters played by Anula and Bogoda. The very first comment for Anula’s acting in the film had come from Khemadasa. He had come to her and said, “Anula, I lost control of myself by looking at you playing the character of Dhammi. This film will take you to unexpected heights.” “I had a very cordial relationship with Jayalath more than with Dr Peries and Bogoda while doing the film. I even told Jayalath that filmgoers will hate me for this character. Then he told me, 'You wait and see Anula. People are going to love you forever when the film is released’," recalls Anula.

“What Jayalath told that day, has now become a reality. When my telephone number appeared in a film magazine very recently, telephone calls were pouring in. My fans from all over the world were calling me. They told me when the film was released many decades back that they were not able to meet me or contact me. What they said was true. Those days we used to get bundles of letters from our fans and that was the only communication between us. They could have a glimpse of us only at a film festival,” she notes.

Memories of Bogoda

According to Anula acting is a meditation. One should ‘live’ in the character to give life and add credibility to the character. She says, Wickrama Bogoda is such an actor. She strongly feels, they both have given their maximum to the roles.

“Even if I become young again, I will not be able to perform that character so well," she revealed.

“Wickrama and I used to byheart our dialogues and Dr Peries gave us a free hand to perform the characters. He used to watch me very closely when I interacted with friends and other people outside the sets. He subtly gets those gestures of mine to the celluloid when shooting begins. One such thing was playing Athuru Mithuru in the class room. Jayalath was always near me and like a little child, he got close to us. A real experience in life had swayed Jayalath to write ‘Golu Hadawatha’. He shared those experiences with me to induce in me the real temperament of Dhammi”, says Anula.

Bogoda too was a seeker of true love. He was a real gentleman and a very sensitive person. I admitted to him once that if I met Sugath in real life, I would have definitely run away with him but if you were Sugath, I would never marry you,” she revealed with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Bogoda had loved people although he didn’t love himself. In the latter stage of his life, he had distanced himself from the society.

Time is barrier

Anula came to the fore once again after a long lapse, in the tele-drama Amba Yahaluwo . She has completed 50 years in the sphere and now prefers to live a quiet life.

Her late husband Daya Ranaweera is remembered by Anula with deep gratitude. Her second son Binara is looking after the mother at their ancestral home in Matara. “The music in some scenes of Golu Hadawatha still echo in my mind. Sometimes I still dream of my school days,”says Anula.

Yes, ‘time’ is a relative factor as Einstein said. Also, time is no barrier for an artiste who had carved a niche in the minds of people. The emotional interaction between such artistes and their fans break all barriers.

Golu Hadawatha, the novel and the film brought the basic feelings of lovers to the fore. These true emotions will not fade away with time. They will stay with sensitive people forever.

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Documentaries are forever

Professor Ariyarathna Athugala and Ashley Ratnavibhushana recently joined hands to convene a press conference on the burning issue of the future of documentaries in Sri Lanka.

“There is a need to revive the Fine Arts scene in this country. There is need for an intervention. The Government Information Department has its roots in the Government Film Unit (GFU). The documentary and feature films have its foundation there. We feel that the GFU is responsible for strengthening the film fraternity and its duty is to make the world aware of Sri Lankan Cinema. Documentary films have played a vital role throughout the world creating awareness of various cultures and societies. Reality shows and the Discovery Channel has been generated by this type of film. These documentaries and short films have a special significance to the youth. Exposure to documentaries and short films is important before engaging in big film productions,” said Professor Athugala.


A scene from one of the documentaries

With the emergence of Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) as a fully independent democratic State in 1948, the existence of a well informed, enlightened public opinion became a vital necessity. It became essential for the government to keep the masses informed of the development schemes that had been launched and also to instruct and educate the people on various aspects of life in a democratic state. The need for an organization to achieve this goal was soon realized and the GFU was set up in September, 1948 in response to this need.

“During this period two Italians were here with the aim of working in a Sinhalese film. When they arrived here the film production company was closed and finally the government came to know about these two persons and assigned them to set up the GFU since we didn’t have technical personnel necessitated. Initially it was a small unit, and it was housed in a room let by the Department of Irrigation in Jawatte Road, Colombo. Two Italians: Gulio Petroni and Federico Serra, functioned as film director and technician. They rendered an indelible service to Sri Lanka. The first newsreel they shot was the First Anniversary of the Independence Celebrations held in February 4, 1949,” said Ratnavibhushana

During Petroni’s stay of about three years, he made several short news films and two documentaries: Hill Capital and New Horizons . Hill Capital (24 mts) was a documentary film on the picturesque and historical city of Kandy. New Horizons (45 mts) dealt with the land reclamation and colonization schemes of the government. These two documentary films influenced several local filmmakers to join GFU. By the middle of 1949, the GFU was fairly well established in its new premises - an ex-British Armed Services cinema, situated in a large coconut estate called “Velona Estate” in Moratuwa.

Later Italian technician George Calabria, British editor George Sturt, British documentary filmmaker Ralph Keene, Spanish cinematographer Bob Navaro joined GFU. Like Gulio Petroni and Federico Serra they too rendered a great service to Sri Lanka. From the Sri Lankan side George Wickramasinghe, Pragnasoma Hettiarachchi, Erwin Dasanayake, Abeykoon Seneviratne, Lester James Peries joined GFU as directors.

The renowned German director Paul Zils joined the GFU during 1968-69. In 1970s D.B. Nihalsinghe, Tissa Abeysekara, Tissa Liyanasooriya, Ranjit Lal, Sugatapala Senarath Yapa also joined GFU and made several documentary and news films. The films produced by GFU have won numerous awards at prestigious international film festivals such as Venice, Berlin, Leipzig, Salerno and Karlovy Vary.

“The festival of outstanding documentary and news reels produced by GFU is scheduled to be held at the new auditorium of the Department of Information from February 20 to 23. Screenings commence at 4 pm. It provides a unique opportunity to the public to seen these documentary and news films produced by GFU in the early period,” said Ratnavibhushana

A Sinhala book published by the GFU titled Pratibehedekma (Reminiscences) covering the complete history of the GFU will be launched at the inauguration of the festival.

The Festival of Classic Documentaries and Newsreels produced by the GFU will be opened by Mass Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella.


 

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