Chaotic destiny of loveless middle-class | Sunday Observer

Chaotic destiny of loveless middle-class

The abusive man himself might be unseen but the chaos and violence he brings is a plain sight in Avilenasului (Inflammable), Chinthana Dharmadasa’s debut feature film that examines male paranoia through a fantasy ride accompanied by a ‘femme-fatale’ who holds a knife!

It says ‘In heaven everything is fine’ but in Avilenasului nothing is fine. The story starts with the main protagonist, a banker, Kamal Senadilankara (Shyam Fernando) –a vegetarian-non-smoking, wife killer, who creeps up behind his ‘sleeping’ wife and slits her throat, wraps the body in a bed sheet, dumps it in the trunk of his car and drives on a lonely, endless road. His hysteric murmur “Don’t say I didn’t warn you” resounds throughout the movie amplifying the dreadfully chaotic destiny of the contemporary middle-class family life and its loveless-toxic relationship.

Fantasy and reality

The story-line gravitates between two characters, Kamal and ‘the woman’ with the knife (Samanalee Fonseka), and there is no trace of where she comes from. She unexpectedly appears from the back seat of the car, holding a knife, during his extreme melancholic, regretful moment as he starts to cry, and in the background the audience can hear the theme song of ‘How I wonder what you are’ (Dharmadasa’s collaborative work) sung by Indrachapa Liyanage and this particular set up blurs the fine line between fantasy and reality and hints she may not exist in reality but only in his fantasy. This may be the desired woman in his fantasy.

Although Kamal willingly surrenders to her aggressive, dominant nature yet she seems to want to have control over the journey, but not the destination since Kamal holds the steering wheel with a fine idea of knowing where the journey ends.

Although this femme-fatale character who has taken over the male fantasy is a long-exploited cliché in Hollywood blockbusters, this cinema genre is somewhat new to Sinhala cinema and Dharmadasa deserves appreciation for making his debut of such likes. Avilenasului is a mixture of many genres mainly Dharmadasa wanted to construct based on a road-thriller, yet it carries pulp, post-modern characteristics while the narration style mostly shows the characteristics of art house cinema. Building the structure of the film in a ‘dream logic’ character in storytelling which is somewhat a tricky thing to pull off, Dharmadasa seems used to it as an easy way to cover plot holes and lapses in common sense. The main characteristic of ‘road-thriller’ however puzzling and confusing, everything we see and hear should matter in the end and nothing should be done arbitrarily.

The repetition of dialogues and identical characters and personalities which are often used in this genre is done so as a means to enrich the material. However, Dharmadasa doesn’t ever leave us in a state of confusion or suspicion in front of his handsomely-styled thriller. Unfortunately, although Avilenasului holds an inflammable plot, the narrative text structure seems unnecessarily dragging to fit into the parametres of a feature film. Due to this the required thriller mood of the film is somewhat disturbed in the middle and the viewer might lose the appetite or the trend for what is paramount for this genre of cinema.

But what works here is how Dharmadasa infuses a level of importance in every single incident through a chapter break. He breaks the narration into ten chapters where the different chapter titles appear on the black screen for a few seconds that precisely brings an instant twist of meaning in the viewer’s mind.

Remarkable

The modestly brave cinematography by Palitha Perera in ‘Avilenasului’ and his ability to capture the moving frame throughout the journey of the two characters of the film is absolutely remarkable and proves his maturity behind the camera.

The acting talents of Shyam Fernando and Samanalee Fonseka in Avilenasului should be commended.

Shyam Fernando is an experienced, character actor in Sri Lankan cinema with ample experience as a stage actor too. Undoubtedly he was able to bring out the authenticity of the ‘extremely calm in his outer appearance, yet wildly abusive inside’ - Kamal’s character in the screen.

Samanalee Fonseka the certified contemporary queen of Sinhala cinema in our time has been precisely able to deliver what the director craves from his woman character. Dharmadasa’s script and direction generously allows her to stretch those characteristics of an extremely authoritative yet fragile and ironically victimised woman in a male fantasy. Avilenasului is the first film to hit the theatres in the new normal world.

There is no damage that has hit the Sinhala cinema due to the Coronavirus pandemic or the new normal world, since the Sinhala cinema has always been socially distanced even before the pandemic.

Cinema is a medium where we entrap so much for the magical encounters it brings that sometimes we aren’t able to step back and look at what it is that we love so much about them.

However, right now the theatre based cinema industry is dying everywhere in the world and the situation here in Sri Lanka is even worse.

It is just a matter of finding the right alternative mode of execution without relying only on traditional theatre releases.

Since Avilenasului has its character to open up for such alternative mode of screening, it is important to come out of the traditional norms of film screening and create such alternative mode of cinema where we can hope for an igniting future for the Sinhala cinema in the ‘new normal’.

Avilenasului is produced by Anura Silva; and Chinthana Dharmadasa won the Most Promising Director award at the Derana Film Awards in 2018 for the film.

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This is cult cinemaChinthana Dharmadasa, Director

Chinthana Dharmadasa is critical in his opinion and well known as an opinionated blogger and critic. His polarising approach in creativity is filled with depraved psychopaths, crazed lovers and femme fatales, and Avilenasului is his debut feature film effort through which he has carved out a dark, shadowy corner for himself in Sinhala cinema.

He claims that his cinema is not for the mainstream movie-going public. As the global landscape changes and films travel across the world not in cans but through satellites, Dharmadasa believes his cinema has a new audience that appreciate new mediums of entertainment.

“I have always loved road-thriller movies and I appreciate films without big star casts. Globally there’s a method to make successful films without spending a lot of money. The idea is just to focus on content and I want to get the experience to learn as well, and to do things in an effective way. I think I was able to get the ideal cast and crew including the sensible producer on board who appreciates and supports my vision in filmmaking,” Dharmadasa said.

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Avilenasului could make me feel much younger - Anura Silva, Producer

It is not an easy decision to produce an art-house film and make it big, but producer Anura Silva says that with curiosity and tenacity, and by surrounding yourself with people you love, your odds can get a whole lot better. “Some were terrified about our decision to release Avilenasului just after the pandemic even before people get settled in their lives with the ‘new normal’.

People tend to think that we are insane. But for me, to produce art that you like is always driven by the desire and cannot only be calculated by its monitory value,” Anura said. Chinthana Dharmadasa was a first-time feature director when Anura decided to work with him. Explaining his decision to work with Dharmadasa from a producer’s perspective that gave him the confidence to take a chance with him, Anura said, “I loved Chinthana’s one page synopsis of Avilenasului. I admire his idea of thinking about cinema and life. He considers the art of making film an art. Making a film is messy and you learn a lot in hindsight. But the messy collaboration is what makes the art form incredibly unique,”

As the producer of the film, Anura’s ultimate intention is to make the film available in different forms as much as possible. He appreciates the support extended by Anura Jasenthuliyana, owner of Lite Cinema who has a similar vision to bring an alternative cinema in the country. “The great thing about making films that you appreciate is you get to know people who have equal enthusiasm for cinema and as a producer what I gained from Avilenasului is – the film makes me feel much younger,” Anura says.?

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