Stars smiling in a blue sky...
by Aditha Dissanayake
Scenes from Udugang Yamaya (Against the Tide)
The reactions were mixed. Some loved it. Some found it immensely boring. Those who liked it found the title intriguing, the cast totally admirable, the plot exciting. Those who didn't like it complained about the predictability of the plot, the impatient wish to press the fast forward button.. they got up and left half way through the movie.
Sudath Devapirya the director of Udugang Yamaya shrugs his shoulders. He had done it his way.
Based on the story of the bloody civil war which raged in Sri Lanka in 1989 between young left-wing insurgents and the State forces, resulting in the death and disappearance of about 60,000 youth, Sudath says when he wrote the script for Udugang Yamaya, he was aware of the slow "rhythm" of the plot and had kept it "slow" on purpose.
After all the struggle against the tide should be slow and tedious; a struggle which, at the end, however, symbolically brings victory; for Udugang Yamaya, bagged six major awards at this year's Sarasaviya film festival, including the awards for the best film, best director, best editor. An unmistakable light comes into Sudath's eyes when he recalls how he learnt the ABCs of 'movie - directing' on the sets of Viragaya. "Tissa Abeysekara was my guru.
I acted as Sirimal in Viragaya and while doing so, observed every move made by the Director. His influence on me was tremendous and Viragaya turned out to be a kind of a hand-book (ath pothak) to me".
With the encouragement of Henry Jayasena, who was the Director of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation at the time, he made his first tele-drama, Amba Yahaluwo, when he was just twenty three years old. Subsequently telecast around the world on 27 different channels Amba Yahaluwo won the Honourary Jury Award at the Prix Jeunesse Television Drama Festival held in Munich, Germany in 1990.
His second film The Crossing won two awards at the Sri Lanka Film Critics Forum Awards 1991 and was screened at the Faja International Film Festival in Iran and at the Sao Paulo IFF in Brazil.
So far so good? No. Sudath still moans over the fate of his first film - Elivana Davasa. "They are still under my bed" he says resignedly. They? "Yes. They - the reels of Elivena Davasa". He thinks its a miracle that Udugang Yamaya escaped the same fate.
Made within three months in 2001 Sudath says this movie too might have got stored under his bed if things had not changed during the beginning of last year, when the movie was finally released.
"Every rupee spent on the tickets to see Udugan Yamaya will go to a fund which will assist future directors" says Sudath, and for this reason wishes the film should have been given more publicity. What has he got in store for the future? The answer is unexpected. "There is a battle raging within me right now. I am trying to come to terms with the secular and the spiritual world".
Though it is not clear yet which side will win, soft spoken and gentle, when Sudath Devapriya takes his leave at the end of the interview saying "God be with you", you feel you have been in the presence of someone who has transcended most of the petty frailties of the secular world.