The Making of ‘Adaraneeya Niagara’

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“ Success very seldom comes to the timid

It comes to those who dare and act!”

 These words in a nutshell describe the courageous team who recently united the people of three continents with the noble yearning of creating history artistically!  In Chitral, the slender sapling of desire to produce a Tele-drama, grew to greater dimensions with its first blossom, ‘Aadaraneeya Niagara’.

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When talking about the Tele-drama, Chitral de Mel, the Director says, “During those months, almost daily, we worked from  sunrise to sunset, very often in the freezing cold, because we had to struggle with time to finish shooting”.  He talks about strict US Laws which prohibit filming in public places. As locals who were working full-time too acted in it, scheduling the filming had been a difficulty.  Albeit  he is really appreciative of Sri Lankan Americans in Boston, New York and Niagara who had been so cooperative in everything from acting, voluntary catering, accommodation, transport and most  importantly with financing.  He talks about things going so smoothly even with the deficiency of a crew. Usually when filming a Tele-drama, the entire workforce or crew is supposedly said to be 40. However, getting down so many was practically impossible due to monetary constraints as well as Immigration restrictions. About this issue, he said that the credit of managing with minimum hands goes chiefly to the cameraman, actors and the well-wishers who were at hand to assist when and where it was necessary.

We asked the whys and wherefores regarding music from Arjuna Balasuriya. As to   there being so many songs in the Tele-drama he said, “When we got the script done, we felt that music will play a major role in telling the story mostly because it revolves round a musician”. Regarding why Niagara falls was picked for the theme he said, “Firstly it is one of the most beautiful and popular land marks in the US and it also has a dynamism akin to human life. As the Music Director he had to do all the compositions, record the tracks and master them at his ‘Resonance Studio’ single handed. Of course in the Latin Percussion parts, his son Umanga had helped him. He remarked that as filming had been done in various locations outdoors, he had to clean-up background noise in the raw audio and bring it to the correct sound levels. Composing music for each and every scene also had been done by him. We questioned him as to how he found the time to do all this while working full time as a University Academic. He responded by saying that after he comes home, most of his evenings and nights had been spent in this work. In addition, he also had the responsibility of mixing the music with the audio track of the Tele-drama.

The singer of the theme song as well as the male part of the duet, Jagath Wickramasinghe says that doing the visuals for the songs in Boston was a new experience for him. He said that Saheli Gamage, a popular singer in Sri Lanka, being a part of it was good for the Tele-drama. According to him, the theme song is very meaningful and may even be successful as a radio song. He commented that Arjuna has composed the music so as to convey some significance to Niagara and that it will give a new concept and experience to the listeners and go a long way as a song.

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The next personality who voiced his views was Janaka Kumbukage who played one of the leading roles in the Tele-drama. When the Tele-drama obsession became keen and alive in Chitral, Janaka had been working as Chitral’s coordinator in Sri Lanka, planning, recommending and researching. He had some remarkable words to say about the Cameraman Suminda Weerasinghe, who had been working most devotedly in spite of the setbacks like the extreme winter cold, lack of a crew, insufficient time to film 38 episodes, and having to travel long distances. He said that the loss of such an excellent artist and tireless worker was a considerable loss to the Cinema Industry of Sri Lanka. Janaka also had much praise for the master of ceremonies Chitral. He valued Chitral’s benign attitude and gentle technique of getting the maximum out of his team members. The way challenges were handled by Chitral was spoken about highly by Janaka. He had such warm approval as well as words of admiration for all the expatriate Sri Lankans working with Chitral as to the way they rallied round him considering the tasks as their own. They had all shown such hospitality which is the hallmark of most Sri Lankans everywhere.  Janaka liked the places like Boston, New York and Niagara very much and said that the viewers will undoubtedly get a new experience by watching them in the Tele-drama. “From the actors’ side, we had to perform like seasoned  people who had been living there for decades. The way of speaking, movements, etc. had to be done naturally. That also was a challenge to us,” he added.

The main actress Nehara Pieris was very obliging and keen to express her views about the Tele-drama. Going to US for the first time and doing a Tele drama there had been a really great experience for her. It being winter, they had experienced severe cold, and heavy snow fall. She loved to see the snow but she hadn’t liked the cold, of course. She commented about the unwieldy clothing which made acting in them tedious. Sometimes, shooting had dragged on due to unpleasant weather too. She mentioned, “Boston, New York and Washington are really exciting places. Niagara is simply fabulous! As it was so cold there, we were hungry all the time. Anyway, thanks to the Sri Lankans there, we could eat whenever we wanted.” She also said that her countrymen living there were closely knitted almost like family and helped them in every way.

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Menake  Rajapakse, the main actor also said that he enjoyed every bit of it as this was the first time he did any shooting out of the country. He spoke with gratitude about the Sri Lankans in the places where they stayed and did shooting. He had loved the cold as he sweats considerably. Therefore the winter, snow and the cold had been pleasurable to him. According to him, except for the locations and the climate, he had not felt any different from acting and filming in Sri Lanka. Menake too had many good things to say about Chitral. “I gained an excessive amount of practical wisdom from this experience. I am astonished at the way Chitral handled every situation, challenge or difficulty. I loved my role in this Tele-drama because in every other one I have been playing the lover-boy and I was getting quite bored with it. ”One thing he regretted about the whole thing was that they had to pack their bags for coming back the moment shooting was over. “I would have enjoyed going sight-seeing and doing some shopping in the fascinating cities of America,” he said.

The positive attitude shown by popular as well as veteran actors in Sri Lanka is enough proof that all the inconveniences, unpleasant exertion and vexations was not in vain. Thus a dream came true for Chitral and his backers when their fanciful whim became a reality.

In spite of some skepticism, occasional bouts of minuscule tug o’ war between continents and no end of chatting on Skype, ‘Aadaraneeya Niagara’ had thus emerged hoping to adorn the industry and the annals of Sri Lankan Cinematography!

BY:   Eda Subhadra Balasuriya.

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