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Ananda in action again
By Ramesh Uvais
Guess what's common in films like Nidhanaya, Golu Hadawatha, Gehenu Lamai, Madol Duwa, Akkara Paha and Handapana? They are of course a few select Sinhala movies, which got noticed for being different from the rest, but there is more to it. All these films were captured on reel through the lens of veteran cinematographer turned film director M.S. Ananda.

M.S. Ananda who later became a household name with films like Mage Nangi Shyama, Chandi Shyama, Hello Shyama - in which his daughter Shyama Ananda created a sensation portraying bold, tomboy roles - now resides in Canada with his entire family.

Now, after about 10 years since he made his last film (Mama Baya Ne Shyama), Ananda was in Sri Lanka recently on a brief vacation.

And for those who are curious to know more about this versatile filmmaker's latest moves, here's some good news.

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Ananda whose film career spans more than 50 years, revealed his plans to make a new film, which would be shot on locales in Sri Lanka and Canada.

"I always believed in neat entertainment for the whole family and my new film will also be on a similar family theme, but the approach will be totally different. Apart from scenes shot in Canada and Sri Lanka, I also plan to picturise two songs in India handled by Indian choreographers, " said Ananda, who is reluctant to talk much about his own achievements.

Having had his education at St. Matthew's College, Dematagoda, Ananda and Zahira College, Colombo, Ananda's passion for photography grew from his childhood. His burning desire to become a photographer overtook his family's dreams of seeing him taking up a good job and he entered the magical world of films in 1949 as an assistant cameraman at the Sundara Sounds Studio where, Banda Nagarayata Pemineema - the first film to be completed in a local studio - was released in 1952.

Ananda also worked behind the scenes in Prema Tharangaya and Eda Ra before leaving to follow a filmography course in India where he worked with big names in Bollywood.

He said legendary stars like MGR and Sivaji Ganeshan had tried to coax him into staying back in India after he completed the course, but he was keener to work in his motherland.

Then he joined Ceylon Studios as the chief cameraman and worked for films such as Pirimiyek Nisa, Daruwa Kageda?, Awiswaasaya and Heta Pramada Wediy.

Though that was the first chapter in Ananda's film career, his creative side fully emerged through his links with renowned filmmaker Dr. Lester James Peiris in Nidhanaya, Golu Hadawatha and Akkara Paha.

As he continued to receive recognition and fame as a creative camera director, he also directed some films - Sithaka Mahima (1964), Satha Panaha (1965) and Ethulweema Thahanam (1966). Later in 1969 he shouldered the dual task of producing and directing Prawesamwenna, following it up with Mage Nangi Shyama, Chandi Shyama, Hello Shyama and Mama Baya Nehe Shyama in which his daughter Shyama Ananda played key roles.

His films dished out a generous dose of entertainment by way of catchy songs, dance sequences, thrilling fights and of course, sentiment.

'Chandra Me Re Paya Awa', the popular duet in Ananda's film Satha Panaha is a hit even today, but he recalled how the song was sarcastically criticized after the film was released.

"How often can we continue to make films on the same monotonous theme. I like to do different shades of films that will provide quality entertainment and value for money. My new film will have a lot of animations and I am planning to launch my 14-year-old grandson Ritchie Perera (Shyama's son) as the hero of the film, which will be basically children-oriented too. Besides him, I will be introducing some new faces whom I have already interviewed," the veteran said.

But a lot of discontentment has crept into the mind of Ananda after he was not invited for a ceremony organized by the National Film Corporation to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sinhala cinema seven years ago.

"I was in Sri Lanka then. Loads of praise had been heaped on Nidhanaya at the event, but the organisers failed to remember the camera director of the film," he lamented.

Commenting on the current status of the Sinhala cinema industry, he said the state should play a major role to lift the industry from the present crisis.

"Priority should be given to technological aspects in which we are far behind other countries. We must have our own colour lab for processing films. On the other hand, all third grade sex films, which are mushrooming, should be immediately banned. Today most theatres cater to adult audiences while families are left with little or no option at all.

Films should be made with good story lines giving social messages. It is a pity that some industry men who turned politicians also appeared to have done little for the film industry. Lastly all our theatres should be upgraded if the industry is to be revived," said Ananda who will be returning to Canada before the National New Year.


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