Features Film

Close-up: An Interview with Antonythasan Jesuthasan

ANTONYTHASAN JESUTHASAN starred in Jacques Audiard’s widely acclaimed 2015 film Dheepan. Prestridge² spoke to the actor and author about censorship, the Sri Lankan film industry and his future.

Q: We are now two years removed from Dheepan. How do you look back on the film?

A: I AM the kind of guy who always prefers to look forward. I never look back to romanticise the past.

Q: What were your experiences working with Jacques Audiard? What kind of director is he to work with?

A: IT was a pleasant experience. Before I worked with him I had been a big time fan of his work. I have never seen a director who uses the lighting so perfectly. We have similar political and ideological convictions. So those things made it a pleasant experience.

Q: Dheepan bears a striking resemblance to your own personal story. How did that affect your involvement on the film? Did you work with Audiard, Thomas Bidegain and Noe Debre on the story?

A: THE screenplay was written before they contacted me about the film. My contribution was to give them precise details about Sri Lankan culture and political issues. I do not think about it as a big deal. Mine was a simple contribution to Dheepan’s screenplay.

Q: At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a performer and a writer?

A: SINCE my childhood I had been so passionate about performance art and writings because it was the beginning of the civil war. So I found the art as a medium to converse with it.

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Q: One of your breakout films (Sengadal) was banned in India. Can you talk about this experience?

A: SENDKADAL was about Sri Lankan refugees who live in India and the issue of Indian fishermen who had been constantly targeted by the Sri Lankan navy.

Since it was a criticism about the Sri Lankan government India banned the movie because they have close diplomatic ties. After one year of legal battle against the Indian censor board they removed the ban, but during the ban we managed to carry the movie to more than 40 international festivals and managed to organise public screenings in Tamil Nadu villages.

Q: Have you been able to able to return to Sri Lanka? What condition is its film industry in?

A; I HAVE been living in France for 25 years as a refugee and I am not able to visit Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan film industry is a tiny one compared to other industries and it is dominated by Sinhala artists.

Q: You are collaborating with Leena Manimekalia again on a film called The Sunshine. Can you talk about Leena and your relationship with her?

A: SHE is basically a poetess and we have been collaborating together on many projects. In the case of art and politics we have more similar ideas.

Q: What are your ambitions for the future? What kind of stories are you interested in acting, writing or possibly directing?

A: ALWAYS, my ambition has been to create distinctively artistic movies and novels so I am working on that. The kind of movies I would like to work in is far away from Hollywood and Bollywood mainstream. I consider Iranian cinema as a beacon light which keep directing me on my path.

Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects for us to get excited about?

A: THREE films are lining up to be released. The first one is ‘Roobha‘ (a Canadian film), the second one L’amour est une fête (a French film), and the third one a Franco-Tamil film: ‘Friday and Friday‘.

At the beginning of next year my new novel Ichaa is planned to be released. Not only you is excited. I am also excited, looking forward to these releases.

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