Anuruddha Jayasinghe’s new film Ginnen Upan Seethala (The Frozen Fire) focuses on a controversial period of one of the most discussed rebels that the country ever produced to date. He brings Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Leader Rohana Wijeweera and his top rung cadres before the audience and shows them their futile, chaotic attempt (1983-89) in changing politics of Sri Lanka towards socialism.
Jayasinghe has directed the films, Bomba saha Rosa, and Eka Dawasaka Api and drama, Sankranthi among others.
Indeed, telling the story of Rohana Wijeweera is daunting. The director has to be fair, honest and brave enough to recreate the history for the present and the future without hidden agendas and hinges. We have to consider Ginnen Upan Seethala, therefore, as a cinematic creation as well as an effort to relate Wijeweera’s life.
Against this background, where many film directors would have made mistakes, especially, when they tell a true story such as this one – the mistakes such as indulging in popular heroic episodes, chaotic events, and terrors – Anurudha has omitted. Instead, Anuruddha let the story unfolds without focusing his camera too close even on the hero of the film, Wijeweera.
Therefore, the film unfolds in its own pace, not spurring audience that much thereby leaving them to make their own decisions. The film begins a scene of Wijeweera and a few of his cadres in a prison. The background of what led them in the prison and the present itself is unfolded through their dialogues. Then we see they are set free by the then UNP government and their entry into the mainstream of democratic politics (1982).
Wijeweera, thereafter, married a sister of one of his cadres. First she refused to marry him considering that she will not be the ideal match for his rebellious character, but her brother strongly advised her to marry Wijeweera since he could be the leader of the country one day.
Even though much was not told, a few scenes show us that she began understanding Wijeweera with the times.
Meanwhile, the situation of the country changed rapidly and the Black July and the riot of the North (1983) compelled the government to ban a few political parties including the JVP. Wijeweera went underground and attempted to lead his party in democratic path. Anuruddha shows us the gravity of the situation in the Black July with a few effective camera angles.
Among the many reasons that the film should be counted as a good one is its ability to tell the maximum with a few camera shots. The scenes in the Black July prove this uniqueness. The director captures the whole situation with a few daring camera angles and still keeps the momentum intact. The filming of torturing at state camps is another example – the shots are very few but they are extremely effective.
As the story unfolds, it becomes more humane. Even though close-ups are rare, Wijeweera comes to fore gradually, not that much in his leadership activities, but more in his emotional life trends. We witness his deep humanity as he is dealing with his loved ones and his cadres. His views over the armed struggle, which are mostly against its very essence, are evident of his willingness to choose democratic path over dictatorial measures.
Veteran actor Kamal Addaraarachchi portrays Rohana Wijeweera and he really does him justice. He does not overact, and stars brilliantly shelving the film at its end in the top rank of the Sinhala filmdom. Nadeeka Guruge has to be acclaimed for his imaginative music in the film. In fact, his music reawakens the events of the JVP era and of its leader and others that the viewers feel living in that chaotic era as the scenes unfold realistically amidst mellow tones of music.
Ariyawansha Dammage has presented the film screenplay and its effectiveness is highly evident throughout the film. Sulochana Weerasinghe as Wijeweera’s wife sharpens the main role with her somewhat advanced acting. A few close-ups of her, which are among the few of that kind in the film, provide compassions to the extent that the spectators feel their hearts melting. Other actors, too, do their roles convincingly enough.
That may be the reason that Ginnen Upan Seethala is the first Sri Lankan film that entered the ‘Best Picture” category of the 2019 Oscars.
Wijeweera tells his wife Chitharangani towards the end of the film to flee to another place to protect herself and the children from pursuers. “Where to,” asked Chitrangani.
A minutes after, against a gloomy background, the car with arrested Wijeweera runs along a road amidst mountains in Ulapane to the unknown.
The story still unfolds!
Of course, it will mark its end one day, or!