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Saturday, September 17, 2011

My personal blog: GAMANI - A great film

GAMANI - A great film

Gamani - Sarath Weerasekera's unceasing waves

By Dr. Prasanna Cooray

The career sailor, Member of Parliament, Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera fought the war with a purpose. Even at a time when the political authorities of the country were at sea with regard to their stance on war, SW, the officer and the gentleman, was well grounded. Weerasekera’s enemy was the LTTE terrorists and the Tamil people were his brethren. He always uttered this to the men under his command and proved his words by deeds. This I knew as his subordinate in the Navy. I still remember his very first assignment for me as a young Surgeon Lieutenant attached to the Elara naval base in Karainagar in late 1993 to move out from the base and to go to the people living in the islands on the outskirts of the Jaffna peninsula. That was very much a troubled time and travel (by a dinghy) was neither easy nor safe. Yet, soon, for a young doctor it turned out to be an immensely memorable adventure. First, he had to carry out the command of the boss. Secondly, it came with a lot of empathy and affection to the Tamil civilians who were caught in a brutal war, for a fault that was not theirs.

‘Gamani’ is Weerasekera’s first film. But it speaks volumes for his accomplishment as a master film maker. His selection of shots and scenes throughout the film keep the audience spellbound. The film revolves around a remote village called Gonagala, in the Ampara district. Through each frame he has mingled to perfection the serenity of an otherwise calm far-flung village with the uncertainty and fear that terrorism brought to the lives of its inhabitants. Opening with a scene of the brutal massacre of innocent civilians by the LTTE terrorists, the plot winds round the villagers’ collective struggle for life and their attempts at resisting such future attacks.

For Weerasekera, who was appointed chief of the Civil Defense Force after his retirement from the Navy, this was a case of sharing his personal experiences and challenges. Equal to the task of transforming the CDF from a bunch of ‘gambattas’ to a force to reckon with that went on to play a crucial role in eliminating brutal terrorism from the country, Weerasekera has captured his personal experience in celluloid to the highest standard of artistry. Perhaps, one may find it difficult to resist reminiscence of 1982 multi award winner ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ encountering similar scenes pertaining to military training. And what director Taylor Hackford accomplished for Hollywood, Weerasekera has done to perfection for the benefit of Sri Lankan film-goers.

In the quest to defeating terrorists physically, Weerasekera deploys two strategies. One is to vitalize the CDF through proper training. The other is to use the ancient Sri Lankan martial art tradition of ‘angam pora’ to attack the enemy when and where possible. Although one can raise a credibility issue with regard to the effectiveness of ‘angam pora’ in confronting the enemy in this era of sophisticated weaponry, I think yet the decision lies very much within the discretion of the director. Whatever it is, the viewer is treated to a breathtaking feast of ‘angam pora’.
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