For most viewers, Sri Lanka does not quite figure as a filmmaking nation despite significant films emerging from that country for so many decades. Amongst some of the names that are known to film aficionados are Lester James Peries (1919-2018) – about whom Satyajit Ray once said that he was the most famous filmmaker from this side of the Suez Canal after himself; Prasanna Vithanaje, Asoka Handagama, and Vimukthi Jayasundara. (These are some of the names whose films I have seen.) I had never heard of Dharmasena Pathiraja till I saw his THE WASPS ARE HERE recently.
He was known as the ‘enfant terrible’ of Sri Lankan cinema who is being rediscovered now. THE WASPS ARE HERE, made in 1978 deals with the prototypal conflict involving local fishermen whose livelihoods are suddenly threatened by the arrival of the son of a landowner who traces his roots to the village. At the centre of the conflict is a love story that develops between a local girl and the urban outsider that raises the hackles of the fishing community, leading to unforeseen blood path. The director maintains a fine balance between the two warring forces without being judgemental and never goes overboard in handling dramatic scenes. Shot in black and white, there are sections in the films whose cinematography recalls the imagery of Ritwik Ghatak. This superbly restored print is playing on MUBI. Check this out.
Ranjan Das is a Mumbai based filmmaker and faculty.