Framing the real picture

Framing the real picture

Painful Truth

Framing the real picture

In Sri Lankan filmmaker Prasanna Vithanage’s terms, “The film is the message itself”. Bringing an understated realism to the screen for years, his films are a stark illustration of the world around him.

His latest work, ‘With You, Without You’, is set against the Sri Lankan civil war and weaves the story of a Tamil girl and a Sri Lankan man. While this Tamil-Sinhalese film with English subtitles is set to be screened in Bangalore on June 13 as part of ‘PVR Director’s Rare’, the auteur elucidates what drives him and his films.

“’With You Without You’ is based on a short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky called ‘The Meek One’. Initially, I was not sure of transforming it into a movie,” he admits. But as he read the work again and again, he was convinced that it could be set in the background of the civil war. “It is about how masculinity asserts itself in a relationship between a man and woman,” he says. The story also questions the consumerist values which tend to destroy human relationships. 

“I adapted the story to the ethnic conflict. I developed that story and worked on it,” he informs. Prasanna engages with the real world all the time. “I believe cinema is always about the grey areas of life,” he avers. 

In his formative years, he had an affinity for Russian literature and still does. “I grew up as a reader of Russian literature. Russian novels are more creative,” he says. In 1996, he wrote and directed ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, based on Leo Tolstoy’s last novel ‘Resurrection’.

 Indeed, what he tries to capture is the truth, the struggle of an individual within oneself and the social issues. For the writer-director-co-producer, the tryst with films came after his sojourn with theatre. While his films are slices from life, he does not believe in preaching. “I think if cinema tries to preach, no one is going to accept it. You are going to watch a cinema for an experience. Through enjoyment, you need to experience the message,” he says.

The creator of ‘Ice of Fire’ and ‘Death on a Full Moon Day’ has received accolades in the festival circuit. Ask him how tough movie-making has become today and he admits, “It is very challenging to be a filmmaker in a globalised world. The cinema of 70s and 80s are not possible now. The Hollywood blockbusters have changed the markets in Eastern Europe and Asia except India...”

His style of filmmaking is a long process. “I do all the background work months before the shoot. I begin the shoot only after I have a well-laid out script. For this film, my work with the cinematographer began 24 months before the shoot,” he adds.

“It’s very difficult to be unaware of the political tension in the sub-continent. And when you make a film on that, some sections in the society may not like it. The film hurts them,” he says.