Touching upon the themes of life, death and hope director Aruna Jayawardana's directorial debut 'Nikini Vassa' (August Drizzle: Rain that Never Kisses the Earth) is unfurling in CEL circuit cinemas these days. The movie has won awards and made its presence felt at many international film festivals.
It bagged the Golden Cyclo Best Film Award and the Netpack Jury Award at the 18th Vesoul International Film Festival in France in 2012. It also won Chandani Seneviratne the Best Actress award at the Dubai International film Festival in 2011.
Chandani Seneviratne in ‘Nikini Vassa’
It has represented Sri Lanka at the Singapore International Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival, Mumbai International Film Festival and Kerala International Film Festival. Dr Kusumsiri de Silva has produced 'Nikini Vassa'.
'Nikini Vassa' is a result of a newspaper article that Jayawardana happened to come across in 2008. The story prompted him to explore the lives of the characters included in the incident.
"The film is about real life characters. The society is oblivious about their existence. They treat them as bad omens due to their choice in their career. Yet they need them at some stage in their life. The tale took shape in my mind and I realized that this is a good story to bring to the reel because it has a lot of aspects which we can explore cinematically," Jayawardana explained the concept behind his award winning production.
The screenplay of 'Nikini Vassa' too is penned by him. This, he says, was no challenge since he has also contributed to writing the script and co directed 'Dancing Star', the movie which grossed the highest income in Sri Lanka in 2009.
"I have looked at the incidents in the story through the eyes of diverse characters. They are not from the same class and background. However they embody characteristics and personalities which go with most of the characters around us. There is nothing extraordinary about them," he said.
Queried if his intention is to criticize the existing social strata Jayawardana said that 'Nikini Vassa' does not look at matters in a critical angle. It has roped in all kinds of characters linked with the setup revolving around Somalatha, the protagonist, who is a mortician.
"The society sees this as a business that is deemed unsuitable for a woman. Somalatha is capable of transporting, embalming and casketing bodies. However the society sees her profession as unclean and a curse. The villagers avoid her when they see her from the distance. They seem to have forgotten that they too will need her assistance once they die!" Jayawardana said.
He notes that to survive in the field Somalatha too is forced to take up the tricks of the trade.
"Everyone needs to have some sort of knowledge about their whereabouts to survive in this society. However some groups, especially those living in the village, are ignorant of such situations and fall pray to such con men," he stated.
Asked if his production does not recall Athula Liyanage's 2010 Remi Award winning 'Bambara Wallala' Jayawardana said that it can only be linked with the other because the incidents are mostly taking place in a funeral parlor.
"There are many films made around the globe which addresses the same topic. However the manner in which they deal with the topic sets them apart. You can weave hundreds of stories around a funeral parlor. I am not taking a business angle in the movie. I look at the manner in which a woman is treated mainly because she took over her father's business after his death," he noted adding that the incidents running throughout the movie is quite different from 'Bambara Walalla'.
Dialogues are scarce in 'Nikini Vassa'. Jayawardana said that one of his most important tasks was to select suitable actors for the roles. He had taken a considerable time to decide on which artistes to involve in his project.
"We all coordinated well with each other and I believe that this nurtured the film. They all did their bit in making the film a success," he said.
A graduate from Kelaiya University, Jayawardana is a programmes producer at one of the local television channels. For a career spanning 12 years he has worked as a teledrama director, script writer and lyricist and has produced teledramas, documentaries, music videos and talk shows.
He hopes to make more movies of high aesthetic value. He wishes to make a movie centering around the fisher folk as his second cinematic venture. However he says that this will only materialize if he finds a good producer.