La La Land and Sri Lanka?

 We in Sri Lanka also are struggling to make ends meet. We console ourselves having big dreams for a small island in the midst of a vast ocean. There is no harm having pipe dreams, so long as they are categorised as dreams to be realised. In years past we were told that we will strike oil in Sri Lanka.

by Victor Cherubim

( January 13, 2017, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Comedy Musical film “La La Land” won more Golden Globes (seven in all) at this year’s awards than any other single film ever produced in Hollywood. It beat five previous classics including Doctor Zhivago (1965), Love Story (1970), The God Father (1972), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and a Star is Born (1976). It won in every category in which it was nominated and took the award for Best Actor for Ryan Gosling and Best Actress for Emma Stone with Damien Chazelle recognised for the best screenplay and Best Director.

We are told Hollywood likes films about Hollywood, which capture the allure of this magic city. But musicals are a thing of the past like Sound of Music or even Grease? However films are “make belief”. An actor’s only qualification is “to entertain, to use body language rather than lyrics or a mixture of song and dance, comedy and tragedy”. In fact an actor has “to enter the lives of people who are different and then let you feel what that feels like”. It is not easy, it is a difficult task?

Spanish critic Carlos Maranon states: “It is a formidable film and will make you leave the cinema singing and dancing your frustrations away.”It will be on your screens on 13 January 2017.

The story     

La La Land reminds me of one of the children’s show “Tele Tubbies,” a 1997 pre-school British children’s’ series created by Ragdoll Productions which featured characters like Tinky Winky, Laa Laa, Dipsy and Poo, set in an idyllic Tellytubby land – a world of love and laughter, a land of make belief.

Perhaps, the film La La Land also is a parody of things to come? It portrays an idyllic tale to a grown up audience who are fed up on hearing the current woes of today’s living world.

La La Land, the film tells a story of a jazz pianist falling for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. “It tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone) an inspiring actress and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a dedicated Jazz musician who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts”. It is all about everyday life exploring the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.

Let’s go compare this scene to our native land? 

We in Sri Lanka also are struggling to make ends meet. We console ourselves having big dreams for a small island in the midst of a vast ocean. There is no harm having pipe dreams, so long as they are categorised as dreams to be realised. In years past we were told that we will strike oil in Sri Lanka. That ran and ran for a while. Now we “ran mad” with a story that Volkswagen will set up an assembly plant in Kuliyapitiya. We were pleased that we could be able to employ as many of our unemployed youth within a short period at this plant. People want to hear such “la la stories” and our politicians are adept at this genre. In another sense the same goes for Hambantota?

Our genial approach 

Board of Investment Chief Attorney Upul Jayasuriya on “Face the Nation” TV recently admitted his faux pas that he signed the agreement on VW’s entry into Sri Lanka on 13 August 2015 without being in direct contact with Volkswagen AG in Germany. Do we treat this as a joke or was it real incompetence? Is Mr. Jayasuriya living in La La Land? But, don’t we have a Minister to countersign agreements of this nature?

Jayasuriya told “The Island” news that “even if Volkswagen hadn’t been embroiled in

controversy and suffered severe losses, the investment would have been made by Senok Trade Combine (Pvt.) Ltd.”

Mr. Jayasuriya according to “The Island” had “conveniently failed to tell the public of the signing of a supplementary agreement with Western Automobile.” The signing of  any agreement was denied by Volkswagen and signing an agreement with an agent of Volkswagen in Sri Lanka, is quite a different matter.

It appears BOI was only interested in receiving investments and not doing any research, scrutiny or verification. It further clearly shows we have people who are entrusted with more power than the President or the Prime Minister, who can sign any piece of paper without scrutiny with even our embassy in Bonn.

This was not a dream deal, was it his wish list? It has been left to Dr. Harsha de Silva now Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, to bring us down to earth to explain the circumstances that led VW AG. Wolfsburg, Germany to clarify that VW has no plans for setting up this plant period. We now know that Senot, VW’s Agent in Sri Lanka will set up assembling Western Automobiles instead.

Where have we come from? 

Our ability to accept reality has made us to swing between over optimism and disappointment. We get disillusioned, but more than that our “would be investors” get distracted. We need to aim to take a look at the bigger picture and where we are headed? But, we keep telling the world our plans for making Sri Lanka great again before they are even hatched?

Is this a way of keeping the public “on the boil” or fooling the public? When it was mentioned that diesel motors were to be assembled in Sri Lanka, the public was not fooled as many knew VW and BMW have moved from US and now build assembly plants in Mexico and Brazil where there is cheap and skilled labour. Send people to learn how to assemble autos in these countries before we tell ourselves and others that we will assemble VW vehicles for export in Sri Lanka?

Is Sri Lanka the La La Land that is open for any business? We need attract overseas investment capital. But we have to do much more long term strategic planning and research before we jump into conclusions? One way is to use our embassies abroad to do a lot more research to attract business to Sri Lanka.

Where are we now?

It is easy to think that dreams don’t come true, that “love only lies in movies.”

Our dreams for Sri Lanka need to be grounded in fact not fiction. It takes innovation, integrity and vision. We can make it? We can do?


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