Yasodhara: pride of Buddhist womanhood | Daily News

Yasodhara: pride of Buddhist womanhood

The most dedicated woman in the history of womanhood, Yasodhara has been the companion of the Bodhi Sathva for five hundred and fifty births in the samsara. She was instrumental in the Bodhi Sathva’s life, to fulfil the aspiration of becoming the Buddha, the Enlightened One! From the period of Deepankara Buddha, she had the courage and the determination to fulfil her vision. She became Prince Siddhartha’s queen in his last birth and encouraged him to follow the path.

All this is legendary and scriptural. The sacrifices made by her during the long journey of samsara are not comparable to the role of Maya or Prajapathi Gothami.

Colossal production

Professor Sunil Ariyaratne’s visualisation of Yasodhara’s character is also a tedious task. Yasodhara is a character living in the minds of Buddhists in the past- present- and even in the future. We see a huge number of references made by Professor Ariyaratne in his title cards of the film. Hence his visualization on the large screen is a colossal production. H D Premasiri the producer has taken a huge risk in the Sri Lankan film industry.

The Director employs a Puraka or a narrator in the form of a bard (a brilliant performance by Thumindu Dodanthenna) who makes frequent appearances on the screen. Professor Ariyaratne himself being a great lyricist uses his poetic prowess for characterization.

The filmmaker, apart from visualizing, meticulously chooses dialogues to glorify the legendary lady. The dual portrayal is meant to conquer the minds of Buddhist audience, especially the mass audience. At times it is heartening - bringing tears to the eyes of the audience - who are well aware of Yasodhara’s sacrifices!

Yasodhara is a family film that underlines ups and downs of a princess who is striving to achieve the supreme bliss!

Mark of respect

Prince Siddhartha is well aware of this plight. That is why after attaining Buddhahood, he allows Yasodhara to pay obeisance in her own way! Not only that, but the Blessed One visits her chamber as a mark of respect for her sacrifices. He makes reference to her companionship through five hundred and fifty births as laid down in the Buddhist literature.

The filmmaker visualizes this particular moment with pomp and pageantry. Yasodhara shows the Enlightened One to her son, Prince Rahula, with the Naraseeha Gatha being chanted in the background. The director uses a painting to elaborate her feelings. So the outcome soon follows. Prince Rahula is ordained by the Buddha. Prince Siddhartha’s father opposes it! And then a Vinaya rule is introduced to the Buddhist tradition: parental permission is a must before ordaining a child.

Yasodhara also follows the path of Buddha and attains the bliss of Nibbana. Her brother Devadatta is up in arms against the sequence of events. The filmmaker seems to have highlighted the character of Devadatta. This portrayal seems to harm the serenity of the film’s mood.

The Indian actors’ portrayal of Prince Siddhartha and Princess Yasodhara is satisfactory though not powerful. Extravagant costumes, colourful done sets and every minute detail is given importance. Thus Yasodhara can be viewed as an extraordinary creation. Compared to Ariyaratne’s earlier films, Uthpalawanna and Kusa Paba, this could be reckoned as another step towards a mass audience. Buddhist Literature is enriched with glorified themes. Yasodhara is the pinnacle of such themes! The filmmaker uses all these legends for the portrayal of Yasodhara.

Spiritual material

Sinhala or the Sri Lankan Cinema always went in search of these materials. D C L Amarasingha’s Vesaturu Siritha is the first colossal production in this sphere. Though not a money-spinner, it was truly rooted in epic film tradition. Wimalanath Dissanayaka’s Patachara and Kundalakesi were two attempts, though failed. Hollywood Productions by Cecile B de Mille’s Ten Commandments was an epic in that tradition. Ben Hur was partially related to religious literature. Jesus Christ Super Star was a controversial handling of a religious leader’s character!

Indian cinema and literature had always tried to portray the Buddha’s character, but not adequate. Angulimala the Hindi film, a failure in India, draw masses when the film was dubbed to Sinhala in Sri Lanka!

Yasodhara proves once again that producers are keen to finance colossal productions. The question remains is how it will be received by the audience. It depends upon the promotion of the film. Sri Lankan Film Industry is facing a crisis. And without any protection from the foreign films exhibited freely, it’s quite encouraging that producers of the calibre of H D Premasiri took a step of bravery.

Reviewed by Piyasena Wickramage

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