Lester’s validity | Daily News

Lester’s validity

Lester James Peries was born in Sri Lanka long before the ‘71 insurrection happened. The only similarity is the year. Lester contributed to the development of Sri Lankan national cinema. Dr Lester James Peries’ films brought national and international recognition to Sri Lankan Cinema. The impact of the ‘71 insurrection is still discussed without a conclusion.

In the Museum of Modern Art, most of Dr Peries’ films are preserved for the use of film enthusiasts the world over! In Sri Lanka, Dr Peries lamented the need for a film archive till his death. We have no opportunity to see any of his films whenever someone studies about films or someone who want to view his films for the first time! Nor are there Lester James Peries Film Festivals to give the film buffs to renewal their memories.

Such cultural events are rare in Sri Lanka even when there are Film Corporations, Cultural and Information Departments. Our Foreign Ministry when signing Cultural Agreements with foreign missions there is ‘intercultural relations and exchange programmes. A film festival in honour of this great national film artist was never a reality! I wonder if any constructive step has been taken to bring back the original copy of Dr LJP’s Sandesaya from the Czech Republic? Our cultural authorities were never concerned about these matters. These are not matters of national interest or a matter of ‘cheap publicity for the prevailing political culture.

Lester was essentially a man of films. Till his death, he spoke about films whenever we met him. His involvement was films! He was living with films. He showed a path for young filmmakers; Dr LJP’s feature films were rooted in SL. Through the documentary film making for Government Film Unit, he saw the lifestyles of ordinary peasants and felt common people’s pulse! As a feature filmmaker, he was based on the most outstanding Sinhala novels of eminent Sinhala novelists like Martin Wickramasingha (four films including Gam Peraliya) GB Senanayaka, Madawala S Ratnayaka and Karunasena Jayalath. Leonard Woolf’s Village in the Jungle is the best novel written by a British civil servant during the colonial era was Dr LJP’s most controversial films. His portrayal of SL society and lifestyles is still the best to me. There may be disagreements too!

Dr Lester’s greatness is thus. He never went into exile leaving the cinema. He made SL cinema proud of what he did! Ransalu was a film he made with the essence of Buddha’s teaching: the moderate life practised for relinquishment. Rekhava was the peasants’ wrong livelihood and illusions. ‘Nidhanaya’ was based on lust or desire. Lester’s kind of films are for that audience! ‘Golu hadawatha’ was enjoyed by a majority.

I conclude this note with William Wordsworth’s saying:

‘Plain living and high thinking is no more!’