Sri Lankan filmmaker, Prasanna Vithanage was in Assam recently to receive the third Biswaratna Dr Bhupen Hazarika International Solidarity Award at a function organised by the Asom Sahitya Sabha. Launched in 2013 by Assam’s leading literary forum, the first award went to Bangladeshi dance exponent, Lubna Marium and the second to Malayalam filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan.
In an interaction with local scribes, the 50-something film director paid tributes to the works of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Guru Dutt, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Jahnu Barua along with Bhupen Hazarika. According to Prasanna, the simplicity conveyed with creative ardours by these filmmakers inspired him to try his hands at filmmaking. Born at Panadura, on the outskirt of Colombo in 1962, Prasanna started working in theatre and soon emerged as a sensitive visual translator of inner conflicts carried by ordinary people along with their journey for individual freedom. He has received applause from the international audience for Sisila Gini Gani (Ice of Fire), Anantha Rathriya (The Dark Night of Soul), Akasa Kusum (Flowers of the Sky), Pura Handa Kaluwara (The Death on a Full Moon Day), Ira Madiyama (August Sun), Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You) and Usawiya Nihandai (Silence in the Courts) among others.
Prasanna, whose movies have been screened in various international film festivals, expressed his concern over the crisis faced by small-time filmmakers in different parts of the globe, but is optimistic over digital screening of quality films for the benefit of filmgoers. He argued that the screening of regional movies (inclusive of Sinhalese films) with multiple subtitles, through various alternate media outlets, would help the industry to survive for a better future. Even though Bollywood movies enjoy important market shares in Sri Lanka, Prasanna asserted that there were still sizable serious filmgoers in his country who support alternate filmmaking.
Talking about the strong presence of female characters in his movies, the director revealed that it was because of his mother’s influence on him. He termed his mother as a strong individual and admitted that her influence has remained a real strength for him in all the time of crisis.
He appreciated the national spirit of India, which is somehow missing in his island nation. Unlike Indians, who are diverged but united in oneness, the Lankans are yet to nurture the spirit of nationalism, Prasanna stated. He admitted that Lankan society remains ethnically divided even after the end of the gory Tamil uprising in northern parts of the country. He also revealed that unlike India, there was no such freedom movement against the British colonial rule in Sri Lanka.
The writer is the statesmans guwahati-based special representative