by Thilak S. Fernando

TF. How long have you been in the film industry as a Director? Would you like to give yourself a brief introduction as to how you got involved in films and film making?

PV. From my childhood, I wanted to make films. First, I was a movie-buff, then I was a struggling script writer, then I directed my first film in 1989.

TF. How many films have you directed so far? And out of those, how many have won awards and international acclaim ?

PV. I have directed four films. All of them have been shown in international film festivals. Three of them won awards in the festivals they participated in.

TF. Do you write your own scripts always?

PV. Out of the four films I have directed, I have written scripts for two of them.

TF Are social issues always so near and dear to your heart in formulating a theme for a film?

PV. My focus is on the individual. The individual’s struggle within oneself and against the social institutions and social issues which hinder happiness has always fascinated me.

TF. Sri Lankan society is still orthodox to a greater degree, even in the 21st Century. Don’t you find at times that you are restricted in exposing parasitic issues in our society, unlike in a Western ‘ open’ society?

PV. Once great Swedish filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman said, “the responsibility of the artist is to open the wounds of society. The wounds can not be healed without being opened.” He said, “the artist should never be restricted by social dogmas when involved in his creation.” Like his films, what he says is also true to any society.

TF. What factors or themes do you consider in making a film successful? Or put it in another form, what made all your films achieve international recognition?

PV. I think, honesty and simplicity have universal appeal.

TF. Do you have a free hand and do you control everything as a Director when making a film or do you get frustrated at times with Producers’ dogmatic view points and thereby having to compromise?

PV, I have never faced this problem with any of the producers I had worked with so far.

TF. What influenced you to concentrate on a sensitive theme, like in the film Death on a full Moon Day?

PV. The guilt of leading a comfortable middle class life in Colombo while thousands of people in my country are suffering, made me think about the issues portrayed in the film.

TF. Why did the Sri Lankan Film Censor Board decide to ban this particular film?

PV Sri Lankan film Censor Board did not ban this film. In fact, they passed it with a universal certificate. It was banned by a directive from the Minister in charge of the Film industry.

TF. Didn’t you foresee or anticipate such stumbling blocks, as an experienced Director, especially when you were touching on sensitive issues such as the War and the ‘ chauvinistic Sinhala movements’ in Sri Lanka?

PV. We had some concerns during the production of the film. But, we had to decide against compromise. I portrayed the stark truth of what I saw in the North Central province of the country.

TF. You give the impression in the film Death on a Full Moon Day that you are opposed to the on going war in Sri Lanka. Your opponents at times construe this as you being against fighting the terrorists? Would you like to throw some light on this allegation?

PV. Wherever the film was shown to international audiences, the film was perceived as against any war happening in any part of the world. The film is about the social and individual cost of the war. Human dignity is the worst casualty of war. I represent the individuals who are the victims of this madness thrust upon them by all parties involved.

TF. To make a film successful not only the Director but the actors and actresses also need to play an equally important role. How do you choose your thespians – i.e. do you go by the role models in the industry or do you at times go for few raw material as well to blend with the story like you have done in the case of Death on a Full Moon’s day ?

PV. Casting is one of the most important aspects of making films. I select the most suitable player for the character, may be from professionals or new comers.

TF. What is the secret behind in creating a character truthful in a film?

Everyone involved should have the insight, sensitivity as well as the curiosity to grasp the human nature.

TF. You seem to give the women strong and distinguished roles in your films. Any specific reason behind such a choice?

PV. I am very closed to my mother. She is a very strong individual. Her influence had been a great strength in my life.

TF. Do you extract any personal experiences from your life when writing film scripts?

PV. Of course.

TF. How easy or difficult is it for you to find compatible producers in Sri Lanka?

PV. With the economy in deep crisis, and high expenditure and low income, it is very difficult to find anyone who is adventures enough to invest in films.

TF. How did you manage to break into the international market, particularly in making the film Death on a Full Moon day, with Japanese connections?

PV. They saw my film, “Anantha Rathriya” at Fukuoka Film festival in Japan and invited me to make a film for them.

TF. What is your general attitude and approach when making a film – meaning, are you arrogant as a Director?

PV. Film Director is a person with a multiple personalities. He should be able to absorb and discuss ideas with colleagues and be dictatorial when necessary.

TF. Are you a religious person or an Atheist ? I base this question concentrating on Death on a Full Moon Day film. Yes,

PV. I am an Atheist as a Buddhist. I have deep respect for religion. The problem arises when the religion becomes state institutions. When that happens the religion losses it’s core values. Buddhism and even Christianity emerged out of the struggles against the prevailing orthodoxies at the time.

TF. Are you a social rebel?

PV. I am trying not to be a part of the oppressive social institutions.

TF. What do you foresee of the Sri Lankan film industry in the future?

PV. Bleak!

TF. Are you satisfied with the existing technical facilities such as dubbing, editing, cinematography, and sound systems available in Sri Lanka when making films? How about the frustrating elements such as having to ‘queue up’ before the finished film is released to a particular circuit for screening?

PV. Facilities in Sri Lanka are not very satisfactory. I was fortunate that I could go to South India to use facilities there. I do not see a queue building up in the future because there are not many films made.

TF. What other surprises have you in the pipeline for cinemagoers in Sri Lanka?

PV. Filmmaking is like breathing for me. I will always make films.

TF. Can we expect your forthright films to be produced outside Sri Lanka in the future if you are doubtful of their release ? - like what you are experiencing now, after spending time, effort and money in putting a theme so close to your heart into a film.

PV. If I am constantly going to face problems in Sri Lanka, I will have to look for alternative arrangements but I will always be a Srilankan filmmaker.