When stars fade

I suppose it is too late to write about Akasa Kusum now. There’s a plethora of reviews on papers and on the net. But the other day, I watched the film again, on DVD. I immediately realised the difference of watching the film in a small screen. And yet, I was stunned by the visual poetics of the film. And second time, I watched it tallying it with the script, which was a great learning experience. From a description on a script to the actual visual, there a distance of visual choices of a director in terms of easthtics that could go right and wrong, create depth or fail the film. This is what Tissa Abeysekara called “Roopagnanaya”. Viusalisation.

My mother, after watching it is perplexed. ‘It’s such a..a…simple story…’ she says…and underneath that statement I can hear what she implies. She is deeply moved, nonetheless. For people of my mother’s and grand mother’s generation, the film is something that makes them reminisce about the film stars they grew up adoring and rumours they read about them in tabloids. I felt that when they recall a certain incident that happened, connected to a certain film, or a certain song with Gamini and Malini, for instance, it also opens a door to their own pasts.

Perhaps, it is in the realisation that the story of someone whom they loved as a star, could be the same as their own in the long run.

In the long run.

It is a film that makes you contemplate about the ‘long run’ of our lives.

I am yet to see the Hurt Locker. So I will not comment on it. When I heard that Kathreen is the first woman director to win in that category in Oscar, I was saying, how behind time the Oscars are. Come on, Jane Campion was awarded the best director at Cannes for Piano in 1990, I think. Twenty years back!

Indeed, I feel Hollywood a decadent place, along with its outdated oscar panel of judges, but when I watched Akasa Kusum and sat there the other day chatting with Prasanna about women directors, I felt how difficult it is to be a woman in this industry. Even if it is just being an actress. I know a woman director in Sri Lanka, and I wondered at times where her bitterness and defensiveness comes from. Now I know where.

Last week in a film making workshop in Trincomalee, I walked in to a room of 26 boys and no girls.

“Where’s the gender balance?” I asked my colleague and organiser.

“Ah! don’t ask me! ” he moans. “Yesterday there were two girls, but they both want to be actresses, so when they heard that the workshop is going to be on cinematography, they dropped out”

So I am to understand that acting has got nothing to do with making films…the curse of this generation!

Beside all this disappoinment, I realised how difficult it is, to have a woman express herself freely. In a man’s world. It will take us a long time to find our own thoughts, I’d say. So filmmaking is a long shot.

Now my grandmother wants to watch Akasa Kusum, just to see the old photographs of Malini. So probably I will end up watching it for the fifth time. every time I watch the film, I notice the details that has gone in to its seemingly simple frames. Masquerading as simplicity is the complexity of capturing the rituals of daily life and rendering it into poetry. If I were to use words, I would definitely labour much in finding the words, to keep it simple, yet rich in-depth.

As I said, this is no review of  Akasa Kusum, just a string of thoughts it got me into. But despite all the rave reviews it got, and knowing that I am no great critic whose words one would print in the DVD cover, I still feel I need to express my admiration for the politics and the poetics of this film.