Stanley’s Knockout Punch over Pandukabhaya

The Sarasaviya awards for 2008 was a treat. It was quite nice to see “Machan” triumphing over “Aba”. Jackson Anthony’s “Lord of the Rings” tac-tics failed to fire. Nor did his adaptation of the old Jayantha Chandrasiri gimmick of appropriating ledgends work out. To be frank, watching the awards, one had to keep one’s fingers crossed. Jackson Anthony is by all means a politically potent agent — literally; metaphorically. Nor were we ready to take the Sarasaviya awards as being non-political in its motivations.

In fact, Sarasaviya awards managed to pass the acid test last week — of it being / not being a less-transparent half-crooked forum. Rather, by giving “Machan” its deserved beat, Sarasaviya scored a straight ‘A’. In spite of the massive investment, Jackson Anthony’s “Aba” was a fluke when juxtaposed with the socially critical, contemporarily relevant film by Uberto Passolini. Jackson’s was a walk up the stairway to heaven — cos, that form of literature where the legendary past is fetishized and revived has become quite fashionable among insecure audiences.

But, Passolini it was. Dharmapriya Dias walked away with the Best Actor, for what I felt was quite a solid role. The Best Actress, however — won by Dulani Anuradha — I felt, was an award won for the “want of” a more challenging female role.

What amused me was the award for the Best Direction, which was won by Vijitha Gunaratne for “Walaa Patala”. The shortlist included Jackson and Passolini and by the sounds of the verdict it almost sounded as if Jackson was to go on stage. However, the stunned audience and an equally stunned-looking Guneratne came into the frame a few seconds later. This was one presentation that beat the logic of it all. I felt that this was more a “Ratnasiri Wickramanayake” kind of prize — for the “Best Direction” could have gone to the film that bagged the rest of the top awards, surely?

waiting for awards? Aba.

Wijaya Nandasiri was a horrible compere. His fumbling with the non-Sri Lankan names was atrocious. The crew of the shortlisted “Machan” were murdered by this comedian. The least the organizers could have done was to get the announcer familiarized with the shortlist. Well, the co-host Himali did a decent job out of it — so, why couldn’t this veteran do a responsible job with the list? Wijaya Nandasiri just isn’t funny. And messing up with an award-winner’s name is lame and insulting.

It was moving to see Gamini Hattotuwegama, in the clips from “Walaa Patala”. When the film was screened the veteran was yet ailing. A pity that he had to pass away before the awards. Not that the performance bagged him anything. But, he would have been much pleased by the humble appreciation the film, as a whole, received in the hands of the jury.



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