Clash of the masters | Daily News

Clash of the masters

Joe Abeywickrama as Gorin Mudalali
Joe Abeywickrama as Gorin Mudalali

Welikathara is not just a motion picture but a milestone in Sinhala cinema. Local film veterans; Tissa Abeysekera, Dr D B Nihalsinghe, Dr Gamini Fonseka and Joe Abeywickrama got together decades back to create a masterpiece that could be kept on par with any eastern or western movie.

The cinema subsequent to having undergone a restoration process under the guidance of its director late Dr D B Nihalsinghe is now being screened in the CEL film circuit including Regal and Lido.

Digitally restored

As a stop-gap release, most of the cinema halls screen Welikathara at 4.15pm.

The digitally restored movie is good as new and this monument of a film should not be missed by the young and the old.

The gray-market or the ageing population of filmgoers who enjoyed Welikathara in their youth now bear the responsibility of taking their sons, daughters, nephews and nieces to see the film before it’s too late.

Welikathara made history as the very first Cinemascope film in South Asia. Although shooting of ‘Paakeeza’ which was India’s first Cinemascope film commenced earlier, Welikathara was screened first in 1970.

In the film, Gamini Fonseka plays the character of ASP Wickrama Randeniya whose attractive young wife (played by Suwinitha Weerasinghe) gets abducted by the ASP’s arch-rival, the underworld king Gorin Mudalali (Joe Abeywickrama) who seeks for vengeance over an old dispute.

Suwinitha Weerasinghe maintains continuity in her character so well to project a high society lady and a wife of a police officer who is torn between two cold-blooded rivals.

With a youthful Gamini Fonseka playing his usual macho character in the film Joe Abeywickrama brought in a highly credible performance as his enemy to rub shoulders with Gamini.

Hollywood level performance

Joe’s performance in the film was unique and was something that has never been seen before by local filmgoers.

He presented a Hollywood level performance. Joe was confined to comic roles earlier and Welikathara was his major breakthrough to become a character actor.

Speaking to the Daily News some years back on his character in the film Joe Abeywickrama said, “I was in the danger-zone being confined to the comic actor category.

When Tissa Abeysekara showed me the Welikathara script, I knew portraying Gorin Mudalali’s character in the film would bring me to the next level as a versatile actor. The undying ‘Cowboy’ within me provided much inspiration to take up the role”.

There was some controversy over the screenplay of Welikathara. Some scholars opined the screenplay was changed while shooting of the film was in progress. Joe had this to say about the whole drama.

“At one point it seemed like Gamini and I did turn into the real ASP Wickrama Randeniya and Gorin Mudalali. However while shooting the final and climaxing scenes, the unexpected happened. I noticed that the end scenes in the script had been changed.”

Joe further went on to say, “When I queried about this I was informed, Gorin Mudalali was made to run in the final gun battle with the ASP merely to keep the police department and the public sensor board officials at bay”.

In the original script, Gorin Mudalali dies in a face-to-face gun battle with the police battalion. It was supposed to be an ‘eye for an eye’ situation, leading to a stupefying end.

Dr D B Nihalsinghe in a subsequent interview with the Daily News countered Joe Abeywickrama’s views by saying, “I stuck to the original script while directing Welikathara. Only Joe’s (Gorin Mudalali) retreating scene was shot with some emphasis as a sole decision made by me. No one influenced me to manipulate with Welikathara script.”

Gamini Fonseka and Suwinitha Weerasinghe


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