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Hansa Vilak Stylish and profound cinematic experience

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Veteran dramatist and film-maker Dharmasiri Bandaranayake’s landmark creation, Hansa Vilak is back on the screen after its restoration in digital format. The film remains ‘timeless’ and ‘forever young’ even after 40 years since it was first released in 1980.

by Randima Attygalle

Dharmasiri Banadaranayake’s Hansa Vilak is a ‘dazzling debut’ which ‘displays a remarkable feel for the medium. Imaginative, experimental and very exciting,’ commented Dr. Lester James Peries when the film was first released. An attempt to explore the social hypothesis of a marriage from an atypical perspective drove Bandaranayake to write his first screen play for Hansa Vilak in 1978. By then he was experienced both as a stage and a film actor.

Along with greats like Lester James Peries, Satyajit Ray, Andrzej Munk and several other contemporary film-makers, Bandaranayake won the admiration of film-goers who preferred to watch good, artistic cinema, he reflects looking back.

The forbidden love between Nissanka (played by Bandaranayake himself) and Miranda (Swarna Mallawarachchi) – both married, is the theme of Hansa Vilak or Swan Lake. This projects a universal appeal in any society where matrimony has been made into a legal or social institution. The deep and abiding emotions in a traditional Asian society are poignantly projected in the film.

Critic H.A Seneviratne once remarked that, ‘Hansa Vilak, combining both fantasy and reality, utilizes the diverse techniques of photography, editing, and sound mixing in all their complexities so much so that there appears to be much outwards novelty in it. Not only the form, but also the subject matter of the film appears to be new and complex to the Sinhala filmgoer. It deals with the emotional problems of two married couples whose matrimonial bond had been suddenly disrupted.’

The extra marital sexual relationship between Miranda, wife of Douglas (Henry Jayasena) and Nissanka, husband of Samanthi (Vasanthi Chaturani) is suddenly revealed with the police raiding the hotel in which the couple had found temporary lodging. This results in Nissanka deserting his wife and two children and Miranda too leaving her husband and only daughter. Nissanka and Miranda are united in marriage but their past emotional attachments continue to taunt them.

Some aspects of these characters are based on reality and some on illusion and fantasy. The characters were developed “transcending the traditional beginning, middle and the end construct known to films at that time,” Bandaranayake says. The film was based on a structure that was yet unseen in Sri Lankan cinema – the element which he attributes to Hansa Vilak’s lasting appeal even after 40 years since release.

The response to the newly restored Hansa Vilak in digital format has been “overwhelming,” says Bandaranayake. “Today it has come among another generation including students of cinema whose response to it has been heart-warming,” he says; he humbly adds that his creation has not aged, but remains modern and relevant.

Bandaranayake’s Hansa Vilak and Thunweni Yamaya were sent to India for restoration by the Sri Lanka Film Corporation about three years ago. The six-month restoration process in the Prasad Film Lab in Chennai reputed for its digital post production services has paid dividends.

“The visual impact of the new copy is just astounding. Although the images remain in their original black and white, their sharpness and clarity in the new version appeals to the modern audience,” says the filmmaker.

The film, distributed by Sri Lanka Film Corporation, is now being screened in several cinemas in Colombo. It will soon show at several more cinemas in other major towns.

As an artiste who is very vocal about conserving Sinhala cinema’s landmarks for posterity, Bandaranayake laments that several Sri Lankan cinematic landmarks will perish unless urgent interventions are made. Following the successful restoration of his own films, (Thunveni Yamaya will be screened soon), Bandaranayake stresses the need to salvage 

the masterpieces of celebrated film makers such as Lester James Peries, Dharmasena Pathiraja and Vasantha Obe

yesekera before they are forever lost to the country.

Commenting on Hansa Vilak (released in 1980), scholar and critic Regi Siriwardena remarked that, ‘Dharmasiri Bandaranayake has created in this film a form and style that go further than any Sinhala film before in taking us into the world of inner psychological experience. Throughout the film the camera is the means of projecting the sensations and feelings of Nissanka torn between love, suspicion, jealousy, duty and obligation. Many of the images on the screen belong not to the world of external, public reality but to the inner world of psychological reality.’

Psychology of character in the language of film-making becomes prominent in the creation of Hansa Vilak. The subject matter of the film is a fusion of fantasy and hallucinations of an emotional wreck. This fusion, Bandaranayake explains, enabled every viewer of the film a dialogue on what was real and what was illusion.

The camera in the hands of the cinematographer, Andrew Jayamanne is shifted towards the characters making it appear that the characters themselves walk towards it. The melodies of Maestro Premasiri Khemadasa – Hemin Sere Piya Vida (theme song sung by Sunila Abeysekera and T. M. Jayarathna) Senehasa Pupura sihinaya miya yayi and Sandun sihina mandapaye emerge strong motifs in the film.

Bandaranayake’s own portrayal of Nissanaka was not by choice. The non-availability of most actors he approached pushed him into taking the role himself. Inspiration to play the dual roles of actor and director came from the celebrated Gamini Fonseka, says Bandaranayake, adding that Gamini’s shoes were however too big for him.

A special pre-premiere of Hansa Vilak in 1979 won it an opportunity to be featured at the Mannheim International Film Festival in West Germany. “Rev. Fr. Ernest Portuthota who happened to be in the audience at the special show was so impressed by the film and took it upon himself to send it to Germany,” recollects Bandaranayake. This enabled him to join a group of novice film makers from different parts of the world.

Hansa Vilak

was awarded a Diploma Certificate at the festival. After its release locally, the film won the Sarasaviya award for the best script. For Bandaranayake the best jury however, is the people of this country. “Whenever the film is featured at any film festival or show on TV, the response I receive from numerous people is immense. This is my greatest award,” he reflects.

“To have found the means of reflecting through the form and techniques of the film, the pressures of society and the family in the mind of a bewildered and tormented individual is Dharmasiri Bandaranayake’s great achievement in the film,” wrote Regi Siriwardena who went on to note that this ‘achievement is sufficient to make Hansa Vilak a permanent landmark in the Sinhala Cinema, just as Rekawa or Ahas Gauwa were in their own time’.

 

Photo credit: Dharmasiri Bandaranayake



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Features

Her Majesty The Queen, A Style Legacy

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The familiarity of the hats, the quietly diplomatic choice of brooch, the shocks of colour and the sensible worn-in shoes will remain bastions of the 20th and 21st century style With the close of the modern Elizabethan era, legacy is a word that is reverberating strongly following the news of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s death. She was 96-years-old.

As the role of the monarchy shifted during her 70-year reign, and the entire understanding of its existence was increasingly questioned, Her Majesty remained a popular, recognisable figure of quintessential Britishness. For those of us that have known no other British monarch, we are left with a legacy that will be marked by her inescapable sense of duty to the Crown and country, but also a decidedly strong sense of self and identity that feels singular in a world of chameleonic idols and a quickening trend cycle.

Few before, and likely few after, will have spent as long as a recognisable figure in the public eye, with such a reaching global impact. Like the tone of her reign, Her Majesty’s sartorial approach was informed by a quiet confidence and an assured concept of self that prized personal style over trends and fads. Sure, she might not have had the glamorous allure of a Hollywood star or the subversive ability to shift our notion of dress like others have done, but Her Majesty’s legacy will be a fashion journey that proves a lesson in unwavering integrity of identity.

The Queen’s fashion legacy will also be marked by a savvy, often understated, means of communicating with her people, which dates back to her coming of age in a post-war Britain. Married at Westminster Abbey in November 1947, her wedding dress was assembled using duchess satin bought with ration vouchers. Of course, unlike her peers, it was Norman Hartnell that designed the 13-foot gown, but the message of her purchasing her fabric through this ‘just like us’ nature was one of kinsmanship not lost on a recovering Britain.

Throughout her reign, other fashion choices have needed to be more diplomatic and significant in message. Arriving in Ireland in 2011, the first British monarch to do so in 100 years, the Queen wore a very specific shade of green. Not too emerald, not too bold, it was a careful choice that didn’t assume Her Majesty to be reclaiming Ireland, but instead proved a sensitive homage in the landmark moment.

Other sartorial decisions had a more sentimental attachment. Consider her brooch for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s 2011 nuptials. From amongst her wealth of heritage jewels she chose The True Lover’s Knot, the largest in her hefty collection. Its sweet bow-like design was an emblem of the day’s significance in her life as a proud grandmother and for the line of succession.

Brooches, like dress suits, brimmed hats, patent pumps and top-handle Launer handbags, are amongst the pieces that made up Her Majesty’s uniform-like approach to her on-duty wardrobe. A dedicated Monarch, who always placed service first and foremost, it made sense that she treated her approach to dress with such regimented formula. It must also be noted how traditionally feminine these pieces are. The message she sent to the commonwealth and the wider world was one of feminine strength, never intimidated by the meetings of senior dignitaries her diary scheduled or falling victim to needing to dress to ‘keep up with the boys.’

In a more contemporary time, the Queen’s style legacy has impacted nowhere more than in the wardrobes of her family members. As protocol dictates, her tiaras and jewellery have often been borrowed by the family members for wedding days or state affairs, with Princess Beatrice even opting for one of granny’s dresses for her 2020 nuptials, but Her Majesty’s influence extended to the day-to-day too.

Look to the wardrobes of Duchesses Cambridge and Sussex and you’ll notice the Queen’s approach to colour permeating. A long-time fashion tool employed by Her Majesty, it has proven particularly useful in ensuring that royals can be spotted by those even at the farthest end of the waiting crowds. It’s clear to see that Catherine and Meghan have taken note.

The overarching message that the Queen’s wardrobe told was one of a quieter, more subtle influence. It’s long been clear that Her Majesty, who was most happy in her headscarf, Barbour and kilt in the countryside, was never as fussed about the flashier side of royal privilege as perhaps her sister, the Dior-wearing Princess Margaret, was.

For the last 20 years, Angela Kelly has been at the helm of the Queen’s wardrobe, becoming a close confidante of Her Majesty’s in the process. Yet, you couldn’t ever have imagined the pair conspiring — to use a modern glam squad term — to create a ‘moment’ throughout their time working together. As she entered her latter years, the formula that worked didn’t flinch apart from moving through the rainbow. But that’s not to say Her Majesty didn’t have fun with her wardrobe.

With what was arguably the world’s greatest dressing-up box at her disposal, there were flashes of experimentation and brilliance that hinted at a bolder experimentation. Think harlequin sequins, floral turbans or diaphanous candy pink gowns and fur stoles paired with dazzling diadems and parures. But the greatest smiles and moments of clear sartorial satisfaction were when Her Majesty was buttoned up in her cardigans, her signature neat perm wrapped in an Hermes scarf and heading out into the Highlands.

Though fashion is quick to praise reincarnation, Her Majesty will be celebrated for her opposite approach. The familiarity of the hats, the quietly diplomatic choice of brooch, the shocks of colour and the sensible worn-in shoes will remain bastions of the 20th and 21st century in style, no matter what else moved quicker or louder around it. The phrase style icon is too often touted or wasted on those that have spent little more than 18 months in the public eye, but, when it comes to Her Majesty The Queen, here is a chance to use it for all its worth. – Elle Mag

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Features

Mexico’s DJs make waves in Colombo

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Leading DJs from Mexico who have entertained crowds across Europe, North and South America, Marisol and Ivonne Grajales were touring Sri Lanka recently, storming some of Colombo’s most happening venues. The sisters, who have spun their vibrant sounds to full houses and performed at epic DJ sets across the world including the USA, Brazil, Honduras, Ecuador, Germany and Spain; kept the Sri Lankan party set grooving at some of the most exciting night spots in town over the last two weeks.

Marisol is ranked seventh as a DJane in Mexico and 38th in North America, has a degree in music production and released 12 singles which are featured on Beatport and Traxsource.

They performed at venues around Colombo including at The Love Bar, Industri, Botanik, Kava, The Travelling Bruncher and the Flamingo Breeze Pool Party, the latter which has fast become a trendy, sought after monthly event. In addition, Marisol and Ivonne spun discs at the chilled-out Sunday Smooth Drunch. Both these events were at the poolside of Cinnamon Grand.

The DJ sisters performed at C VIBES with renowned Sri Lankan artistes – ACE, Clifford, TrevD, Binu, Madaid and Shan. C VIBES is an entertainment entity which curates and hosts events at popular venues in Colombo which includes a roster of international DJs and artistes performing at select venues and a number of exciting party additions which promise great revelry and celebrations.

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Features

The future of shopping in Kandy

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Softlogic Holdings PLC launched its newest retail development – ‘ODEL Mall Kandy’, recently The 91,414 sq ft retail development is poised to be Kandy’s most sought-after state-of-the-art, premium lifestyle shopping destination situated at the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill capital.

Located at , Sirimavo Bandaranaike Mawatha, Peradeniya Road, Kandy, the retail development will house a premium collection of Softlogic’s most celebrated brands such as ODEL (the largest fashion retailer in Sri Lanka, that hosts an array of world renowned international fashion, jewellery, skincare and lifestyle brands); Baskin Robbins (the world’s largest chain of specialty ice cream operating over 5,000 parlours in 50+ countries); GLOMARK (Sri Lanka’s first inspirational global market which aims at revolutionising the country’s modern retail trade landscape; and POPEYES (one of the world’s leading fast-food chains)

The retail mall will in-turn launch two fast-popular brands, for the first time in Kandy – GLOMARK – which houses the widest selection of items sourced across the globe and uses the best of modern storage facilities, design and upgraded technology for a superlative consumer experience; and POPEYE’s – known for its signature slow cook method where fresh, locally sourced, chicken is marinated for 12 hours with a rich blend of proprietary seasoning and spices, and thereafter hand battered and breaded to produce chicken that is juicy on the inside while retaining a crispier crust on the outside, transporting customer taste buds to the wholesome goodness of Louisiana.

Commenting on the announcement, Chairman, Softlogic Holdings PLC – Ashok Pathirage stated: “We are pleased to announce the launch of ODEL Mall Kandy, which has been met with much excitement and support by the local community within Kandy and Kurunegala. Through the introduction of the mall, we look to enhance the retail and entertainment experiences available to both residents and tourists of this sacred and famous city.”

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