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Between two worlds :Some reflections on the Cinema of Lester James Peries – Tissa Abeysekara

A week later, there appeared in the respected national daily, Dinamina, a full-page review of the film by Sarachchandra. It was unqualified in its praise. In his own inimitable style of critical analysis, which whilst deeply rooted in Sanskrit poetics is also flavoured by an engaging personal tone, Sarachchandra hailed the film as an unqualified masterpiece. There was in that long piece, a single word, which has fascinated me ever since I read it in the context of that review. The word is significant because for me it expresses with breathtaking economy not only the state of the Sinhala film up till then, but also the low esteem in which it was held by the local intelligentsia. The word has a Pali root and a specific religious meaning especially within Buddhist mythology. OPA-PATHIKA, is an adjective used only in relation to a Buddha. In a clerical sense it implies a meaning akin to that of the Christian idea of Immaculate Conception. It is impossible to translate the word into English without spilling more than half its essence in the dust. A general interpretation would mean that which is born without the normal union of man and woman. But when and how does a work of art – an inanimate object – become opa pathika, or could be referred to as such? The critical and strictly secular context within which Sarachchandra has used the word transforms its etymology. When the critic refers to Gamperaliya as an opa pathika kala kriti, he implies that nothing in the past by way of a cumulative progression or maturing has prepared us for its birth. It was a happening outside the simple law of cause and effect. Its a miracle, and that’s precisely what Sarachchandra calls the film, a miracle.

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