Weragama version of local cinema | Daily News


Weragama version of local cinema

Once we had a flourishing cinema industry in which all stakeholders benefited. The boost to the Sinhala film industry that was triggered in the late 1960s had its peak time in the 1970s decade.

In the 70s decade, the local film industry was in full swing paving the way for screenplay writers, directors, cinematographers, editors, actors to showcase their talents with innovations.

Even a commercial stream film like ‘Onna Babo Billo Enawa’ made in this period kept the cinemagoer at the edge of his seat with different presentation style. The film had a character of a genie that comes out from a trophy won at a singing contest by Gamini Fonseka. (At the time, local filmgoers called gimmicks shown on screen, ‘camera tricks’)

Collaborations too happened in this era. When Manik Sandrasagara collaborated with India to make ‘Seetha Devi’, Chandran Rutnam paved way for world-renowned filmmaker Steven Spielberg to shoot ‘Temple of Doom’ in Sri Lanka.

This era also brought to fore resourceful film critics. These critics basically made people read their film reviews before seeing a particular movie. They added immense value in the process to the local cinema by functioning as communicators between filmmakers and filmgoers.

Gamini Weragama as a film critic and an author on cinema literature was at the forefront, adding value to the local cinema. He took the baton from his predecessors to write constructive film reviews without being biased.

Going beyond review writing, Gamini Weragama wrote ‘Deshiya Cinema Wanshaya’ (Genealogy of local cinema) which was focused on the development and evolution of local cinema between the initial decades.

The second volume in the series, that focuses on the historical development in local cinema from 1970 to 1979 which was called the golden era of Sinhala cinema was launched at the national film corporation.

The social, cultural evolution in the 70s decade and also political and economic contexts prevailed that had an impact on local cinema is discussed comprehensively in the book.

This special volume while talking about 215 local films screened in the period also sheds light on relative art forms that rubbed shoulders with cinema at the time.

‘Deshiya Cinema Wanshaya (volume 2) is published by Sarasavi Publishers.

Speaking at the occasion poet/author Buddhadasa Galappaththi said cinema of the 70s decade was developed based on the late 60s decade cinema. He said critics like Jayawilal Wilegoda, Arthur U Amarasena, Karunasena Jayaltha and Reggie Siriwardene set a standard for budding film critics to follow.

Sanath Gunatilleke said as an industry local cinema currently is lagging thus the need for an effective action plan to revive cinema is crucial. He stressed the need to design solutions to suit the present social, economic and political context in the world.

He talked about the pros and cons concerning actions taken by the national film corporation from 1972.

Senior film journalist and ‘Sarasaviya’ film tabloid editor Aruna Gunaratne said, Gamini Weragama has written volumes on cinema and the first volume of ‘Deshiya Cinema Wanshaya’ launched in 2014 covered 70 years of local cinema.

He said insurgency that erupted in 1971, Ceylon becoming a Unitary state in 1972 and forming National film corporation in the same year, signs of looming terrorism in the north in 1975, introduction of the open economy system to the country in 1977 and forming the fifth circuit to screen arthouse films in 1978 had an impact on local cinema between the period of 1970 to 1979.

Dr Ravindra Randeniya and Jayantha Chandrasiri too expressed thoughts.

Jayantha Chandrasiri said film critics in the good old days kindled a constructive dialogue between the masses and filmmakers on cinema with their works and made a platform for film directors to innovate cinematic creations.

Tissa Nagodawithana added immense value to the event by screening clips of 70s decade films starring Gamini, Fonseka, Vijaya Kumaratunga, Joe Abeywickrama, Roy de Silva and Tissa Wijesurendra, taking the audience down the memory lane. 

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