Nation Special

   NEELA DASE                       
           A whole new experience

By Lakna Paranamanna
Talented young singers Romesh and Lakshan are back in the spotlight with their new song Neela Dase. It is quite a hit and has captured the hearts of many music lovers with its melody, unique vocal styling and of course, the visual.
The lyrics in Neela Dase were done by Rinaz Mohamad, and the melody was done by Romesh himself. Ranga Dassanayake composed and mixed the music.

“We wanted this visual to be a new experience for viewers. Most of the visuals that we see today are of the same kind, where still shots are frequently used. I wanted our Neela Dase video to carry a more moving effect; to make it flow like a story,” said Romesh.

After sharing their views with Director Udaya Darmawardana and the Script Writer Jayantha, they came up with this new idea. The models who perform in the visual are Pubudu and Narmada.
It took two days to shoot the video. The locations were Navam Mawatha, Mount Lavinia beach and Thalawathugoda. The visual was edited by S.J. Devapriya.

“We planned to do the shooting of this visual for a long time but due to security reasons we could not obtain permission from the authorities to reserve Navam Mawatha. Because of that the work was a bit delayed,” pointed out Romesh.
They have now launched the visual into television channels and websites. “We are very happy about the response from our fans. The feedback is very positive,” Romesh said, happily.

“I personally feel that we have won a huge challenge. Unlike many in this field, we had to overcome a lot of obstacles to reach here. Since we were from Kandy, there were not many people we knew in the industry to assist us. In some earlier visuals we could not create anything innovative because we were always on a low budget scheme but now, with what we have achieved today, many sponsors have come forward to assist us. The production of this visual in this manner would not have been possible if not for their assistance,” added Romesh.


Voices in Praise: Singing for God and ethnic harmony

By Lakna Paranamanna
The Voices in Praise (VIP Choir) is a group that has been performing in public for the past four years. Each year this choir has performed with different themes. This year’s concert was titled ‘God Liveth Still.’

The group is perhaps one of the only choirs that perform in all languages in a choral style. Parts and harmony for Sinhala and Tamil lyrics are arranged by the director of the choir. The choir has also sung pieces from Bach and Mozart and several Negro spirituals.

The choir, unlike other groups, intends to convey a message to the country. One of the ultimate objectives of the choir is to praise God and secondly, to emphasise on ethnic harmony.
The choir has been invited to perform in India shortly. The Chief Coordinator of the Choir, Johnson Gnanadass speaking to The Nation said that the message the choir conveys to everyone is that language should not be a barrier to ethnic harmony.

Following are the excerpts:
Q: Could you explain how the VIP Choir started?
Voices in Praise, known as VIP Choir, was officially started about four years ago. The choir is the brainchild of its Director, Wilson Gnanadass. Prior to forming the VIP Choir, five children of Rev and Mrs. Paul Gnanadass were performing in Colombo. However, after the demise of my father, Rev. Gnanadass, my brother Wilson thought of embracing more voices and including them also to perform in public. And then of course the name of the group had to be changed.

Since the ultimate objective of this choir was to praise God, it was called VIP. My parents were very interested in music and my father in particular was a musician, a composer and a fantastic violinist. We were in fact inspired by the musical talents of our parents. And today we are glad to go before the public to perform in all languages. Now there are about 25 members singing in harmony with us.

Q: What type of music does the choir perform?
We are confined to religious music, but we perform in all languages with a combination of Eastern, Western and Classical. Every note we sing is arranged to be sung in harmony. Through our singing we hope to convey the message of ethnic harmony to the listeners and the viewers.

Q: The VIP Choir has been in existence for four years. What type of response has the choir received so far?
A very positive response. We have had four public events; each was a concert with a different theme. Except for the English chorals, for all other Tamil and Sinhala lyrics, the parts are arranged by my brother Wilson. It is yet another unique feature of this choir. We also sing our own compositions each year.

Q: Who are choristers and where are they from?
To be honest, most of them are not even from professional choirs, but today they are able to perform in a professional style. We invite people to join us and then train the voices. Our members include school-going children as well as adults. They are absolutely committed people.

We also have a few members who are from choirs from leading Colombo schools. All these voices were picked by our Choir Director and then trained.
We always welcome all the communities in our choir. We already have non-Christian musicians performing with us. We are actually hoping to expand the number of participants in our choir. The invitation is extended to all to join and sing with us.

Q: What are the objectives of your choir?
Firstly, of course, to glorify God. Praising is one of the most critical tools of glorifying God. Secondly, we are conveying a huge message to the world, which is torn apart with conflicts based on ethnicity.

A special message is to our own country where both Tamil and Sinhala communities are at loggerheads over various reasons. One among them is the language. And here we are, to break this barrier and tell the people, through our singing, not to fight over language but to learn all the languages possible.

We have, despite being a very young choir, performed in English, Sinhala, Tamil and Latin. We hope to sing in many more languages in the future. Why should language be a barrier to ethnic harmony? If all of us can learn all the languages, then why quarrel?

Also, very importantly, I should mention that our choir does not perform for any commercial benefit. We are working toward our goals. For instance, we do not even charge entrance fees because we believe our voices are a free gift to us from God and therefore we must give in return to the people.

Q: What are the future plans of the choir?
Our immediate future plan is to perform in India. We have been invited to do so. But it all depends on the funds we raise to travel abroad. We are also planning to release our own CD.


Handball: a fusion of Lankan and Western music

By Savani Dissanayake
Prassanna Vitanage who has produced and directed many films, is now working on the finishing touches and the post production stages of his latest film, Handball.

‘Handball’ is a comedy about a group of Sri Lankans who want to travel to Germany with the excuse of being in a hand ball team. The film deals with the differences in cultures as well as the problems faced by immigrants.

Speaking of the last stages of the production process, he said “The director, Uverto Pasolini came down to Sri Lanka to finalise the music for the movie. We want to use a fusion of traditional Sri Lankan music and Western music.” He added that they were using many Sri Lankan instruments, and that the beauty and unique sound of the Sri Lankan music was one of the reasons for the fusion.

Lakshman Joseph De Saram conducted and composed the music, which took nine days of recording to get it just right. Uverto Pasolini has now returned to London to do the final mixing of the music.

Prassana Vitanage told The Nation that the film would be ready for international release by December 5, and that the film would be released in Sri Lanka, early next year.

Commenting on his current project, the director said that he was in the pre production stages of his 6th film Akasha Kusum which means, ‘flowers in the sky’. Shooting will begin in December. The film has a star studded cast, mostly female, comprising Malini Fonseka, Nimmi Harasgama, Dilhani Ekanayake Damayanthi Fonseka, Jayani Senanayake and others.

The film which is an Indian-Sri Lankan co-production revolves around an ageing actress in the film industry. Prassana Vitanage, who is the director, script writer as well as one of the producers for the film, said that this is the first time he is using his own profession and industry as the background for the movie, and is delighted to be doing so.
The film Akasha Kusum will be released and screened for its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.


                                                                                 NEW RELEASE                                                                                    

I’m Not There

Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven) delivers this dazzling, experimental take on the life of popular music’s most revered and enigmatic artist: Bob Dylan.

In keeping with the impossible-to-pin-down nature of Dylan himself, Haynes chooses to cast six different actors to portray several incarnations of the groundbreaking troubadour. The result is a challenging, sprawling work that spans several decades and genres.

Woody (Marcus Carl Franklin) is a young black child with a folk music obsession; Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) is an upstart folksinger whose protest songs have ignited an entire generation; Arthur (Ben Wishaw) is a Rimbaud-esque figure who has begun to embrace a new form of lyrical poetry; Robbie (Heath Ledger) is a well-known actor whose marriage to lovely Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) crumbles under the weight of his lifestyle; Billy (Richard Gere) is a slippery frontiersman who echoes Dylan’s infatuation with the Old West and American folklore; and, finally, there is the substance-abusing, confrontational Jude (Cate Blanchett), who represents Dylan in the turbulent mid-1960s.

Much in the same way that Dylan appropriated a vast array of musical styles to create his own vernacular, Haynes does the same thing with I’m Not There, using his expansive knowledge of movie history to pay homage to a variety of movements and genres (Godard, Fellini, Lester, etc.).

The typically extraordinary cinematographer Edward Lachman outdoes even himself this time around, incorporating so many different visual styles that it’s impossible to decide which is the most beautiful. While the cast all fare well in their roles, it is Cate Blanchett who runs away with the picture, proving once again that she is one of the finest actors the movies have ever seen.

The title I’m Not There is a reference to the Dylan outtake, recorded during The Basement Tapes – Sessions. Also, I’m Not There is one of the most famous and highly regarded outtakes, not just of The Basement Tapes, but of Dylan’s whole career. It was never officially released until it appeared on the film’s official soundtrack album.

Christian Bale: Bob Dylan / John / Jack Cate Blanchett: Bob Dylan / Jude Marcus Carl Franklin: Bob Dylan / Woody Richard Gere: Bob Dylan / Billy Heath Ledger: Bob Dylan Ben Whishaw: Bob Dylan / Arthur
Director: Todd Haynes
Writers: Todd Haynes and Oren Moverman
Cinematography: Edward Lachman
Film Editing: Jay Rabinowitz
Casting: Laura Rosenthal
Production Design: Judy Becker
Costume Design: John A. Dunn


Jackson’s new film re-creates Lanka’s golden era

By Kushali Atukorale
An actor turned TV personality and film maker, Jackson Anthony, is poised to recreate the golden era of Sri Lankan history, with his new film, ‘ABA’.

‘ABA’ is the historical story of a young, determined prince Pandukabhaya, who had brought all the different clans in the country under one ruler. Anthony has brought into focus this historical fact while creating a great piece of work in Sinhalese cinema.
Jackson is now busy with its post production. He talked to The Nation about his latest venture and its background.

He said the film, based on the childhood of Prince Pandukabhaya in the 4th century BC, mainly focused on the first 15 years of his life, when he lived in Doramadalawa as a normal boy, as his uncles were looking to kill the young boy who was to become the next king. He emphasized the point that that it was not an easy task to remake history into a movie. “History is filled with dramatics actions” Jackson said.

According to Jackson, the film ‘ABA’ was the result of ten years of research in history. He added that the study of books of great schoolars like Hiutsang, Ibn Batuta, Robert Knox, which give details of the different clans that lived in Ceylon long ago, also helped him in designing the jewellery, sets, and costumes of the Yaksha clan who had lived in Doramadalawa in ancient times.

Most of the material and fabrics for the costumes were brought down from India with the help of Nilhan Senevirathne. There is also a massive usage of silicon graphics and digital multimedia. “So far the cost of the film has gone above Rs. 55 million, “I am grateful to Mandakini Creations for their financial support as this is the first film on Sri Lanka which has reached such a high standard.

The jewellery for the actors playing the roles of the Yaksha clan, had been made from the roots of the trees, barks, sea shells, bones, belly katu, and other natural material which had been used by people in the 4th century BC.
The music is directed by the talented Nadika Guruge.

Jackson said that the Sri Lankan film industry needed such films, because, “We lack such films, as the young generation tends to give preference to funny movies, and does not understand the value of films like this.”
He said that while over 1050 films had already been made about Sri Lanka, in the past 50 years, only six films have been based on its history.

They were Ashokamala (1947), ‘Sirisangabo’ (1952), ‘Sandeshaya’ (1960), ‘Sigiri Kashyapa’ (1966), ‘Weera Puran Appu’ (1978) and ‘Weera Maddumabandara’ (1984). But even these films according to him were tragedies or stories about tragic heroes. He added that there were other important eras in our history which we have never highlighted.