Sri Lankan director Somaratne Dissanayake was in the city for the 16th International Children's Film Festival
When Sri Lankan director Somaratne Dissanayake decided to follow his heart and make movies, the option was to chuck his cushy job in Australia and return to Sri Lanka, his birth place. “I had kept the filmmaker inside me for long and it was time for him to come out and fulfill his dreams,” says Somaratne as he makes himself comfortable. This is his fourth visit to Hyderabad and Somaratne is excited as his movie King Siri was screened at the 16th International Children's Film Festival.
His movies hold the record for being commercially successful and also win awards.
“It's a challenge to make films which are box office hits, bring your money back and bag awards. Not many filmmakers can combine both,” he says. Somaratne's children's film like Saroja (depicting the ethnic problem and screened at the earlier film festival in Hyderabad ), Bindu, Butterfly Wings… have all dealt with diverse subjects and Somaratne feels he is lucky to be able to bring out the real issues.
If Indian filmmakers complain about the lack of patronage to children's films, Somaratna says the situation is worse in Sri Lanka. “Unlike India, where at least a niche audience appreciates children's films and go to theatres to watch it, in Sri Lanka, there is no film culture. Adding to our trouble is the finances. If we want a good camera to use during shootings, we have to hire it from India. We fly to Chennai for all the post-production work like sound mixing and printing,” he says Somaratne pauses for a second when we ask him to name the Indian films he has liked till now.
“I like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Buddhadas Dasgupta, Jahnu Barua and Mani Ratnam. Adoor's films are good and even score with the awards but unfortunately are not popular at the box office.” About Mani Ratnam's films, Somaratne says, “I loved Kannathil Muthamittal but he would do better if he did not mix the commercial elements in his movies. I think he is forced to do so to impress the producers. Even an actor like Shah Rukh Khan who is very talented is forced to dance in films.”
Somaratne says Sri Lankan film industry is looking up with a few young directors. “Children should have the opportunity to watch a good film. As filmmakers we should educate our young people through our films.”