Vimukthi Jayasundara, the lone Sinhalese to have directed an Indian film

Vimukthi_Jayasundara_2Links between Indian and Sri Lankan cinemas have had a long history, going back to the late 1940s. But while many Indians have directed Sri Lankan movies, only three Sri Lankans have directed Indian films so far.

The three Sri Lankans are: Batticaloa-born Balu Mahendra,  maker of the prize winning Veedu, Sandhya Ragam and Thalaimuraigal; Punguduthivu-born V.C.Guhanathan, who turned out commercially successful films like Thanikkattu Raja and Michael Raj; and Ratnapura-born Vimukthi Jayasundara, who has made the Bengali art film Chatrak.

Of the these, Vimukthi Jayasundara is unique for two reasons: he is the first Sinhalese to direct an Indian movie, and also the first Sri Lankan to make a film in Bengali.

Chatrak (Mushrooms), made in the tradition of the renowned Bengali film maker Ritwik Ghatak, was shown in the prestigious Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011, and also at the Toronto, Pacific Merdian and Vladivostok international film festivals.

Within a screening time of 90 minutes, Chatrak brings out significant aspects of the realities of urban India as seen in the metropolis of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), in which corporate interests determine the pattern of growth irrespective of social consequences, and where ambitions to succeed as per the parameters of the day, tear the social fabric and create traumas.

The film shows how values promoted by the corporatization of the economy and society lead to conflicts, isolation, remorse, disappointments, irreversible mental imbalance and even suicidal tendencies. The situation created by corporatization leads to the creation of roles and duties which are performed mechanically and often brutally. But even so, remorse creeps to the surface on occasion because,  after all, the denizens of the modern world are, at the core, human beings, not  automatons.

Chatrak is about  architect Rahul (played by Sudeep Mukherjee); his long-time love interest Paoli (played by Paoli Dam); Rahul’s unnamed deranged brother (played by Sumeet Thakur); and a foreign border-guard (Tomas Lemarquis).

Rahul goes to Dubai, like millions of other Indians, to earn a decent pay packet. But his younger brother fails in his attempt because of his disability. Dejected, the young man seeks refuge in the thickness of a tropical jungle. Since this happens to be at the border of another country, the border guard (Tomas Lemarquis) notices him, and after a brutal struggle, pins him down. But it does not take him long to realize that both had been pushed into doing what they were doing – killing people brutally in his case, and going abroad by hook or by crook to earn a living  in the case of the young man. The two alienated souls strike an unusual camaraderie.

Given the mushrooming construction of luxury condominiums in Kolkata, Rahul comes back from Dubai and takes up a job on one of the sites. The growing inequalities in Kolkata, the pauperization of the already poor original residents of the many construction sites; and his indifference to his brother’s fate, gnaw at Rahul’s conscience. These also lead to a disconnect with Paoli. But she doesn’t want to leave him, despite his saying that she would be better off without him.

Rahul and Paoli go looking for the brother, guided by typically Indian do-gooders. Finally they locate him in a thick jungle and bring him home to live with them. But the deranged brother, having forgotten social mores, becomes an embarrassment and the couple take him back to the jungle. But Rahul continues to be deeply troubled. In a moment of frenzy, he dives from the top of the concrete tower he was building.

In a conversation with this writer after a special screening of the film in Colombo recently, the 40 year old Director, Vimukthi Jayasundra, revealed how he hit upon the idea of making a film in Bengali, how he got people to back it, and how he chose the subject for the film.

Courtesy – The New Indian Express

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