by Nava Thakuria
(April 15, 2017, Guwahati, Sri Lanka Guardian) He came to Assam in the time of Rongali Bihu to accept an international award in memory of Bhupen-da from Asom Sahitya Sabha (ASS). Acclaimed Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage, while receiving the third Biswaratna Dr Bhupen Hazarika International Solidarity Award on 10 April 2017 in Guwahati echoed the gesture with the greetings of spring festival celebrated in his island nation on the same occasion.
The award, launched in 2013 by Assam’s highest literary forum ASS with supports from Numaligarh Refinery Limited to commemorate Bhupen-da as
an international icon, was first offered to Bangladeshi scholar & dance exponent Lubna Marium and the second award was conferred on
eminent Malayalam filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Presented biannually, the award carries a trophy, a citation, cash price and
other traditional gift items.
In his acceptance speech, the fifty crossed film director echoed similar concerns of regional film makers in India for their survival.
Prasanna, whose movies have been screened in various international film festivals, however, pointed out that there are still sizable
serious film-goers in his country who support alternate filmmaking. But he agreed that Bollywood movies enjoy important market shares in
He also paid tributes to Indian film makers namely Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Guru Dutt, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Jahnu Barua etc along
with Bhupen Hazarika. According to Prasanna, the simplicity conveyed with creative ardors by the filmmakers inspired him to try his hands
with the art of filmmaking. He specially mentioned Jahnu’s award winning Assamese movie ‘Halodhiya Choraye Baodhan Khay’ (The
Catastrophe) that influenced his creative journey to a great extent. Born at Panadura, an outskirt locality of Colombo in 1962, Prasanna
started working on theatres 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 applauses from 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), ‘Usawiya Nihandai’ (Silence in the Courts) etc.
The feature film titled ‘With You, Without You’ is the third part of a war trilogy after ‘The Death on a Full Moon Day’ and ‘August Sun’,
deals with the human cost of Colombo’s three decade long war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). For some time,
it was even banned from public screenings in Sri Lanka.
Next day, Prasanna attended in an interactive session titled Guest of the Month at Guwahati Press Club with the local scribes. He had bared
his hearts to the participants expressing his concern to the crisis of small time film makers based in different parts of the globe, but
also conveyed optimism over digital screening of quality films for the benefit of film appreciators.
The Sinhalese director stated that the present scenario of Sri Lankan film industry is bleak, but the new technology can be used for its
sustained growth. He argued that the screening of regional movies (inclusive of Sinhalese films) with multiple sub-titles through
various alternate media outlets would help the industry to survive for a better future.
Talking about the strong presence of female characters in his movies, the energetic director revealed that it is because of his mother’s
influence over him. Prasanna termed his mother as a strong individual and admitted that her influence remains a real strength for him in all
the time of crisis. For him a mother is always an unparalleled symbol of love, affection, care and simplicity.
Prasanna also made an interesting revelation that unlike Indians, who are diverged but united in oneness, the Lankans are yet to nurture the
spirit of nationalism. He admitted that the Lankan society remains ethnically divided even after the end of Tamil uprising turned into
terrorism in northern part of the country.
He also disclosed that there was no such freedom movement against the British colonial rule in Sri Lanka, unlike India, where millions of
patriotic people sacrificed for their independence. As the British authority was forced to leave India, the Lankan people got the benefit
of circumstance and subsequently the island nation emerged as a sovereign country.
The writer is a northeast India based journalist and Secretary of Guwahati Press Club