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Fahima Sahabdeen:

A perceptive script-writer - Sunday Observer Dec 30 2007

Up-close and personal by Ranga Chandrarathne Speaking about her writing, she mentioned that she has to be emotionally-pregnant to commence writing. For Fahima, writing has always been a pleasure and passion. However, she wrote the script for 'Yahaluwo' based on the experience she had with her own children, recording their behaviour and utterances. She believes that children have a kind of wisdom which adults do not posses.

Speaking about her writing, she mentioned that she has to be emotionally-pregnant to commence writing. For Fahima, writing has always been a pleasure and passion.


Fahima Sahabdeen

However, she wrote the script for 'Yahaluwo' based on the experience she had with her own children, recording their behaviour and utterances. She believes that children have a kind of wisdom which adults do not posses. When she expanded the script on the advice of Sumitra Peries, Fahima thought that film must represent all the ethnic groups.

Fahima stressed the fact that unlike in her childhood, today's children lack the rich culture of learning in a multi-racial and multi-religious class. As she studied in the English medium she did not even bother to find out who was Sinhalese or Tamil among her friends at Bishop's College. Naturally the children enjoyed all the national and religious festivals.

The script for 'Yahaluwo' was started as a short story titled 'Thotayyah'. It was over an incident. That gardener did not even have dentures. However, in the film, servants are handsome which is rare as they could not afford to be so in real life.

In the original script the gardener does not have teeth and one of the jokes the other servants played on him was to hide his dentures. Throughout the film Thotayyah hates Nuri and hid her bottle of hair die.


Scene from Yahaluwo

According to Fahima, Yahaluwo was written as a short story. The story was narrated from the boy's point of view. It was written in interior monologue and when the film was made, Fahima had to change the interior monologue into dialogues. So certain information which cannot be expressed otherwise through interior monologue, have been omitted to suit the film.

A scene where the Army checked the Thotayyah's wounded hand has been removed from the film as it does not reflect on army. Another scene that was cut was a fight between two boys posing as king Elara and Dutugemunu. Younger boy Gamini as Dutugemunu and elder one acting as Elara. It was in this scene that the younger brother fell ill and discovered that he was very sick. However, that scene had to be cut off.

Fahima is happy about converting the poem by Rabindranath Thagore which is used at the end of the film in the form of a song sung by Pundit W. D. Amaradeva. In fact, Sumithra Peries has made a remarkable creation out of the script, surpassing the very script that the film is made out of.

Fahima came in tough with Dr.Lester James Peries trough a film script titled 'Cassim is Dead'. It is a story of a Muslim woman who had to come to terms with the death of her husband. The story was set against the backdrop of the old Muslim community where girls had to marry early. Most of them were housewives and had no occupation other than leading a life with their husbands.

When the husband died, the window spends a period of mourning Idda. Though its professed purpose is to mourn for the dead husband, it has been introduced to protect the widows as widows will get a depression from which they could not get out of.

This, to a certain extent, happened to Fahima's grandmother. She was immobile after the Idda. However, Fahima's grand mother came to terms with her husband's death much later. Inspired to write after the incident, Fahima wrote a story of how a woman really mourned the death of her husband following the sudden death of a Basa (mason). It was a twenty minutes script. Sumithra was the judged.

Though one may best write about one's own experience and immediate neighbourhood, it is also possible to write out of imagination. For instance, Fahima wrote a story about Afghanistan and Taliban after listening to radio. However, she admits that those types of stories are difficult to construct.

As she is close to nature, especially to animals, nature and animals are part and parcel of her creations. She believes the maximum of Patric Malidusome that 'the civilized world is the wilderness'.

Speaking about her documentary (Mockery of a documentary), Fahima stated that it contained a series of interviews with animals about the disaster man had created and advice man about how he should run the world. Different animals are interviewed on diverse themes ranging from environment to philosophy. For instance, a crow is interviewed on the state of urban environment.

The Mocumentary commences with Fahima going to an imaginary professor and presenting her idea of interviewing animals. She reasons out with the Professor of the benefits of interviewing animals as they can read human minds. In the mocumentary animals sarcastically praised man contrary to her expectations.

When she returns to the professor, the Professor asked her whether she had observed animal's tail movements. To make it funny, she has interviewed a dog at Earls Court Tube Station near her house. It sat near a heap of magazines on diverse subjects. The little dog at the end of the Mocumentary gives a lecture on what is really wrong with man.

Fahima admitted that she had never had a formal education, with a bad school which record. She was noted for her rebellious behaviour at school culminated in her becoming a fundamentalist. As Fahima maintained contacts with very few in the Muslim community, she lost a lot as she was completely shut off from the world.

This aspect has been boldly highlighted by Ameena Husain in her literary work, especially in her novel 'Fifteen'. However, she earned a BA from the Open University.

Following the degree, she did a Course in Script-writing with a group 'Scriptnet' at the British Council. One of the course leaders encouraged her to read for Master in Script Writing. 'Thotayyah' was born out of that course.

Fahima thanked her husband for persuading her to follow a Master Degree in Script Writing at the Bournemouth University in UK despite the high cost. Currently she follows a Film course. Her love for animal is greater than anything in life.

Fahima Sahabdeen, the script-writer of Sumitra Peries's Yahaluwo (Best Friends), is a multi-faceted personality whose life is greatly influenced by her rebellious spirit and the animal lover in her.