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Dharmaraja News
An incomplete sentence: Pathi as my future

Sivamohan Sumathy

In 2009 Pathi delivered a lecture at a seminar in Calcutta called, "Ghatak and I: where there is no partition" which appears in the volume, An Incomplete Sentence; the cinema of Dharmasena Pathiraja. . He talks about the nation and the disformation of the nation in Ghatak’s films, and how we in Sri Lanka may receive the nation in a context where there had not been a partition, but there had been a prolonged and brutal civil war. The war, Jaffna and other places, occupied his mind in a very intimate way. In his last days, Pathi frequently spoke of Ponmani, and Jaffna. He did not speak much; but often when he spoke, he spoke of how In Search of a Road has to be upgraded. He was happy about the book the Film Directors’ Guild was doing. The enthusiasm and dedication of the members of Guild would have moved him, if he had lived and fully comprehended how much all his colleagues, the younger film makers, his students, all those who worked with him in some capacity, rallied round this effort. He knew he was loved and he loved them all, unequivocally without any expectation, in turn. I read parts of the articles, David Hanan’s in particular, which was one of the first to arrive, and parts of Laleen Jayamanne which compared the drama to his films, particularly Paradige and Ponmani. I told him about Shanmugalingam’s article in the volume. He wanted to decide on what went into the volume too, as far as possible. He insisted on having his memorial lecture delivered on the first anniversary of Prof. Nandi Sivagnanasundaram, the person who played the father in Ponmani, to be included in the volume. I looked all over in my crashing computer for the copy. He then pointed me to a file and a hard copy, which he had preserved. When I told him that we might not be able to have all of the articles in owing to constraints of space, his immediate response was, " What about Nandi’s lecture?" I immediately went to work on editing the Nandi lecture in double quick time, balancing the laptop literally on my lap in the hospital room, while attending to other matters. One day waking up from his slumber he said "I want to publish the Ponmani songs and could you sing the third song in Ponmani" I could hardly remember any of them beyond the first few lines. When I sang out the first few lines of the wellknown song, "Paathaiyil Eththanai Raathaiyil," he said, "I know that song, I want you to sing the third song." I hardly knew what the third song was and I am no great singer. But I hummed out the tune of the love song I did kind of remember, and he was happy. Until the very end, he talked about his plans for In Search of a Road and insisted that I should work on upgrading it. When Swaroopa was released in September 2017, he threw himself into the release heart and soul, sometimes much to my consternation, for it was literally a struggle with death and life. He lived to the full until the end, and with Swaroopa, his last film for us, he pushes all of us to imagine a film idiom that is far beyond what we have envisioned so far. If his first film, AhasGawwa created a new idiom for film in Sri Lanka, his last film, Swaroopa, recreates that moment. As Philip Cheah writes in his article on Swaroopa, published in our volume, he continues to baffle us, in life. He will continue to baffle us in the future too. While I struggled with my own emotions in the last days with him, I also began to plot a future, imagining a future, for us, together.

Pathiraja, the man, his work and his art a trilingual volume celebrating and reflecting on his work will be launched by the Film Directors’ Guild on 8February, 2018 at Tharangani Theatre, alongside an all day film festival.

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