- “This film had been with me for 12 years. I don’t mind losing it forever. But as a film industry person, just like many others I want to see the development and enhancement of this industry”
Seasoned film world personality Nihal Sanjaya who has served the industry for more than three decades in various capacities is now making his mark as a movie producer and director with the release of ‘Senehasaka Sihinaya’ that is now being screened in theatres. But he says with the local cinema industry losing its clout and popularity in the country due to various reasons, immediate measures must be taken to address issues concerning the one-time thriving industry, without letting it plunge further.
The legal ownership of this movie was transferred to me about 12 years ago. Initially it was titled ‘Senehasaka Sihinaya’ but the original producer had renamed it ‘Wassane Sihinaya’. All these are properly documented.
“Knowledgeable, dedicated and committed people must come forward to rescue our film industry since various stakeholders of this industry are silently facing numerous complications due to lack of focus and enthusiasm by the relevant authorities. As an industry person with about 35 years’ experience, I feel the only way out now is to ensure that a new system is streamlined with the film producer and exhibitor getting into an agreement to move forward without any hindrance. The National Film Corporation can serve as an authoritative monitoring body to enhance the value of this industry. I am saying this because I myself had to face a bitter ordeal recently with regard to the release of my first movie ‘Senehasaka Sihinaya’ (Wassane Sihinaya),” said Sanjaya.
“The legal ownership of this movie was transferred to me about 12 years ago. Initially it was titled ‘Senehasaka Sihinaya’ but the original producer had renamed it ‘Wassane Sihinaya’. All these are properly documented. The Censor certificate had been obtained under the original name. After the name change which had also been done officially, the National Film Corporation which is the governing body on movies had assured that the amendment of the title had been conveyed to all relevant parties concerned. But when I went to get a censor certificate under the amended name ‘Wassane Sihinaya’ I was told that the Censor Board was not aware of the amended name. I checked with the NFC officials concerned and learnt that there had been a lapse on their part as they had not informed the censor board about the amended title. By that time, I had spent a huge amount of money on publicity campaign material under the new name. I was left with no other alternative but to release the movie on March 25 under the original name ‘Senehasaka Sihinaya’ which had a valid censor certificate for the distribution circuit to release the film. Just then another snag emerged with the NFC claiming that there was an outstanding payment due to an artiste with regard to this film. According to my legal document relating to the transfer of the film in my name, I have been clearly absolved of all outstanding payments due to artistes or the crew.
I submitted the relevant document to the NFC. But considering the current Covid pandemic situation in the country and the resulting plight of artistes, I gave a written undertaking to the NFC pledging to pay any such outstanding payment once I receive the due payments from the NFC after the film’s release. This issue had also been taken up at a special board meeting of the NFC resulting in no decision. Funnily, one week after my film released, I saw a comment made by an NFC official in a Sinhala daily newspaper that there was an issue with regard to the release of my film. I was wondering why the NFC official had not either told about it to me or the film distribution circuit.
I smell something fishy about it,” he said.
“This film had been with me for 12 years. I don’t mind losing it forever. But as a film industry person, just like many others I want to see the development and enhancement of this industry. Since the covid pandemic a large number of cinemas have been closed down and more are in the pipeline. What have the relevant authorities done to prevent such a situation? I don’t know whether the relevant board of directors had met to discuss these matters. The NFC owes millions to the film circuits, while the circuits also owe a fraction of this to the NFC. Producers’ money is stuck in millions. Why aren’t measures being taken to resolve these issues? Since the covid, only 25% of hall capacity is permitted for films but 50% volume is allowed for stage plays. Why hasn’t this anomaly been looked into by the responsible authorities? On the other hand, I know that some NFC officials had intervened to even drag theatre owners to the police station for exceeding the 25% limit. Unless we try to genuinely rectify these issues and other grievances of film world stakeholders, this industry might face a disastrous situation soon,” he said.
By: Ramesh Uvais