'Autumn Blooms' blossomed in London

by Thilak S. Fernando

Siberian winds and miserable wintry weather in London subsided temporarily on Sunday, 11 March 2001, especially to pave the way for the premiere show of eminent Sri Lankan Actress, Producer, Director, Script Writer; in performance arts, Sriyani Amarasena¹s latest Œtele-film ŒAutumn Bloooms¹(Hemanthe Wasanthayak) to literally blossom in London at the Commonwealth Institute in the presence of a fully packed audience.

'Autumn Blooms' is Sriyani¹s second successive attempt to produce a tele-film in London. About two years ago she took the plunge with her novel idea of combining Sri Lankan well-known names in the film/tele-drama industry with that of amateurs from the Sri Lankan expatriate community in the UK to produce Ira Bata Taruwa, which was partly filmed in Sri Lanka and partly in England. Ira Bata Taruwa, when shown on the Sri Lankan Rupavahini, received top ratings. Encouraged by her all-round experience in producing a tele-film in London Sriyani embarked on her second venture in a wider sense to make it more exciting and appealing. First, the story line had to be mused, then to complete the task she knew there was no other authority than herself, from her own experience in intermingling with the Sri Lankans in the UK. Therefore, she became the dramatising author of the script with the assistance of one of her co-producers, Anura Hegoda.

The plot of the film, based on a true to life story, an occurrence taken place in the Sixties, between two Sri Lankan families living in London, was originated by Prema Ganegoda. Prema had been an icon in the Sri Lankan drama over 25 years ago.

The film highlights the different backgrounds, beliefs and attitudes of two bourgeoisie Sri Lankan families, one Buddhist and the other Christian, with particular emphasis on handling two grown up children in a modern free society. Bringing out many positive and negative thinking patterns of Sri Lankans, the film projects as a general tutorial to the Sri Lankan society at large and drives a subtle message home that parents are only makers of children but they do not own them! Children are individuals and they have their own life and are entitled to their individual happiness without parents, relatives or the society¹s interference. This is more so important especially when it comes to a crucial junction in their life especially in the case of marriage. The film mainly aims to focus and pin point that in life what counts is happiness, and to understand this simple theory Œone does not need to have a PhD in nuclear physics¹! Finally, it amplifies a fundamental message that ³ there is no universal force which can change or indeed influence one¹s fate.²

The film focuses on how a perfectly harmonious family unit becomes devastated with the interference of a visiting, inquisitive relative from Sri Lanka who gets in the way between her London born nephew Sagara¹s (Roshan Pillapitiya) love affair. She makes a hue and cry about Sanita ( Sagara¹s fiancée) and pursues on a determined effort to break this affair by insisting that Sanita¹s (Kanchana Mendis) planetary placements in her horoscope is certain to bring about death to her prospective husband! Lilani Perera (as aunt Karuna) lives up to her role when this typical Walawwe Hamine, the sister of Doctor Niranjan (Wimal Alahakoon), behaves in a most stubborn, nosy and irritating manner with full of pre-conditioned granny old theories and ideas leading towards disturbing the whole hornet¹s nest in her brother¹s family.

Wimal Alahakoon, in his second experience as a tele-film actor emerging from London, unquestionably displays his skills and talents in a most effective way, both as a professional doctor and a modern understanding father. Alahakoon¹s expressions both facial as well as verbal are unmatched by any other professional who has been in the industry for long years. Prema Ganegoda, after twenty-five years, has managed to sharpen her dormant talents as mother and the wife of lawyer Donald (played by Anura Hegoda). Kanchana Mendis and the Sri Lankan heartthrob Roshan Pillapitiya appear in a class of their own and, of course, Sriyani Amarasena¹s performance as doctor Niranjan¹s wife needs no comment with her award winning years of acting experience. Ramesh Ekanayake, with an apparent metamorphosis into the shadows of Ranjan Ramanayake, exhibits his experience in a new profession for the second time in a tele-film, while a host of other London artistes, Anura Hegoda, Thniula Fonseka, Preethika de Alwis, Isuri Nagahawatte, Nilaka Jayasooriya, Aruna de Alwis, Karen Cartwright, Michael Russel and Diana Rajapakse make their contributions to make the film a success, for which the credit should go to the director of the film, Rodney Parapitiya.

Sriyani Amarasena, Prema Ganegoda, and Wimal Alahakoon produced Autumn Blooms (Hemanthe Wasanthyak) as a joint venture,which was completely filmed on location in London. Technically there are no obvious flaws to the naked eye on cinematography, sound effects or dubbing to highlight, but on a Œtechnical¹ issue of a different nature it would be sensible for the production team to make use of artistes from the trade in the future, whenever a story demands to focus on Buddhist clergy rather than using the actual monks, as this may be seen as violating the Buddhist tenet ! The well known actor, producer Sathischandra can be sited as an example in this context.

Sriyani Amarasena has found that making a tele-film in London is much easier and trouble free than in Sri Lanka and says there¹s equally more Sri Lankan talent in England as much as at home. Asked about her future plans she has plans to produce more tele-films in other countries such as in Australia using the talents of Sri Lankan expatriates similar to what she has experienced and achieved in London. Hemanthe Wasanthayak will be screened in France and Italy before the Sri Lankan audiences will be able to see it as a seventeen-episode tele-drama in the near future.

After the premiere screening of the film the actors and a group of special invitees participated in a wine and dine celebration dinner hosted by Lihiniya Restaurant in North West London. To the vibrant and colourful music of the band, Sounds of Lanka participants enjoyed the evening until late hours where Sriyani Amarasekera was also seen jiving to the rhythmic beat of Ronald Williams and Isuru Sandaruwan. Sounds of Lanka Band, which is only six months old in London, also got its first international exposure through Hemanthe Wasnthyak where the viewers of the film can hear Ronald¹s melodious rendition and Isuru¹s rhythmic instrument playing.