Globally renowned filmmaker Dr. Lester James Peries had all reasons to smile today when he met film journalists to share his views about the screening of the restored version of his celebrated movie ‘Nidhanaya’ at the prestigious Venice Film Festival last week - for the second time in 41 years.
The movie was earlier screened at the same festival in 1972 when it clinched the Silver Lion of St Mark.
Dr. Peries was joined by his wife, award-winning filmmaker Ms. Sumitra Peries, The Film Team Chairman and distinguished actor Ravindra Randeniya and Lester-Sumitra Peries Foundation Director Sameera Randeniya at Lester’s Dickman’s Road residence.
The digitally restored version of Nidhanaya was screened in the Venice Classic segment last Saturday.
Ms. Peiris, Ravindra and Sameera who attended the prestigious event in Venice to mark the world restoration premiere of the movie said it was a momentous moment not only for Dr. Peiris but also for the entire Sri Lanka.
“Nidhanaya which was thought be dead and gone, has now been resurrected from the ashes. Ravindra, Sameera and Padmaraj played key parts in
facilitating this restoration process and I am grateful to them. However I must gratefully remember three people who played major roles in the film. They are no more among the living, but I must hasten to remember with gratitude the roles played by scriptwriter Tissa Abeysekara, producer P. E. P. Anthionypillai and the film’s main player Gamini Fonseka. In fact Anthonypillai of Ceylon Studios produced two of my other films Golu Hadawatha and Akkara Paha too. I have been voicing my views about the need for a film archive for more than five decades, but they were restricted to mere words. I hope this landmark would be taken as a stepping stone to give serious thought to a process of restoring films,” Dr. Peries said.
Ms. Peries, Ravindra and Sameera also expressed their views about Nidhanaya’s second trip to the Venice Film Festival and overwhelming feedback the movie received.
Outlining the process that made the Nidhanaya restoration dream a reality, Ravindra Randeniya said the procedure was facilitated by him and his son Sameera together with the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) and New York-based World Cinema Foundation (WCF) which agreed to restore the masterpiece.
“This process started about one year ago when a business colleague of the Film Team who is also a great Lester fan from India was keen to meet Lester and locate Nidhanaya. The Wolrd Cinema Foundation came forward to undertake the job, which was indeed an uphill task. But we never gave up. NFC Chariman Ashoka Serasinghe and Mr. Padmaraj also gave their utmost support and eventually we were fortunate to witness the unspooling of the restored version of the celebrated movie at Venice after 41 years. The reception the film had was outstanding and it was a rewarding experience. It proved how Dr. Peries was still recognized, respected and honoured in the international arena. We only facilitated the move, but we have no right to the movie. It belongs to Dr. Peries, the producers, the artistes and crew members who contributed towards its success,” said Mr. Randeniya commenting that it was sad that the authorities had not been able to set up a film archive despite several attempts by various governments.
Sameera said the LJP Foundation was mainly focused in making this dream a reality.
Nidhanaya, produced by P.E.E Anthonypillai for Ceylon Studios and scripted by Tissa Abeysekera, based on a short story by G.B. Senanayake, features Gamini Fonseka and Malini Fonseka in the lead. It revolves around a murder committed for the purpose of gaining access to a hidden treasure. Maestro Premasiri Khemadasa has directed the music while M. S. Anandan handled the camera in the movie that also stars Saman Bokalawala, Francis Perera, Mapa Gunaratne, Shanthi Lekha,Trilicia Gunawardene, Thilakasiri Fernando, J.B.L. Fernando, Talatha Gunasekera, Wijeratne Warakagoda and others. (Ramesh Uvais and Pix by Nisal Baduge)