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War Against Injustice Power-play Underneath a Social Fabric

Dharmayuddhaya is not only a moral saga but also an eye-opener for almost all the segments of society from the lowest to the highest. It underscores the universal message that political power is momentary and transient and at the end of the day, good triumphs over evil.

Apart from exploring the filial love under most trying circumstances, Dharmayuddhaya sheds light on gory aspects of the society we live in and depicts the milieu which is dominated by powerful political figures who take law into their hands and they are being aided and abetted by corrupt police officers. Although the plot is simple, the movie deals with a common phenomenon, particularly, in a South Asian context.

The story is woven around a self-made businessman Harishchandra who is much respected and loved by the community and his closely-knit family which Harischandra considers as his treasure. Apart from engaging in property sale, he is a film buff who watches a movie almost every day.

However, his peaceful life is shattered when a stranger enters his life. A powerful political figure (Vishaka) upturns every stone to find her missing son, almost taking the law into her own hands as she is assisted by a corrupt police officer. It ultimately turns into a battle between justice and injustice and might versus right. It is a gripping modern-day drama, a family movie with a moral message to take home.

On the one hand, it is a common story and on the other hand, it is a righteous war against evil (Dharmayuddhaya) and ultimately a celebration of the triumph of good against evil. What is significant is that it is not only the first cinematic venture of Sirasa but also it would be a trend setter in Sri Lankan commercial cinema in which the filmmaker strives to add value to the dwindling ethos of the Sri Lankan commercial cinema.

Among other things, the movie excels in many aspects; such as colour grading, depiction of diverse complex characters and timely and apt directorial interventions in the narrative. Narrative unfolds in an organic manner, which is one of the salient characteristics of a good commercial movie, engaging the viewers with the movie from the very beginning to the end. Glamorous nature is another significant characteristic of the movie which offers Sri Lankan viewers memorable roles such as those of Harischandra (Jackson Anthony) and his wife Rani (Dilhani Ekanayake). Both roles were brilliantly played and contributed a lot to the overall success of the movie.

Dharmayuddhaya is a rare instance where Sri Lankan views could watch natural acting of most of the experienced Sri Lankan actors such as Jackson Anthony and Dilhani Ekanayake. It is obvious that director has been able to derive intended performances from almost all the characters without allowing any character to dominate the scene. This has, apparently, created a synergetic effect on the movie. Douglas Ranasinghe (Upali), Kusum Renu (Vishaka), Kumara Thirimadura (PC Wimal), Thisuri Yuwanika (Achini), Vinumi Vansadhi (Sachni) have also portrayed their allotted characters in an effective manner, contributing their share to the overall success of the movie. Dharmayuddhaya also stands out for its technical versatility and prescient editing. Versatility in editing has enabled it to come out with organically blended montages that ensure a gripping saga. What is important to note is the fact that the movie is relevant to the society and its encoded message is universally applicable although the form and content may differ from one society to another.

The movie should be judged against emerging realities in the field of cinema and against the backdrop of digitalization and convergence of aesthetic from diverse sources. However, that does not suggest that old aesthetics of cinema and art may vanish from the scene but it essential suggests a process of transition that is to continue unabated in the years to come. Itis a movement known as Post-cinema and the post cinema does not mean that it is a clear-cut break the traditional media.

"It is with this understanding in mind that we reject the idea of post-cinema as a clear-cut break with traditional media forms and instead emphasize a transitional movement taking place along an uncertain timeline, following an indeterminate trajectory, and characterised by juxtapositions and overlaps between the techniques, technologies, and aesthetic conventions of 'old' and 'new' moving image media. The ambiguous temporality of the 'post-,' which intimates a feeling both of being 'after' something and of being 'in the middle of 'uncertain changes—hence speaking to the closure of a certain past as much as a radical opening of the future".

Observe Shane Denson and Julia Leyda, writing an introduction to Post-Cinema- Theorizing 21st Century Film.

Digital cinema

Defining characteristic of digital cinema is its ability to manipulate moving image and the divergence of new technologies. Lev Manovich in an academic article titled 'What is Digital Cinema?', observes some of the aspects of the process as "Rather than filming physical reality it is now possible to generate film-like scenes directly in a computer with the help of 3-D computer animation.

Therefore, live-action footage is displaced from its role as the only possible material from which the finished film is constructed.
Once live-action footage is digitized (or directly recorded in a digital format), it loses its privileged indexical relationship to pro-film reality. The computer does not distinguish between an image obtained through the photographic lens, an image created in a paint program, or an image synthesized in a 3-D graphics package, since they are made from the same material—pixels. And pixels, regardless of their origin, can be easily altered, substituted one for another, and so on. Live-action footage is reduced to just another graphic, no different from images that were created manually.

If live-action footage was left intact in traditional filmmaking, now it functions as raw material for further compositing, animating, and morphing. As a result, while retaining visual realism unique to the photographic process, film obtains the plasticity that was previously only possible in painting or animation. To use the suggestive title of popular morphing software, digital filmmakers work with 'elastic reality.' For example, the opening shot of Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis 1994; special effects by Industrial Light and Magic) tracks an unusually long and extremely intricate flight of a feather. To create the shot, the real feather was filmed against a blue background in different positions; this material was then animated and composited against shots of a landscape. The result: a new kind of realism, which can be described as 'something that looks as if it is intended to look exactly as if it could have happened, although it really could not.'

Previously, editing and special effects were strictly separate activities. An editor worked on ordering sequences of images together; any intervention within an image was handled by special-effects specialists. The computer collapses this distinction. The manipulation of individual images via a paint program or algorithmic image processing becomes as easy as arranging sequences of images in time.

Both simply involve 'cut and paste.' As this basic computer command exemplifies, modification of digital images (or other digitized data) is not sensitive to distinctions of time and space or of differences of scale. Thus, re-ordering sequences of images in time, compositing them together in space, modifying parts of an individual image, and changing individual pixels become the same operation, conceptually and practically."

Although one may not see all of these characteristics in Dharmayuddhaya, it has attempted to appropriate most of these characteristics in digital cinema in Sri Lankan context, thereby creating a kind of indigenous aesthetics in digital cinema. It excels in terms of form and content which is appropriate to be inspired rather than emulated by aspiring Sri Lankan commercial filmmakers. What often happens is 'the final resolution' in most of the Sri Lankan commercial movies are rather blunt and is almost amounting to a narration. The final resolution should be ideally implicit as skillfully depicted in Dharmayuddhaya.

The defining undercurrent that makes the meat of the movie is the power play among diverse characters in society. Unbridled corruption and gross abuse of power is rampant, particularly in Asian context, although the degree and level may differ from one layer to another in the society. For instance, lowest ranking police officer abuses his power to demand bribes while a powerful political figure takes law into her hand. In the process of ensuing power- play, law enforcing officer have been reduced to mere pawns on the chess board of life where rules of the game are made by the politicians themselves for their own benefit. However, the movie ends with a glimmer of hope.

Technical crew including K. S. Chammanthraj (Creative Executive Producer), Cheyyar Ravi (Director) and Shanmugam Saravanan (Director of Photography) should be commended for their noteworthy contribution to the overall success of the movie.

Dharmayuddhaya will hit the silver screen from July 14 onwards at Regal, Majestic, Lido and cinema's island wide.

Dharmayuddhaya, a movie produced by: MTV Channels (Pvt.) Ltd. It Is a Sirasa Movie and is a presentation by M Entertainments.

It is the fervent hope of the movie lover that the entry of Sirasa Movie into Sri Lankan commercial cinema would bring about paradigm shift in the Sri Lankan movie industry, brining patrons back to cinemas and thus, in the long run, creating a vibrant commercial movie industry in Sri Lanka.(Ceylon Today)

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