Sunday, September 8, 2013
I watched sinhala movie "Siri Parakum" with no English Subtitles!
I didn't realize till the movie started there were no english subtitles, but I managed to muddle my way through most of the movie, and even found the dialogue funny in parts. It ended up being an excellent opportunity to use and improve my sinhala.
FYI, I don't go to see many sinhala movies, nor do I watch sinhala teledramas on local television. Too much angst and drama for my liking. But then again, I've never been a fan of British soaps either.
Siri Parakum, directed by Dr. Somaratne Dissanayake, is part historical saga-part fairytale/Shakespearean tragedy, telling the story of a young Parakrama Bahu II, who was the eldest son of Vijaya Bahu III. The second wife of King Vijaya Bahu III is plotting to murder the first born son of the King to ensure her own son has clear passage to become the future king. The movie begins with this as the focus of the plot and as the story unfolds we see the young first-born prince smuggled away by his loyal guardian and given to a village laundry woman, in order to protect and hide him from the Queen. The young prince grows up as Appuwa after being taken in by a village family until, as a young man, the secret of his birthright is revealed and he ascends the throne. The movie's plot is based on some truth and Parakrama Bahu II did rule as king from 1236 - 1271.
In watching this movie there were a multitude of thoughts and impressions that came to me. I was somewhat struck by the beautiful cinematography of the Sri Lankan countryside. I think the director managed to capture some of Sri Lankan's natural beauty and present it in such a way to enhance the movie. But, in doing so, there was some repetition in the scenes, such as frolicking in the water and plucking flowers from childhood to adulthood, which I thought took away from the earlier scenes that worked.
There is certainly a fairytale element to this movie. It's a blend of Disney movie (think Cinderella or Snow White) and Shakespearean tragedy without the tragic ending. For the most part, I think the younger audiences would have really enjoyed all of this. The love story aspect I could probably have done without. It got kind of boring and repetitive, but then again, this usually sells more seats at the cinema.
Overall, the musical soundtrack worked well for the movie, however, the musical score for the war scenes seemed far too jubilant and buoyant during the fighting, as if glorifying rather than depicting the seriousness of such actions.
Probably, the standout performance of the movie was the boy actor, Pramuditha Udayakumara who played young Parakrama Bahu II/young Appuwa. He was a literal joy to watch, and the camera just seems to eat him up on screen. He brought a sense of freedom and confidence to the role, and I could imagine many cinemagoers gravitating towards the character. Apparently, the young actor has since had offers for a further three films. This is not surprising at all.
I've also since read of the director, Somaratne Dissanayake's magical touch with making movies with children. It is certainly a gift to treasure, and this rang true with Siri Parakum. I also noted many children in attendance at the cinema with their parents. They all seemed to enjoy watching the movie.
While I thought most of the central actors did a reasonable job with their roles, only Chandani Seneviratne (who plays the laundry lady) and Ashan Dias (who plays the Prince's guardian) were highlights for me. I also thought many of the minor characters, particularly those in roles at the palace were a little too caricature, which was unfortunate.
The first part of the Siri Parakum was filled with intrigue and setting the scene for young Parakrama Bahu to be smuggled away. You also got a glimpse of the ancient Sri Lankan martial art of angampora during the war fight sequences. Angampora incorporates hand-to-hand fighting and the use of indigenous weapons. My research indicates the "most distinct feature is the use of pressure point attacks to inflict pain or permanently paralyze the opponent."
Siri Parakum was actually quite funny in the second half of the movie where the setting changed to the village location. Sri Lankans are funny at the best of times and this movie brought out some of this. My grasp of sinhala was enough to enable me to "get" some of the jokes/lines in the movie. But, I admit wholeheartedly I often wish in everyday life I had a better grasp of the language, as I know I miss out on the punchlines of some very funny jokes or sayings! Some things are always best understood in the mother tongue.
I enjoyed Appuwa's village storyline in the sense of how he struggled with the villagers' perceptions of his background and requests, and his natural inclination and understanding of the Buddhist suttas when taught by the village monk. All these interactions and situations in the village were the background for demonstrating the young prince's intelligence, charisma and suitability to be king.
The finale was the claiming of Appuwa as the true heir to the throne by an elephant with the Buddha's relics and seeing him handle the villagers as king. I had expected there to be a little more to the tale as there was no major conflict in the second half of the movie. But, then again, this is down to interpretation and preference. Seeing as the movie has generated much fanfare among younger audiences and schools in Sri Lanka, the ending of the movie was probably suited to them.
And so, I survived a visit to the local cinema after watching a full length movie in sinhala with no english subtitles. I think I'll give myself a pat on the back