Star-studded Sinhalese Film on Silappadhikaram to Hit Screens Soon
COLOMBO: A star-studded and big budget Sinhalese film on Kannagi, the feisty heroine of the Tamil classic Silappadhikaram, is to hit screens across Sri Lanka soon.
Titled Paththini, as Kannagi is known in Lanka, the film is directed by Prof.Sunil Ariyaratne, a veteran with 20 feature films under his belt. South Indian star Pooja Umashankar, a heart throb of the Sinhalese masses, is playing Kannagi. Former Miss Sri Lanka, Aruni Rajapakse, is Madhavi the seductress; and Uddika Premaratne plays the wayward and troubled Kovalan.
“I am very fond of Tamil literature, especially Silappadhikaram and Manimekalai. Ever since I visited Tamil Nadu in the 1980s, I have been wanting to make films based on these classics,” Ariyaratne said, explaining why he chose the theme.
But the choice should not come as a surprise because in Lanka, Silappadhikaram is identified with Buddhism and Jainism. As “Paththini” Kannagi is worshipped by Sinhalese-Buddhists as a savior of women in distress, a Goddess of Fertility, and as a Bodhisattva or a Buddha-to-be. There is no Buddha Vihara in the island nation without a shrine for Paththini. Besides, there are hundreds of “Devales” dedicated to her.
According to Silappadikaram and the 17 th. Century Sinhalese chronicle Rajavaliya, the Paththini cult was brought to Lanka from Vanchi in Tamil Nadu by the 2 nd Century Sinhalese-Buddhist King Gajabahu. The Chera King, Sengottuvan, had collaborated in this venture.
But anthropologist Gananath Obeyesekere says that the cult came with immigrants from Kerala in the 10 th.Century, which explains its high prevalence among Eastern Province Tamils who are said to be from Kerala.
The Ilankai Tamil Sangam and Sinhalese scholars like Dr.Malathi de Alwis have hailed the Paththini cult as a unifying factor in ethnically divided Lanka.
To make the maximum impact on the masses, Ariyaratne and producer Milina Sumathipala, of the well heeled Sumathi Group, have roped in top actors, playback singers and dancers.
“It is a commercial film. It’s my wish to show a sub-titled version in India too,” Ariyaratne said.