Words wide read | Daily News


Words wide read

Jayantha Chandrasiri’s contributions to the motion picture, among them Agnidahaya and the recently screened Gharasarapa, have been heralded as antidotes to the beige-layered pseudo modernity. He roams through philosophy, history, politics and most interestingly cultural rituals. And that seems alive to the modern audience.

A wordsmith and a filmmaker fused into one, Chandrasiri never seems tired of defending his cultural inference on the widescreen. He enjoys filmmaking and writing the novel simultaneously. Maharaja Gemunu, one classic example, offered a rich experience in novel and film as two spheres.

Kala Keerthi, a national honour, was recently conferred upon Jayantha Chandrasiri by President Maithripala Sirisena for the veteran filmmaker’s contribution to the country’s art scene.

“I see the relationship between cinema and literature as a kind of deep-down blood relationship. If not for literature, cinema would have definitely been loafing though it had theatrical elements. Plus, the people were not ready to accept cinema as an art at the outset. I do not think the mechanical and technological nature is to be blamed.”

To support his theory, Chandrasiri recalls François-Marie Arouet aka Voltaire who said that no artwork could be considered a proper artwork if it cannot generate positive emotions on the connoisseur.

“I think Tolstoy had the same opinions. Of course, they levelled their opinions based on the literature that existed during their time and not cinema. The problem is that cinema was not accepted as art at first. This was the case until the filmmakers such as David Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein entered the industry.”

However, Chandrasiri adds, cinema established itself as a medium that reached out to the connoisseurs at a faster pace than literature or theatre. This was a phenomenon that the artistes never envisioned.

“If we observe closely as to what led to such a phenomenon, the picture is clear. It is literature that made it possible. The majority of the filmgoers are not readers of literature. But the majority of the authors in the cinema – say filmmakers and others – happened to be avid or prolific readers. That’s why we great works such as War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Tales of Two Cities, Crime and Punishment, Wuthering Heights and Doctor Zhivago enter the widescreen.”

Chandrasiri’s argument is clear. He observes a wonder and a marvel in the literary thought. The cinema visual is light years beyond the language based on mere letters. But what we must not forget is what caused such a speedy journey. Extraordinary writing makes up the flesh of the cinema visual which reaches culmination through a screenplay.

“If the screenplay could be considered literature is another argument. We have been on it for years, if not decades. I firmly believe it is certainly literature. You can never write a good screenplay without a proper understanding of literature. A good literary understanding is a vital force when you finish a proper script.”

France, Italy and the United States have witnessed how the cinema rose against literature. But that was a long time back. Such uprisings have been long since forgotten. The cinema’s battle against literature is not even studied now.

“Psychoanalytical films are a quite popular genre in the cinema today. There are many genres. But it is the script that is given prominence the most. Having said that, just because you finish a screenplay I don’t think the production is complete 99 per cent. I always believe and act on the belief that my screenplay grows up during the directorial process in a conversation with myself.”

In most of his works, Chandrasiri toys with folk psychology. It seems his familiar turf.

“I am not sure if folk psychology is a clear-cut branch of western psychology. Western psychology has a past, but not a history long enough. Folk psychology has a long history brimming with experiences.”

Most countries in the east – ours included – mythology factors are related to observations and examinations, not necessarily empirical perspectives. They remain at times as strong catharsis and sometimes psycho-analyses. Chandrasiri believes that rituals could be read from many perspectives. One can stay glued to it. If required, another can make use of it to generate a reality based on its essence.

“That matters to me in folklore. I treat rituals as a certain knowledge system. If you start reading between the lines, you will find amazing stuff in that knowledge system. On the other hand, I treat it as a repository of creative ingredients. But unfortunately, Sinhala cinema has become a highly imitative, useless and sentimental place. It is full of such creators as well as critics. On the surface, it is like a voter market.”

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