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.
This essay by Gananath obeyesekere that appeared in Sri Lanka in Change and Crisis(Ed.James Manor, 1984) is a close investigation into post 1977 political realities, the implications of which have much to do with present impasse that Sri Lankan society seems to be in.
Gananath obeyesekere, the greatest anthropologist produced by Sri Lanka was born at Meegama in Darga Town in Kalutara. His father D.D.Obeyesekere, as he once remarked a cosmopolitan figure at that time in his life, was a lecturer in the Institute of Indigenous Medicine in Sri lanka. And he was also an adherent of Anagarika Dharmapala. Gananath obeyesekere received his B.A. in English with a first class honours in 1955 at the University of Ceylon in Peradeniya. He recalled later about his higher education as to how he came to refuse the suggestion offered by his professor to join the English department, at that time the prestigious department in the university and also automatic scholarships to London and Oxford because of his sneaking anti-colonialism despite the fact that left-wing leaders of Sri Lanka went to London or Oxford, or Cambridge. He obtained his M.A and PhD in University of Washington. Gananath Obeyesekere is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. Before his appointment to Princeton, Obeyesekere held teaching positions at the University of Ceylon, the University of Washington, the University of California, San Diego. His books include Land Tenure in Village Ceylon, Medusa’s Hair, The Cult of the Goddess Pattini, Buddhism Transformed (coauthor), the Work of Culture, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European Myth-making in the Pacific, Imagining Karma, Cannibal Talk, Karma and Rebirth and The Awakened Ones. He was also engaged in collecting and publishing rare historical manuscripts in Sri Lanka, which challenge the orthodoxies dominant in history. Among his numerous academic awards is the Thomas Huxley medal, which is given by the Royal Anthropological Institute and is listed as “the highest honor at the disposal of the Institute”. Obeyesekere has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Suntory-Toyota Fellow (STICERD) at the London School of Economics. His book on Captain Cook won the Louis Gottschalk Prize in 1993, awarded by the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies.