Jaffna has many stories to tell, stories that mostly deal with the 30 years of war and its repercussions in the peninsula.
The conflict ruined the lives of thousands of youth on both sides. The Northern youth especially were mostly affected by the war as many of them were forced to forego their education and other basic needs in order to take up weapons.
Once the war was over, it was important for the government to ensure that the youth were not led towards violence once again.
Many steps were taken to involve the youth of the North in its development.
Some of them were educated in various fields, while some were given vocational training in masonry, carpentry, wiring and even IT.
Many of them opted to choose conventional professions and jobs to move forward in life.
But some did not. They decided to challenge themselves by choosing to do something which was not tried and encouraged in the North.
They decided to be creative and use their creativity to their advantage. In today’s world where mobile phones are cheap, making movies is not that big a deal as it was a few years ago.
The age of social media and smart phones has created that much needed exposure to aspiring artistes who want to make it big.
The social media sites are dominated by short films that are created by our very own youngsters in the North.
Many of them are not trained or educated in the field of filmmaking. But, they have taught themselves through watching other creations and through youtube channels.
Some have even tried their hands on making a fully-fledged feature film in Tamil. This is important because Sri Lanka does not have a Tamil film industry at the moment. The industry collapsed a few decades ago and could not be revived till now.
However, a group of youngsters got together and made a feature film ‘Manasukkul Mazhaichcharal’ (Drizzle in the heart). The film had a low key release in the Northern Province. But the good word of mouth resulted in a positive feedback for their efforts.
The reception and the reach some of the artistes have received is testimony to the success of their efforts.
One actress, Mithuna Ananthajeyam has made it big by bagging an opportunity to work in a South India. She is probably the first Sri Lankan born actress to play a lead role in a South Indian film. The film, titled ‘Oyiya’ is in its post production stages and is set to release soon.
Region known for education
The growth of an unofficial film industry in the North is surprising, considering the importance its people give for education.
For generations, the Northern Province has been known for its standards in education and the calibre of personalities it has produced over the years.
Even during the war, students were always encouraged to focus on books rather than other activities which had very little to do with education.
However, we are not living in an environment similar to 30 years ago where the North was cut off and isolated from the rest of the country.
We are living in an age where everyone has access to anything thanks to internet, social media, and smart phones.
This era has in fact opened new doors for the youngsters who were born with the war.
There is no denying that Sri Lankan youngsters over the years have been influenced by Indian movies and music.
Tamil superstars from India have had a greater reach among Sri Lankan Tamils here and abroad. In fact, these stars attribute their international box office successes to Sri Lankans domiciled in other countries.
Would this have an impact on the efforts of the Northern youth?
The impact is inevitable. The Indian industry is on par with Hollywood and has its own international market which includes Sri Lanka.
For the moment, we might have to play second fiddle to Kollywood and hope that our stars would get a break in their movies.
There will be comparisons and criticisms. But, there is a long way to go, and we are sure to make it if we keep trying.