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 A dark, fast-paced short film, LADIES NIGHT is the story of a disturbed man who obsessively stalks and harasses his ex-girlfriend. This, in essence, is the main theme. Like his debut movie, LADIES NIGHT also has an urban setting and explores the dark side of the English-speaking, upper-middle class

Rehan Mudannayake (trained at the University of Kent) is a young filmmaker with an abundance of talent and creative flair. His film, ELEPHANT, won silver (in the short film category) at the 2016 Jakarta international film festival – a terrific achievement given that it was his debut movie.

Here is Rehan talking about his project:
“I released ELEPHANT in December 2015. I spent a few years working on that… you know … writing, filming, editing, etc. I had three screenings in Colombo. The initial preview was at the Harold Pieris Gallery. Then there were two subsequent screenings on the same night, back to back, at the British Council. There was one screening in Jaffna as well.  In a nutshell, the film is about a young man who travels down south to clean out his deceased aunt’s house and comes across a series of postcards that reveal something he’s not meant to know. It’s a short, off-beat movie with a little twist at the end.”

ELEPHANT was made in English and has a distinct urban setting. In this regard, it is different from other Sri Lankan movies (short or full-length). As he explains: “Virtually all the Sri Lankan movies made so far are focused on villages or the war or the suburbs.

rehan-mudannayake-1While those stories are important in their own right, it is important to expand the industry’s repertoire in this post-war phase to include other narratives as well. ELEPHANT is a point of departure as it is set in the heart of Colombo and is focused on the westernized, upper-middle class – the English-speaking elite, so to speak. I am delighted it picked up an award at the Jakarta international film festival.”

This year Rehan has been busy working on a new film which began with the germ of an idea and culminated within a few months in a concrete product. “A dark, fast-paced short film, LADIES NIGHT is the story of a disturbed man who obsessively stalks and harasses his ex-girlfriend.” This, in essence, is the main theme. Like his debut movie, LADIES NIGHT also has an urban setting and explores the dark side of the English-speaking, upper-middle class. But the two films (both art-house movies) tackle fundamentally different themes.

Says Rehan: “My new film, like the previous one, deals with the same class of people. But it focuses on a different age group, that is to say, people in their early to mid-twenties. The film is about a regular night out in Colombo – LADIES NIGHT – where a group of friends are having some drinks and they are paid a visit by an unsavory person who happens to be the ex-boyfriend of one of the female characters.

“All the action takes place in one night with the film progressing from location to location. Hence the script, which I wrote, has a linear structure. In this sense it differs from the earlier film, which is partly linear, partly non-linear in form and structure. LADIES NIGHT is a fast-paced film with plenty of action. It is far more dramatic than ELEPHANT, given the overlapping themes of abuse, harassment and impunity.”

Rehan Mudannayake
Rehan Mudannayake

I asked him about the cast and he said that Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke, who starred in ELEPHANT, has a prominent role in this film as well. All the others are different. About 90 percent of the film’s cast comprises amateur actors who are appearing in a movie for the first time. Only two have been classically trained, namely Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke and Vindhya Fernando. The director went through an audition process to find people in their mid-twenties; people who could take the role, improvise a little and play around with it. In his own words: “I found some fabulous actors, such as Kinita Shenoy, Lasantha David and Sakshin Haran.”

The shooting period was from 6.00 pm to 6.00 am on three consecutive nights. So it was back-to-back shooting all the way. Many of the actors had to go to work in-between. “All in all, it was quite hectic,” recalls the director. “With the actors grabbing only one or two hours of sleep before reporting to work, I was really amazed by their level of commitment, their sheer determination to get the job done within the allotted time frame. It’s wonderful to work with such talented and dedicated actors.”

The preview of LADIES NIGHT is on December 8 at 6.30 pm at the Lionel Wendt (Downstairs Gallery). The film will then be screened at selected festivals abroad.