Nilendra Deshapriya on Why His Films are Essentially Political - The New Indian Express

Nilendra Deshapriya on Why His Films are Essentially Political

Published: 07th December 2013 09:06 AM

Last Updated: 07th December 2013 11:36 AM

“Why are these women here dancing on their own?

Why is there this sadness in their eyes?

They’re dancing with the missing

They’re dancing with the dead

They dance with the invisible ones

Their anguish is unsaid

They’re dancing with their fathers

They’re dancing with their sons

They’re dancing with their husbands

They dance alone...”

The famous song  composed by Sting is an anguished outpour inspired by a brutal reality - droves of Chilean women dancing Cueca, their national dance, carrying the photographs of their dear ones who went vanishing under the dictatorship of Pinochet.

It’s the same tyranny and trauma that form the core of Nilendra Deshapriya’s latest film ‘They Dance Alone’, which he calls a ‘politically sensitive one’. “There are people who live never-ending tragedies. The film is about an abducted journalist who is later found dead.

The storyline springs from a real-life incident happened in Sri Lanka. It captures the deeply upsetting plight of his mother who fights the system for justice. It’s the women who bear the brunt, and its the women who are the strong ones, because, when you lose a child you lose yourself.

The film is a French co-production and the filming will start soon,” he says. The Sri Lankan filmmaker is in the city to present his ‘Between Yesterday and Tomorrow’ at IFFK. The film will be screened today 6 pm at Anjali.                 

In Sri Lankan cinema most of the characters are lost in the labyrinth of suffering and Nilendra says his films make no exception. “No artist can escape or eschew reality. Your art is a mode of self expression and after living in the middle of brewing turmoil for 25 long years, you cannot detach yourself from the harrowing memories,” he says. 

‘Between Yesterday and Tomorrow’, that won this year’s Global Film Initiative Grant, starts unspooling on May 19, the day Velupillai Prabhakaran was gunned down. Three friends embark on a journey to the war-ravaged Jaffna and they decide to take the route through A9 highway, a road that was closed for almost 25 years.

Once the A9 opens they get into an auto and start their impromptu trip through Sri Lankan hinterlands. But as they hit the restricted road, the journey turns out to be an affair that unfetters their innermost fears. “The narrative is interspersed with real-life footage. I am not trying to impose anything, but the line between real and reel footage will create that undeniable sense of reality.”  

The filmmaker, who is working on two scripts simultaneously, says  his films are essentially political. His another project ‘Mother Daughter Sister’ based on another true story, is about a female suicide bomber who is caught alive while on mission.

“The film studies the psyche of a woman trained to kill and willing to blast herself into pieces. It shows the transformation - how her acute apathy mellows into something feminine and human as she starts craving for a normal family life,” he says. 

Nilendra, who has a long association with television, is the one who introduced the concept of reality shows in Sri Lanka.

“I started my career as an assistant director at the age of 17 and has worked with almost all top directors in Sri Lanka. Getting into television was an accident. For a 21 million population we have about 13 to 14 free to air channels in Sri Lanka which is really big. But my first love has always been movies,” he says. 

He says Sri Lankan filmmakers are familiar with Malayalam cinema and even gives you a spate of titles. “Shaji N Karun’s ‘Piravi’ was something we could easily relate to - the son going missing and the elderly parents waiting in vain for the return.”

He also adds that he doesn’t want to be categorized as an art filmmaker or quite appreciate the art-house vs mainstream division. “The filmmaker just expresses, the classification is created by the audience,” he says.  

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