Jackson Recreates History with 'ABA' 

Talented dramatist, actor, TV personality and filmmaker, Jackson Anthony in his second attempt in film making is to recreate the golden era of Sri Lankan history. “Aba” is the historical story of Prince Pandukabhaya, the man who brought all clans existing in the country under one rule. Jackson, himself a historian, has brought to light the historical facts and figures to create an authentic work of cinema. Jackson is now busy with its pre-production and he disclosed and described to TV times his latest venture and its background.

TV times: - What is the setting for Aba “?

The story for my film is set in the 4th Century BC. It is about the rise of the of Ruhunu dynasty and the childhood of kind Pandukabhaya. As a child he was called Aba and the story unfoldds up to the age he becomes ‘Pandukabhaya’. There is a belief that originally Sri Lankan nation started from ‘Vijaya’ but by the time Vijaya came to Sri Lanka there were over hundreds of civilizations around the country. People of these civilizations existed long after that event and even the present generation carry their genes. The story of the film is a fact which even rock inscriptions of the period of the Ruhunu Kingdom bear proof.

We saw this with the recent box office Hollywood films like The Lord of the Ring, Harry Potter or even the animation films like Ice Age. These fall into the category of family films. Earlier the definition for the family films was stories that revolve around the issues of family. But this has changed now. 

The same phenomenon is followed by Bollywood as well. Indian cinema followed the historical love story of Radha and Krishna who ran around trees and even today they follow the same love story added with more colour and glamour. Presently, India also borrows characters from fantasy and mythical tales of Maha Bharatha and Ramayana. Instead of Hollywood characters like ‘Superman’ and ‘Spiderman’, Bollywood created Krish, the character of Krishna.

BBut for my story I am creating a true realistic hero who lived in this country during a certain era. 

TVT : Do you think this trend of historical stories would attract Sri Lankan audiences?

I believe the world trend is equally valid for Sri Lankan audience as well and any survey done on world firm audience is valid for Sri Lankan audience too. It has been found that the audience accepts anything with an attractive structure making use of rich technical quality. And I am sure, given an attractive film with technological richness this film would definitely be accepted by Sri Lankans.

TVT : Would this be an attempt to emphasize the importance of the Sinhala race?

Nationalism and racism are two completely different concepts. Nationalism is something very positive whereas racism is a virus. But unfortunately, in our society nationalism had been overtaken by racism and anybody with nationalistic feelings is labeled a racist. And these two have been misinterpreted as one. In fact, this is one reason why the younger generation does not respect nationalistic ideas. We have to separate these two, but we cannot do this by war. Like a swan which can separate water from milk, I believe that it is only an artiste who could separate nationalism from racism from our society.

My attempt is not to boost the morale of the army and encourage war or to be a mouthpiece of those who propagate the virus of racism. In fact at the time of ‘Pandukabhaya’ there was no racial problem or ethnic differences yet he united all the clans like ‘Yaksha’ etc., and brought them under one ruler.

TVT :- You have said that one of the purposes of this film is to inject positive thinking in the country” 

Jackson :
When we analyze history we can see the negative attitude and backwardness which were there during the Gampola and Kotte Kingdom eras and this became worse after subjugation by foreign powers—a fact which even films depicted. Over the past 50 years of cinema there were over 1050 films. But only six films were based on history. They were Ashokamala (1947) Sirisangabo (1952), Sandeshaya (1960), Sigiri Kashyapa (1966), Weera Puran Appu (1978), and Weera Maddumabandara (1984). But even these films were tragedies or stories about tragic heroes. But there were important eras in our history which we have never highlighted.

TVT : you think that this type of film would bring back the audience to cinema?

Jackson :
Bringing the filmgoers back to the cinemas is a problem that the film industry in any part of the world is facing, If we do a good piece of work there is always an audience ready to watch.

In addition to this, the division between artistic films and commercial films also has affected the audience. There is a belief that artistic films are not commercially successful and commercial films are not artistically rich. This is a misguided idea. In the whole world it is only in Sri Lanka that cinema is divided as artistic and commercial. In addition there was a separate circuit also created for different films.

Take for example Suriya Arana. It was box office hit which people watched several times. It was a beautiful film. I believe that the people are more educated and have an artistic taste to decide what is good and what is bad.

TV Times 16 Jun 2007