Let us stay alive for films! | Daily News

Let us stay alive for films!

As far as I know, the American Centre, Alliance Francaise, the ICES, Vibhavi and other cultural institutions in Colombo periodically screen some outstanding American, French and International films for the delight of its view films, books and music.

As far as I know, the American Centre, Alliance Francaise, the ICES, Vibhavi and other cultural institutions in Colombo periodically screen some outstanding American, French and International films for the delight of its viewers.

But most people interested in good cinema miss seeing them due to finding no time to visit these places at appointed times. However, a few regulars do find time to see these films and enjoy seeing them. Sometimes, I see some of these films and enrich myself in knowing something about the cinema.

Please allow me to digress a little. Since the late 1950s, I had been seeing a lot of films - Continental, American and Indian (Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi) and of course Sri Lankan (Sinhala and Tamil).

The Colombo Film Society (the late L. O. de Silva was the livewire of the society), Cinema Sixteen Society (the late Murali Jayadeva - formerly S. Muralitharan - and the late Neil I. Perera were the men behind the society), the Film Critics and Journalists Association (some leading personalities in the art circles were its members), the German Cultural Institute, the embassies of Italy, Sweden, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Iran, India and also other embassies and consulate in Colombo and also Ashley Ratnavibushana’s Film Society - all these have contributed to the understanding and appreciation of film culture in the island.

1990: Film Appreciation Course students and lecturers at Pune, FTTL.

Apart from the legendary Lester James Perries and his spouse Sumithra Perries, there are one or two other filmmakers in Sinhala, who have received international acclaim. So, there is a lively interest in good cinema by discerning Sri Lankans.

Even some politicians like the late T. B. Illangaratna were following a course in film script writing conducted by the then Sri Lanka Film Corporation when moviemaker, D. B. Nihalsinha was at the helm. I too followed this course conducted only in the Sinhala medium though I was not very proficient. It was the enthusiasm that drove me to learn about this visual art.

Let me brag about myself a little: Courtesy, the Indian High Commission in Colombo, I was one of the three Lankan students, in 1990, following a Film Appreciation Course at the famous Pune Film and Television Training Institute of India (FTTI).

There I re-learnt the grammar of Cinema. It was an awesome experience for me. I met some experienced film art lecturers in India and also some intellectuals of that country coming from various parts of the subcontinent. They had primary disciplines as professionals and yet wanted to learn the art and substance of this magic phenomenon called the Cinema.

It was a new world that opened out for me. Watching in full a few and also as clippings many shots in important films, numbering more than 200 gave an insight into discriminating good cinema from the box office movies. These were illustrations beautifully and lucidly explained by P. K. Nair, Chabla and Bahadur and other academics and filmologists and filmmakers themselves.

Upon my return to Sri Lanka after weeks of intensive learning, I began to view films from a different angle. Now, I became a little familiar with the technical aspects of film and filmmaking and the structure, texture and treatment of themes in films.

Earlier I used to review Tamil films for the Ceylon Observer when one of the best Asian journalists, Denzil Pieris was its editor. I was also reviewing all language films for the Tamil Service of the then Radio Ceylon, along with Muralitharan.

I used to write film columns and articles on South Indian playback singers in the now-defunct Cinefilms, published by Cinema’s Limited (its editors were A. R. Asirwatham and M. D. Jesuratnam, who later became judges) and Ceylon Cinema edited by K. Yogarajah.

These fortnightlies were published in English in the late 1950s. I also wrote about Tamil film music, musicians and music directors in Tamil in the Virakesari and the Thinakaran. I also wrote to Tamil Cinema, a critical film fortnightly in Tamil published in Chennai, edited by A. Careem, a vituperative critic of cheap Tamil films of yesteryears.

The re-education at Pune, changed my methods of understanding and reviewing films. At the end of the course at the Film and Television Training Institute in the salubrious Pune in Maharashtra state in India, I was asked to make the valedictory speech on behalf of all participants which numbered more than sixty.

I did that and the following day the Times of India (Mumbai edition) flashed it with the photograph that a Sri Lankan was a participant in the course generally reserved for Indian students. I was happy on behalf of my country.

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