By Thilak S.Fernando - Nov. 1997

41st London Film Festival bringing a wealth of cinema from all around the world to the capital of England is in progress between 6 - 23 November 1997. Organised by the British Film Institute, in association with American Express, the festival offers an exciting occasion not only for cinema-goers in the UK but also for the overseas visitors to the Capital's Leicester Square and the South Bank to see premiers and for a glimpse of the stars. Among many strong film making countries it was particularly pleasing to see Sri Lanka film industry being represented this year by 'Duvata Mawaka Misa' [Mother Alone] a Sumithra Peries direction- screened at the National Film Theatre on 7 November at 3.30 p.m. and 8.45 p.m.

Director Sumitra Peries flew to London from Paris for the screening, with her husband the well-respected film-guru in Sri Lanka, Lester James Peries. Sumitra Peries's return to the London Film Festival after a lapse of eight years brought Sri Lanka back to the world of cinema with a simple but tragic story by G.B.Senanayake.

The story of ' Mother Alone' is based on a young woman Thushari ( Sangeetha Weeraratne), who finds herself pregnant after an affair with an affluent boy friend Nandaseela ( Ranjan Ramanayake) who disclaims all knowledge. When her parents (Sriyani Amarasena and Tony Ranasinghe) find out and shame and stress ensue, Thushari attempts to lose her baby but meanwhile she is packed off to various relations all over the country. As she is passed from pillar to post to avoid bringing shame on the family, things fail to improve for either, as the problem she interjected into the lives of others causes mayhem as she witnesses and gets caught up in the sexual infidelity of her aunt (Vasanthi Chaturani) who is having an affair with her husband's best friend. Increasingly traumatised, Thushari is passed to the bosom of another loving aunt (Menike Attanayake). The retiring Thushari now becomes unwilling object of desire for young Seeladasa (Sanath Gunatilake) who is already spoken for by Thusahri's beautiful cousin Kusumi (Yasoda Wimaladharma). Jealousy and misunderstanding bring terrible consequences to Kusumi where she attempts to commit suicide by drinking kerosene oil from her room lamp. The film projects as an insightful portray of the lives of women locked away from a male world, and of traditional attitudes to pregnancy out of wedlock. Well edited, with some attractive cinematography the film flows to a dramatic finale where Thushari's father suddenly dies of a heart attack and her taking the new born baby to a Buddhist temple to release some birds from a cage - to signify her maturity and freedom after all her tragic sequences in life.

From a Western point of view the film may project a simple & feminist connotation, but whether every Westerner who is not aware of the gulf of difference between the post-independent Sri Lankan and Western cultures will understand what Sumitra Peries has attempted to portray (the trauma shame and stress of an innocent woman because of the deceit displayed by the male characters in the story) is yet another matter. >From a study of Sumitra Peries's previous 7-8 films, it is easy to understand a common theme she tries to hammer out, which is the suffering of women in the Sri Lankan society. In that sense a western eye's image of ' Mother Alone' ( Duwata Mawaka Misa ) as somewhat feminist could be justified.

Sumitra Peries, to her credit as the Director of the film, has gone into a lot of minor details in getting an almost pre-independent atmosphere into the film from the way actors and actresses dress, the artefacts inside the houses, the motor cars used and even going into such lengths of getting the matching curtains used in a pre-independent Sri Lanka. In Western film making the Director has only to mention what is needed for a particular era and they are created without any problem as opposed to the Sri Lankan film industry where the Director has to go into finer details and get completely immersed in to the story & get the right set for the right period - in addition the responsibilities of directing the film. In this respect Sumitra Peries has achieved her goal to the full and has come out with a successful creation of cinematography for the purpose it was intended.