Image from http://akasakusum.blogspot.com/
I have noticed that every time I’ve watched a film by Prasanna Vithanage, it has made me think. For days afterward I would randomly remember something from the film, I’d research to understand certain parts of it that I did not fully comprehend. For an example, after watching Ira Madiyama, I attended lectures and discussions about it, read reviews and related articles (and went through a post-modernist phase as a result!) because there was much to think about and digest.
Akasa Kusum had the same effect on me, albeit with a slight difference. While Vithanage has been consistent in making another thought provoking film, this time around my ponderings have been on a more personal level than before and more short lived. Maybe I went in with too high expectations or maybe it really was weaker than his previous works. Someone with more insight could sort that out for me.
The cast was very good and Akasa Kusum is a great example of how much difference a good director could make. I have never been a big fan of Malini Fonseka and while this film did not change my mind overnight, it was heartening to see a sincere performance by her. There were parts where I did not connect to her at all and while it was a good performance overall, I wondered if she lived up to the accolades she has been receiving for this role.
The rest of the cast also performed ably, Dilhani Ekanayake was very believable as the stereotype young film star, Jayani Senanayake and Kaushalya Fernando gave excellent and authentic performances as per usual and Samanalee Fonseka was a revelation in what should have been her debut cinematic performance instead of the ditzy character she played in Heart FM.
But special mention must be made of Nimmi Harasgama. The last time I saw her was in Ira Madiyama (having missed Nisala Gira) and her improvement is astounding. She was a good actor to begin with but there were times when she was not convincing and all that has changed with her role as Priya in Akasa Kusum. Her facial expressions were a treat to watch, whether it were the subtle changes of emotion or the powerful outbursts. The rest of her body language could have been better but all in all, she beautifully (literally and metaphorically) navigated her way through what I believe must have been a difficult and emotionally draining role.
The main reason why I think Nimmi Harasgama outshined Malini Fonseka in this film is because while the latter seemed to present a seemingly shallow portrayal of what was a very tortured character (it felt as if she was merely following the Director’s instructions and not adding her personal input as she mentioned she had) while the former gave part of herself to her role and went beyond what Vithanage had envisaged for the role. In a recent interview Vithanage mentioned that Malini Fonseka gave part of herself to the role but this was hardly translated to the audience. But like I said earlier, this may have been a result of having too many expectations of her and each individual would have their own opinion on how she measured up.
The story was not as powerful as Vithanage’s previous works. While it was wonderful to have him write a female centric script and garner some powerhouse performances from the cast, towards the end of the film it was felt that the characters were not given enough time to ponder over some new twists in the story. I don’t want to go into details in case I give away the entire story. The parodies of modern Sri Lankan television (which Sirasa TV had sportingly been part of) were a nice touch as were the subtle changes in the main character’s appearance, daily routine, etc.
The background score by Lakshman Joseph De Saram captured the spirit of the film very well but I was confused about the abrupt editing of the film. At certain points, it felt as if we were being rushed from one scene to another and I wish there was a more seamless quality to it. I must also note that I’m clueless about such technical aspects of film making and therefore am not qualified to pass judgment on it (though I just did!).
However, the last few seconds of the film changed my doubts about the script because those few lines summed up the personal struggles Vithanage explored through this film and left me with that hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach, which is how I measure a really good film. As I mentioned earlier, Vithanage once again succeeded in making a thought provoking film.
To sum up, Akasa Kusum is a film you should consider watching (though I was very disappointed to find that there were no English subtitles which I didn’t need but some people would, if the film is to reach out to a wider audience) and while it is not Vithanage’s best work, it is a poignant and insightful piece of work on lives that may be alien to most of us.