Until I went to see Samanala Sandhawaniya (Butterfly Symphony) I had no idea why a movie like that should have a name such as Butterfly Symphony. Halfway through the movie, I realised that though the director may have named it for some other reason what he has done to Sri Lankan cinema is analogous to what Beethoven did to symphony music dramatically expanding the horizon of symphony music. His symphony Eroica has a scale and emotional range that set it apart from other symphonies of his days. Jayantha Chandrasiri with his Butterfly Symphony has achieved for Sri Lankan movies what Beethoven did to symphony music; a scale and emotional range that are rare in Sri Lankan cinema. Jayantha Chandrasiri has done this in a very special way. His movie defies pigeonholing; it is difficult to categorise this movie into a genre. What at the beginning appears to be a simple and straight story like any other love story in a Sinhala movie, eventually reveals itself to be a multi-faceted affair, making it difficult to classify it into a definitive category.
A scene from the film
Highly charged emotional scenes, which crop up frequently in the movie, keep the audience thrilled. The climax of such emotional scenes; the scenes where Vadeesha (Uddika Premarathne) meets Punya (Yashoda Wimaladarma) in his dressing room, it was so emotionally charged that it fills the theatre with smog like tension that can be cut with a knife.
The story of the movie, well woven with all the intricacies and ingredients, revolves around a fleeting moment of a adolescent child, who refuses to let go a letter, thrown to jungle by an errant mailman and that moment, from his memories. In the course of this stubborn refusal he gets himself and others around him trapped prisoners in that moment. In his mundane parallel universe he becomes a superstar.
What distinguishes this film from similar movies of pashion and loss, is that its unbearably intense sensual quality, which is present to different degree in almost every frame of the movie. Both the leading actors and especially Vadeesha’s brother (Pubudu Chathuranga) are able to keep that intense feeling throughout, even in brief encounters.
Vadeesha’s feeling of being trapped in someone else’s inescapable misfortune, as if he is instrumental in trapping the girl in that dark world runs through like a emotional storm from beginning to the end.
Though the movie is dealing with very emotional and serious subject, to the director’s credit, he has been able to mix a just an adequate amount of hilarious scenes without disturbing the flow of the story even for a second. The comedy scene at the park, the location, which is the epicentre of the movie, brought to life by Sadun Bandara and Dimuthu Chinthaka is one of the best comedy scenes to come, in my opinion in a Sinhala movie in recent times.
At the beginning of the scene at the park you expect a usual movie comedy scene and get the familiar feeling of embarrassment that you get because somebody known to you is going to make a fool of himself and you can’t help him. But as the scene unrolls it keep you laughing and at the same time on suspense. Two actors are very professional and they would do well to start their own comic act like ‘Rajasabawa’. Like the movie itself the best moment of the comedy scene is at the end. The encounter between Vadeesha’s brother and the comic duo was probably the best 30 second in the movie.
The movie also takes us, who lived through snail mail era part of our life back to the memories of living in a world sans instant communication. For the generation that has not experienced the snail mail era it will be very difficult to comprehend how much ruination a one lost mail, can bring.
No doubt the, music director, song writers, technical teams had contributed immensely to the success of the movie, though sometimes I felt that the music was two loud and trying to dominate over the other more important elements of the movie.
In the end I found this film to be a mixture of genuine poetry nostalgia for era bygone and some rare moment of unembarrassed genuine hilarity.
Reviewed by Lakshman Illangakoon
Rear Admiral (retired)