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 Post subject: "Sulang Kirilli" (Wind Bird)
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 7:19 pm 
International award winning film director speaks out
Sathyangani of "Wind bird's" fame claims wings clipped for second flight

By: Charnika Munasinghe
@ WS / 28Jan2006

Rathie; a young village girl working in a garment factory in the city, falls in love with a soldier. He visits her while he's on leave from fighting the Tamil Tigers, finds out she is pregnant. His reaction is not good. Things get worse when she finds he is actually married. He is adamant - she must get rid of the baby. But abortion is illegal in Sri Lanka, yet she cannot bear bringing an illegitimate child into the world. Rathie becomes a victims of a social catastrophe, in a country where the civil society decries ILLEGITIMATES and the criminal law prohibits ABORATIONS. What will she do?

There was much jubilation and euphoria when local film maker Inoka Sathyangani's maiden film "Sulang Kirilli", "Wind Bird" won a string of 10 awards in the international film circuit and as much as 25 awards in three national film awards ceremonies.

'Sky is the limit for "Wind Bird", 'Inoka's maiden film flies high', 'Sulang Kirilli soars high', 'the 'wind' beneath her wings', 'Inoka's film receives highest number of awards won by a single film in the history of Sri Lanka's film industry'. These were just some of the banner headlines that screamed in all the newspapers in the country. This was way back in 2003 when the film was released. That is nearly three years ago!


Three years is indeed a long time especially when it is counted as the time frame in which a talented film maker of the calibre of Inoka Sathyangani has had to just languish in the dark. But this indeed was the sad fact we were told when we visited this talented film Director, to find out why she has been so quiet ever since her debut.

"I will always be grateful to Mr. Tissa Abeysekera a former Chairman of the NFC who initiated my film project, and also the Chairman at the time my film won the awards, Jayantha Dharmadasa and the then NFC's film coordinator, Nadeeka Gunasekera.

Similarly the former NFC Chairman Sunil S. Sirisena had agreed to give all the assistance and fund half the cost of my second film, and assistance for the other half of the cost was to be borne by Film Locations Services Managing Director Asoka Perera. However with the change of government the Chairmanship changed and the present Chairman has refused to go along with the earlier plans and thus due to funding problems the film is yet to see the light of day." she explained.


"It is disappointing that the National Film Corporation turns a blind eye to our plight'. It is not only my second film that got this response, the Cannes Award winner Vimukthi is also a victim of this situation and there are many others. With the Chairmanship of the NFC changing all the time, what one Chairman proposes the other disposes. Due to this it is not only the film directors who are badly affected, the actresses and actors are affected and thus the film industry as a whole is eventually affected' she complains.

Having received her education at Sujatha Vidyalaye and later at Visakha Vidyalaye, Inoka was selected to the Colombo campus for LLB studies. "I dropped off in the final year. I was not that enthusiastic to do law. My father was a lawyer and so is my brother. It was not a challenge for me. The creative side in me took over and I wanted to be a film director.

Being creative had not been a sudden discovery for Inoka as she says 'From my small days I used to write poems and organize dramas in school for the class with friends. In this area I won all the house competitions held.

I knew that I had a knack for directing plays so I joined Telecine and worked for D.B. Nihalsinghe, and D.B. Suranimala as a trainee Production Director. Thereafter I joined Teleview as a free lance TV Director. It is at Teleview I did the first teledrama 'Nidi Nathi Rayak Sihineyak' and thereafter I directed three more tele-dramas.

It was after that Inoka decided to embark on a film. Inoka's award winning maiden film focuses on humanity, an issue common to the whole world. It talks about a controversial subject- abortion. "But it also focuses on issues twinned with abortion-illegitimate children in society' says Inoka.

She says with a topic so far not touched upon in Sri Lanka, the film itself dwells on social and aesthetic planes. The film depicts the dilemma of a young couple who become victims of ignorance while trying to enjoy their youthful life. The film is set in the free trade zone and based on a true incident that took place several years ago.

'It was with the help of the National its’ film Corporation under 100% loan scheme I was able to make my maiden film 'Sulang Kirilli' a reality. Today you need at least Rs. 10 million rupees to do a proper film’ she says.

'But today we have absolutely no support from the National Film Corporation she laments. There are so many who are faced with the same plight. It is their duty to take some interest, there should be a vision or a long term plan to improve the situation, but the National Film Corporation has not done anything. It is time that they do something for talented film makers. Today there are so many who have shown talent in the international scene. The corporation must know to get the best from them.' she emphasizes.

'I consider this a crisis in the film Industry. No one is willing to finance a film these days and the authorities who are in this field should do something about it.

'Now look at the talented actresses like Damitha Abeyratne' she points out. 'She won 2 international awards for her first maiden film, that is two years ago. Since then she has not had any films. This is a real pity. Another international award winning actress is Anoma Janedari. She has not acted in any film for the last 4 years' reveals Inoka.

This is most unfortunate. We are producing 10 to 12 films a year, mostly commercial films and 3 or 4 artistic films, this is not enough to show the talents of a host of actors and actresses out there.'

‘I chose Damitha Abeyratne, who had never acted in a film because I needed the star to submerge and the character to emerge. This happened and she won the best actress award,' she says with a smile.

'With the doors opening for the international festivals, Sri Lankan films have gained more worldwide recognition. This amply demonstrates the talent and creativity of our film makers. Therefore they should be given further assistance and incentives, the NFC should understand this' she stresses.

While hunting for funds from other sources for her second film which is at a standstill due to the funding issue alone, Inoka has diverted her time and talents to the advertising world and is involved in script writing, producing documentaries and TV commercials for various private companies. 'That is how I earn a living' she laughs.

But earning a living while her second film is on hold did not leave Inoka altogether out of the spotlight. Recently she was dragged into being involved with a controversial political advertisement in which she was accused of having used a child without the consent of the child's mother. This was during the run up to the presidential election. What was all that about? I asked her.

‘I take on work from a number of Advertising agencies to produce their commercials. I do not pick and choose the jobs I undertake as I cannot afford to. This is my only source of living now. I am not politically affiliated to any party. All my work which I have initiated has always surrounded on social problems. My own work have had no political undertones. In this instance I was just doing my job to produce a commercial that was required by this reputed Advertising company for whom I had undertaken work before.’

'The allegations levelled at me were false, the court gave a verdict that there was insufficient evidence. I was only working as a professional producer of a commercial given to me to produce. So that ended there" she adds.

‘Presently I have undertaken to do a profile for the Uni-Lever company from the Ogilvy Outreach advertising company.’

Bollywood blockbusters have a big following here. What do you have to say to that?

"Though our film industry is 57 years old, we do not have a good film culture in Sri Lanka.’ She is saddened that there isn’t much interest in home-grown films in Sri Lanka.

Still, this director refuses to be discouraged. ‘It is not just the audience response’ she says. ‘It is not a question of understanding subject matter, she says. The main reason is the picture quality is not good. So it is quite obvious for them to go to see a low-budget, unprofessional movie.'

Until there is proper funding for Sri Lankan Cinema, Inoka says, people will keep demanding Bollywood, with its all singing, all dancing story lines and saccharine romances, rather than the harder-edge films she and her peers are struggling to produce.

The creative artiste should go beyond the confines of a straight narrative and the demands of entertainment. The film maker should lead the audience from entertainment to intellectual discourse' she maintains.

We all know what a lot of fame 'Sulang Kirilli brought not only for Inoka but to our country in the world of films.

'I still have hope and I have not given up. As Films are my first love and I will do my best in this field for as long as I can.' She says with much determination

Having grabbed 10 international awards and 25 national awards in the film festivals for her maiden effort, it brought glory to our isle. It is shocking that her achievement which was considered a national achievement has had to suffer in the hands of the local film corporation which has not given any help to get her second film off the ground for which would perhaps be her next international award winning film.

What has to be remembered is that attaining such a feat as what Inoka achieved and what she could achieve in the future is not only for her alone but for the country as a whole and a great opportunity where we can claim a bigger stake in the wider film world for little Sri Lanka.

Inoka Sathyangani has been described by PK Balachandran in the Hindustan Times, as the latest torchbearer of Sri Lankan Cinema, fathered by Lester James Peris, the Sathyajith Ray of Sri Lanka, If we are to go by what this torchbearer for Sri Lanka's Cinema has to say then we have yet again missed a golden opportunity for this paradise isle.

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