Saturday Magazine

Film Review
Hiripoda Wessa
By C. A. Lenin Divakara

Classification of films`A0as artistic and commercial, I believe is arbitrary and unrealistic, in that many an artistic film is a box-office hit whereas so-called commercial ones have become flops at the box-office. This classification of South Asian critics cannot be justified on the grounds that some so- called commercial films can be appreciated for their qualities of artistry and thematic value hidden behind the glamour of the matinee idols.

The entertaining films are a cinematic genre whose diversity has enriched world cinema: the romances, musicals, comedies, thrillers, detectives and horror films and of course Westerns. Hence they should each be evaluated with a different criterion.

Many an entertaining film has serious themes and are artistic in their cinematic treatment. Popular musicals such as Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Liberation, an epic on war, and Shane, a Western, are a few of the award winning films that defy categorization since their artistry and humanist themes have earned them fame as masterpieces. At the other end of the spectrum, are films like Bicycle Thief, Pather Panchali, Battleship Potemkin, which use the cinematic medium appealing to the emotion and the intellect, sometimes demanding an effort on the past of the viewer.

In this backdrop, Udayakantha Warnasuriya’s Hiripoda Wessa defies categorisation. It is a quality entertaining film with artistic worth. However it cannot claim immunity from criticism since the director has chosen a theme, any distortion of which is also a distortion of reality.

The sub-culture of modern youth is the favourite theme of many a filmmaker the worldover. They entertain the youth as well as the adult, some purely entertaining with music, dance, glorification of glamorous lifestyles, racy dialogue, humour, and of course, sexuality bordering on soft porn. In this backdrop, Warnasuriya can be credited with providing healthy entertainment without insulting their intelligence and without corrupting youth.

In this context, Warnasuriya’s choice of the life of today’s Sri Lanka urban youth as the theme of his latest film, Hiripoda Wessa, has offered him opportunities to exploit the playful nature of youth, the challenges they are confronted with, their dreams, fulfilled or shattered, with the result that the viewer is rewarded with refreshing and heart-warming experience.

The absence of a straight forward narrative is amply compensated for by the dramatization of the contemporary lives of the youth. The narrative concerns five characters, three figuring prominently: Prageeth, a frustrated youth from a wealthy family, Sithum, a son of a government servant and Ramith, a middle class youth. Thanks to the creative screenplay the series of incidents involving each character is presented in a way that increases the credibility of certain episodes and scenes.`A0

Since the filmmaker is an adult, who should grope for what is hidden behind the acts of teenagers, even the stupidest acts of youth should be imbibed with meaning. In other words, he/she should not use entertainment to hide reality, personal or social.

Warnasuriya views a segment of modern Sri Lankan urban youth, with heart-felt sympathy and tries to capture the beauty of youth in general.

The characters in Hiripoda Wessa are at the threshold of adulthood and are indecisive and irresponsible in facing the challenges of life. Unfortunately, Warnasuriya seems to deliberately evade the opportunities to explore the inner worlds of the characters. Parents’ opposition to love affairs on grounds of social and economic status is a challenge faced by youth in a class society. This episode is not delved into deeply by the director, thus evading an opportunity to explore social realities, which stand in the way of the realisation of youthful dreams and the fulfillment of their aspirations.

Bathiya Santhush’s theme song beautifully expresses the youthful vibrancy with the matching melody and lyrics. Jayanath Gunawardena’s creative skills, in pictorial expression have been an asset to the film. The natural scenery and the mist and rain are eloquent expressions of the different moods. As for the cast Jayantha Amarasinghe (Ramith), Harshani Perera (Biology teacher), Chathurika Pieris (Puja) and Jayalath Manorathne, excel in their roles. Anarkalis physical assets however have only added glamour.

Though Warnasuriya does not insult the intelligence of the Sri Lankan filmgoer, he apparently does not believe in his capacity to enjoy light-hearted entertainment while making use of an opportunity to be enriched emotionally and intellectually. Taking into account Warnasuriya’s experience in creative filming and his broad world outlook, the average viewer can expect a cinematic masterpiece, incorporating both box office potential as well as a penetrating view of the human condition.



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