Director Prasanna Vithanage has adapted Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s short story ‘The Meek One’ to probe the post civil war scenario in Sri Lanka through his film ‘With You, Without You’ as he believes it is impossible to move ahead without understanding the past.
“After the war many people believed that there will be a reconciliation and a political solution but unfortunately nothing much has happened. And as a Sri Lankan I feel very sad about it. All these compulsions made me re-look at the aftermath of war,” Vithanage told PTI in a telephonic interview from Colombo.
Set in post-war Sri Lanka, the story revolves around a Sinhala man, who falls in love with a Tamil woman. The Tamil-Sinhala language film explores whether love can overcome the weight of history. It also probes how masculinity impacts a relationship.
Starring Indian actress Anjali Patil and Shyam Fernando in lead roles, ‘Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka’ (With You, Without You) is being released in India this Friday through PVR’s Director’s Rare.
Patil won the best actress award at the International Film Festival of India 2012 for the film, which has been screened to wide acclaim in festivals like Kerala, BFI London, Chicago and Hong Kong.
The award-winning director, who was a jury member at IFFI last year, is happy that the film is releasing in India as he loves visiting the country.
Vithanage admits that it was difficult to make a film about a crisis that was so recent but feels as an artiste it is his duty to probe uncomfortable questions.
“Unfortunately, in the last four decades people of Sri Lanka became polarised on ethnic and religious lines. Raising these issues is difficult because of the polarisation. But without understanding the past you can’t move ahead,” he says.
“As an artiste it is our duty to probe even when the conditions are against you. Otherwise, you become a part of the polarisation and the agenda.”
Vithanage, who has successfully adapted classic works by Bernard Shaw and Leo Tolstoy in the past, says he chose Dostoevsky’s short story for his seventh film because it had many layers.
“As any great story or piece of literature it has many layers. In one layer it is about masculinity and how it affects a genuine relationship between a man and a woman. This character in my film is icy cold. He does not show his emotions. He does not show his love though it is genuine. Men can be cruel without being violent,” says Vithanage.
The director is all praise for his lead actors Anjali and Shyam, who, he says, went beyond their limits to explore the darkness that their characters had.
“Whatever intensity you try to bring out as a director is impossible without good actors. Luckily, I had two brilliant actors who were willing to travel to this dark space. Anjali even dubbed the film in her own voice.”
Vithanage, whose film career includes internationally acclaimed titles like ‘Ice on Fire’, ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, ‘Walls Within’, ‘Death on a Full Moon Day’, ‘August Sun’ and ‘Flowers of the Sky’, believes the film is a culmination of his love for India.
“This film is a culmination of my love for India. I first came to India in 1993 and ever since I have visited the country many times. It is my second home. All my post-production work is done in Chennai and I keep visiting Mumbai for sub-title work. I have worked with editor A Sreekar Prasad and sound editor Tappas Nayak many times,” he says.
The director says he would like to work with actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the near future.
“I am working on a film whose script I has been writing for a long time. It is a historical story and set before Sri Lanka came under the British rule.”