Vishvanath Buddhika Keerthisena aka Boodee

Vishvanath Buddhika Keerthisena aka Boodee

Any film enthusiast in this country would refer to him as Boodee – Vishvanath Buddhika Keerthisena managed to catch this writer’s attention by his feature film ‘Sihina Deshayen (Veils of Maya)’ in 1996, which he presented as his thesis for his graduation in 1995 and went on to win 31 awards.

If you do not remember the afore mentioned then you would definitely remember ‘Mille Soya‘ (Buongiorno Italia)’ that hit the cinemas in 2004 which was featured in 16 film festivals and won 15 awards including ‘best picture’ and ‘best director’ at SIGNIS awards. The most recent film to hit the boards being ‘Matha (Mother)’ in 2012, Boodee is in the process of realising ‘Nimnayaka Hudekalawa (Alone in A Valley)’ which is in post production. Apart from the cinematic contributions Boodee has also directed more than 100 TV commercials, over 30 documentaries, two TV series, out of them one DOGME series and numerous music videos. Boodee joins in conversation with the Weekend Leader to provide an insight of his life as an artiste involved in the film industry.

Either you absolutely have the art of film making in your genes or you are to be inspired by a certain person. Speaking of which Boodee mentioned, “I guess it has lot to do with our family history. Since I was a little kid, my father had the Darshana cinema in the village and it has been next to our house. From the stories I hear from my grandparents and villagers, my father’s life had been like the story of the movie by Giuseppe Tornatore Cinema Paradiso“. Like my father there are some elements in my childhood from Cinema Paradiso. Then came the video age and my father bought me a Sony Betamax VCR and a video camera by JVC in 1978. Works by Alan Parker’s Midnight Express and “The Wall” (Alan Parker made for Pink Floyd’s “The Wall album” with the performances of Sir Bob Geldoff of Boomtown Rats) also Star Wars by George Lucas and Al Pacino’s performances in “Dog Day Afternoon” and Mr. Coppola’s “God Father” inspired me to be an actor”.

As for the actual movies that grabbed his attention Boodee stated that he discovered the master magician Steven Spielberg’sClose Encounters of The Third Kind’, with his great interest in UFO’s and alien life forms and “Blake’s 7” on TV, “I was so fascinated with the Sci-Fi culture and still am, wanted to make a Sri Lankan version of “Third Encounters” with my friends from the village. We would hangout and write and talk about this film at Mangala Samaraweera’s joint, where he was living when he was the Designer for my father’s enterprise – Buddhi Batiks (1981 till 1985).”

Mangala became the mentor in Boodee’s art life and had introduced him to the lives of some of the greatest artists and art cultures of the world, “David Bowie, Gitanes, Three Roses, (filter less cigarettes) Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, Sex Pistols and the New Wave and Punk Culture. Wow, I was blown out of my mind. Then my friends and I tried to make the film and could not do much because to make a Sci-Fi UFO movie was not an easy task, not even today. So I thought to learn film, and was thinking of two places, Rome, or Paris. Then Mangala told me it would be good to go to New York City, cause David Bowie lives there, and others like Andy Warhol, Woody Allen, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and Talking Heads, they all lived there. He knew my direct connection with music and images or visuals were so connected”.

A film maker not only needs the knack for capturing motion on a camera and they have to invest some time to study the art and enhance capabilities in the world of film, “With my parents’ help I went to learn Film and TV in New York City in “School of Visual Arts” and that really helped me and opened my eyes to an area of the art and culture in a huge way. I started working my way by sweeping the film set floors, then to equipments, the craft and now here I am working on a short film called ‘The Adventures of Ricky Deen’ shot with the aid of an iPhone 5, I think learning the craft allows you to breakout from the system and explore and experiment a lot. I love doing that”.

Movie making on iPhone — now that is putting your mobile device to use to its maximum capacity. “My first experiences of filmmaking was with the video camera my father bought me, and I did a lot of music videos, captured moments spent with friends and sometimes the dogs only videos,” responded Boodee when asked as to what he managed to capture on video before he ventured in the art of movie making. Great filmmakers like Vasantha Obesekara, Dhamasena Pathiraja, Dereck Jarman, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Alain Resnais, Fedrico Fellini, John Casavetes, Emir Kusturica and of course one and only great Terry Gillium and many more great filmmakers have influenced him throughout his journey as a film maker.

Speaking of the equipment he has used so far Boodee reminiscences the use of analogue and digital devices equally, “I have used simple VHS cameras, Bolex cameras to super 16 Arri cameras as well as 35mm Arri cameras and the digital day and age, Sony EX 3 as well as Red cameras and currently an iPhone 5”.

Among the countless unforgettable moments that occurred in his film sets Boodee shared the most recent incident during the takes for ‘Adventures of Ricky Deen’, “while we were shooting in Maradana, actor Dasun Pathirana forgot to step on the breaks of his bike and ran over my swollen leg (Ouch!). Also the day we arrived at Rome airport actor Mahendra Perera lost his bags and it was so funny he was wearing all little kids winter cloths, cause in Sri Lanka he could only find jackets of 8 year old kids and he looked as if he was trap in a kids world. He was so furious and looked so funny,” Boodee recalls the moment with a smile.

The big dream Boodee wishes to achieve is earning respect as a filmmaker: “I mean if most of the great other filmmakers appreciate your work, I think that is the best respect that one can earn. Recently on the set of ‘Adventures of Ricky Deen’, Mahendra Perera and I were looking at a youtube clip of Madonna accepting the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ award for David Bowie and after watching the 5 minute clip we both had tears in our eyes. All those minutes Madonna was talking about how David Bowie influenced her life and how she became a singer because of him, and how David Bowie has influenced music with glamour, theatre, perversion and sexuality, and took music into a different level. David Bowie has only won one Grammy award, but not as a singer, but for a video, yet he is one of the most respected musicians around the world. Just like Gary Oldman never won an Oscar but he is considered in Hollywood as an actor’s actor.  So yes, respect is good I think.”

Boodee’s dream crew and actors that he would love to collaborate if given the opportunity would be Gary Oldman, Steve Buscemi, and Kamal Hassan along with Christopher Walking, John Malkovich and Adrian Brody.

Trying to promote a locally produced film or video is a big challenge, given the fact that Sri Lanka is conservative when inviting innovation into the entertainment industry. When questioned about the obstacles and challenges Boodee had to overcome to put out his work he did have many, “When I came back to Sri Lanka I came with  an intention to make films for entire world, means film as an art and entertainment medium, to use it in the best form and way to communicate with what I am talking as a filmmaker. People often say my films are different from all Sri Lankan films. In such an occasion a great Sri Lankan fellow filmmaker – a dear friend of mine and I had a small debate about the kind of films and regular Sri  Lankan films. Obviously he was saying mine are not like Sri Lankan films, I just laughed so hard and said, ‘bro to you guys good films are always political films, and to me film with arts and entertainment is cinema’. Then I asked him, 2008 movie “The Good The Bad The Weird” made in Korea by director Kim Jee-Woon which is about two outlaws and a bounty hunter in 1940s Manchuria and their rivalry to possess a treasure map while being pursued by the Japanese army and Chinese bandits, and it was in many big film festivals and it was basically a parody of great Sergio Leone’s “The Good The Bad and The Ugly“, yet they called it a Korean film and Korean cinema. My point is that, I do not think because of a film being different to many other films made in the same country, and because of that the film is less of that country”.

Being in the digital age of the entertainment industry when enquired as to how comfortable he feels when using digital equipment, effects and animations on his films and whether the cinema culture would shutdown with the high-tech home theatres that are in trend, Boodee explained, “I would say I am one of the first directors to shoot scenes on video and transfer them to 35mm film, and in Mille Soya (, I did shoot with lots of different mediums like VHS, Betacam, 35mm and super 16mm. Mille Soya was also the first DTS digital sound film of Sri Lanka. I also had sections done in 2D cartoon style. When I shot Alone in a Valley (Nimnayaka Hudakalawa) ( We had about 200 shots of VFX in them (Computer generated effects). The film was shot in XD Cam EX 1. This was Sri Lanka’s one of the first if not the first film to be shot total digital. In my war film Matha, we shot the entire film with 03 x XD Cam 3. My Visual Effects company ‘Elephant and the Mouse’, did over 300 VFX shots within a year. Currently I am finishing off a short film “Adventures of Ricky Deen” and it is shot with  two iPhone 5s.

Adventures of Ricky Deen” Directed and Produced by Boodee Keerthisena, written by Boodee Keerthisena and Onome Ekeh  premieres at Goethe-Institut Colombo 07, Sunday June 9th(today) at 7 pm. Mahendra Perera, Dasun Pathirana, Senaka De Silva, Chula, Dharshan Dharmaraj, Palitha Silva, Derek Wickremanayaka and Sangeetha Weerarathne plays the main roles. Boodee would like to extend his gratitude to his friend and composer Lakshman de Saram for giving him this wonderful opportunity to do “Adventures of Ricky Deen” for their Chamber Music Society of Colombo’s “Music + Film event at Goethe-Institute.