by K.S. Sivakumaran
There are no more Tamil films produced locally but nearly two score and more Lankan Tamil films were shown in Colombo and the outstations a few decades ago. The latest Tamil film was Ini Avan made by an avant-guard Sinhala film director shown early this year.
The first two films were made in 16 mm. Samuthaayam (Society) was the first. It was in black and white. The other was in colour called Paasa Nila (Affectionate Moon).
These were followed by Naanku Ladcham (Four Lakhs), and Kaliyuga Kaalam (The Kali Yuga Era) which were dubbed from Sinhala movies.
Some of the other local Tamil films were Thoattak Kaari (The Estate Woman), Kadamayin Ellai ( Limits to Obligations), Taxi Driver, Nirmala, Manjal Kunkumam (Saffron and Pinkish Pottu), Venn Sangu (The White Conch), Meenavap Penn ( The Fisherfolk Girl), Kuththu Vilakku (The Traditional Oil Lamp) and Puthiya Kaattu (The New Wind).
These were followed by a few more films.
Adapted from a stage and radio comedy, a film was made with the title Koamaalikal (The Jokers) which was amateurishness although the actors acted with enthusiasm. But the lighting, sound, photography, editing, synchronization and the ridiculous scenes lacked professionalism.
We must remember such early Lankan Tamil films were only exercises in film making. There was absolutely no sense of creativity in direction. It was imitative of any of the third rate Tamil films from Southern India. Hack- neyed and jarring situations and sequences, jokes that could not be spoken well to be understood and enjoyed, comedy of anticipated errors – all this betrayed an indebtedness to a third rate film from Tamil Nadu.
But the location was in Lanka. While a few of the characters spoke Tamil with a Yaalpaanam accent, and others spoke in the dialect of the South Lanka Muslims. The film catered to people of different tongues and tried to solve the problem of communication in terms of language.
One of the difficulties of local Tamil film producers is in regard to the language used in the dialogues. Lankan Tamilians and Sinhalese are accustomed to listen and understand the South Indian Tamil – whether Brahminic or pedestrian or Dalit usages. Most people in Southern Lanka find it difficult to understand the Yaalpanam or Maddak Kalappu Tamil accent.
Only those in the North and East are familiar with those accents. So to get their films appreciated by greater number of people, Lankan producers of many Tamil films resort to a safer method of adapting the accents of Tamil Nadu Tamilians.
From the late 1950s Lankan Tamil fiction, poetry and drama began to assume a Lankan consciousness and identity different from that of Tamil Nadu.
What Koamaalikal attempted to bring was different accents in Tamil with respective characters speaking in their own style. There were a Brahmin couple speaking in Tamil Nadu style, a Colombo Muslim in his own Maligawatte style, a Yaalpaanam couple in their own village style, and their son a doctor, in common Tamil, a fluently Tamil speaking Sinhalase in his metropolitan Tamil, a Christian couple of Tamil Nadu origin with their Lankanized Tamil (however their daughter spoke in chaste Tamil akin to Yaalpaanam style), a landlord, his brother and the brother’s daughter in Tamil Nadu accent while the mother spoke with Lankan Tamil intonation.
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the film for two reasons: They wanted their favourite radio actors on the screen and the other was to listen to how Tamil was spoken with different accents.