Aba, Amarasekara and Weerawansa

The film Aba has at least done one thing important. It has exposed the so-called champions of the Sinhala Buddhist cause, who have failed to sever links with the Western Christian Modernity, and we can see many of them are either absolutely silent about this immensely controversial film or supporting the film or its director in one way or the other.

What these modernist Sinhalese, whose survival is mainly ensured by the existence of Prabhakaran rather than the hegemony of the Western Christian Modernity, are interested in is building a Western Christian Modernist state (even though some of them like to call it a post-modernist state) that largely belongs to the Sinhalese.

From Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara's article published in The Island of 23 - 10 - 2008, it is clear that he too has decided to join the bandwagon of vindicating Mr. Jackson Anthony so that the latter can continue to wear his Sinhala Buddhist mask, which keeps falling down with the every frame of the movie.

Dr. Amarasekara may have coined the term Jathika Chinthanaya, but his inability to emancipate himself from the Western Christian Modernity fully, which is mainly responsible for keeping him chained to realism, has prevented him from going beyond the literal meaning of Jathika Chinthanaya, which can be linked to Andrzej Walicki's book "A History of Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism", a review of which influenced the former to formulate the ideas of Jathika Chinthanaya.

Dr. Amarasekara, whose version of nationalism does not go beyond the ideology of the Patriotic National Movement, is unable to appreciate the significance of the Mahawamsa in the present context and consequently how badly the anti-national forces are trying to vilify the Great Chronicle in order to make it irrelevant for the present era.

Dr. Amarasekara might not know that Dr. Sumathy Sivamohan is very much feminine, but the point I want to make is that the fact that the film has left both of them cold and untouched at the end of film must be food for thought for the ideological darling of the former, Mr. Wimal Weerawansa, who has argued in his lengthy review published in the Divaina of 05 - 10 - 2008 that the fact that certain anti-national NGO elements are up in arms over the film prevents us from advocating that Mr. Anthony has created the film based on anti-Sinhala Buddhist motives. Not even Marxists, let alone Sinhala Buddhists, can be guided by the famous Arabian proverb, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend", without considering the context and it is hard to believe that Mr. Weerawansa, the seasoned politician, has not yet experienced that even traditional rivals can occasionally find themselves fighting a common enemy.

The main problem with Aba is not that Mr. Anthony has used Christian symbols quite unnecessarily and unjustifiably within the film. The film contains Christian symbols not because the director has been careful enough to identify and make use of every opportunity to insert a Christian symbol into the film, but because Mr. Anthony is trying to narrate a Biblical story using the characters and events in our chronicles. That is why Prof. Nalin de Silva wrote to the Divaina just after the release of the film that not only the cast but also the film itself is acting and I believe when a film is acting, it gives a whole new meaning to the concept of subtext. Mr. Anthony's attempt, which is not funny but despicable, clearly reveals the motives behind the creation of Aba and it is not possible to accept that there is nobody else behind this film other than the director and the two producers. We should not be so gullible to believe that millions of Rupees have been spent on this film purely out of love for cinema or to make money.

It is this attempt to say that what the Mahawamsa contains is a Biblical story that effectively prevents the director from portraying necessary heroism, even though Mr. Weerawansa has not only misconstrued Aba as an epic film, but also almost entirely based his appreciation of the film on heroism, which is not present but absent in the film. The forces behind Aba want masses to swallow their interpretation of our history in order to claim that Mahanama Thero was exposed to the Bible at least through secondary sources. The director keeps assuring the public that Aba authentically depicts the chronicles not because he wants to avoid the allegations of distorting history but because presenting the narrative in Aba to the unsuspecting people as the genuine story that can be found in the chronicles is a part of the plan. If it can be 'shown' that the Bible has influenced the Mahawamsa, then it will be a real boost for those who are struggling to find something in addition to the Nestorian cross in order to deprive the Sinhala Buddhists of their due place in the country. I am least surprised if Maha Sinhalaye Vansa Kathawa telecast by Swarnavahini was a precursor to their master plan.

It is true that Mr. Anthony's paternal love has somewhat spoiled the plan of drawing parallels between the Mahawamsa / Deepawamsa and Bible stories, because the actor who plays the role of Panduaba had almost reached the age of sixteen years by the time the film was produced but it should not prevent us from deciphering Aba in order to read the subtext. This is especially important because it is Dr. Amarasekara's blindness to the Christian image of the film that has prevented him from recognising the reasons behind the disjointed nature of the film, which he himself has mentioned. While it is not very clear whether he has now departed from his original stance of realism, it is interesting to note that Dr. Amarasekara, who always says that a novelist should portray society and the novel should be a realistic interpretation of society, does not have any complaints against the film.
Does Dr. Amarasekara believe that the film Aba represents the society?

Is it only the novelists that should do hard work to depict society but not the film directors? Why doesn't Dr. Amarasekara, who advocates that the novelist should have a social consciousness (samaja vinnanaya), give the same advice to the directors of cinema as well?

Dr. Amarasekara has found fault with the critics who have ignored the cinematic value of the film. Does he say that there are pure cinematic works, which do not convey any message to the society? If the Sinahala Buddhists, who are eagerly watching the film at the moment, mainly attracted due to its aesthetic aspects, start believing that the story presented in Aba is what our chronicles actually include, then can Dr. Amarasekara allow it to happen?
It may be argued that any film is counterfeit but what is important is how the public receive the film and what impact it can have on society. It looks as if Dr. Amarasekara had already done what one and only sane man, whom he has described in his article, ultimately decided to do, but what is regrettable is those who have resigned to the fate of having to accept the fake (Bol Pilimaya) as the genuine (Gal Pilimaya) are trying to project themselves as Gal Pilima.

Narada Wickramage
23rd October 2008 "The Island" News Paper
Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera's article
kalaya.org - Responses