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‘According to Matthew’ awaits its public jury

Posted on 08 April 2017 by admin

Courtesy" Sunday Times".

With the much-awaited silver screen version of a true to life tale of love/lust, trust, treachery and murder that premiered on Monday soon to be released, Kumudini Hettiarachchi recaps the making of the film

A word from Director Chandran Ratnam to Mathew (Alston) and Daphne (Jacqueline) 

Clad in a black cassock with a cross prominently hanging down from his neck, nestling on his chest, he emerges from the shadows, to place a gentle hand on her shoulder.

A simple gesture but one that would epitomize a scandalous relationship flaunted within the heart of Colombo that would end in nothing short of murder.

Murder most foul at the very hands of the most trusted people, closest to them and not just one but two.

And soon, it will be on the silver screen – a tale of love or was it lust, of trust and treachery, climaxing in murder.

It is the much-awaited ‘According to Matthew’ directed by veteran film-maker Chandran Rutnam soon to be released for all to see in English and also dubbed in Sinhala and Tamil on the circuit of Ceylon Entertainment Ltd. (CEL) and Ceylon Theatres.

“We are next in line for the release of the movie in Sri Lanka, come early June,” says Rutnam, explaining that discussions are being held to premiere ‘According to Matthew’ internationally in Hollywood, Los Angeles, in May. “We’ve done a lot of stuff today (Wednesday) on the Sinhala-dub,” he says, keeping movie-goers agog.

Its very title brings in the symbolism of Christianity, punning on and adding a twist to the ‘Gospel by Matthew’ (one of four canonical gospels), written by a disciple of Jesus Christ.

The main plot revolves around romance and the heinous crime of murder and focuses on the Anglican priest Fr. Mathew Peiris (played by singer Alston Koch who moves from the stage to the cinema’s big screen for the first time).

The centre of the web of intrigue, spiced up with exorcism entangled in whispers of sexual abuse, is the beautiful Church of St. Paul the Apostle, down Kynsey Road, ironically set amidst the health hub of Colombo. It was here that Mathew Peiris as the Vicar held sway over hundreds of people, preaching from the pulpit with thunder and also conducting his then well-patronized Thursday services to chase away the devil from the so-called ‘possessed’, mainly young girls.

No one gave a thought when in real life in the 1970s, Mathew Peiris and his wife Eunice (played by Bimsara Premaratne) offered succour and shelter to a respectable but destitute couple, the Ingrams, Russel (with the name changed to Randy Reynolds in the movie played by Kian O’Grady) and Delrene (as Daphne played by stunning former Miss Sri Lanka and Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez). Both were jobless and without any wherewithal.

In hospital: Director Chandran Rutnam and Daphne (Jacqueline)

The plot thickens as the true events of the mid-1970s — with the Ingrams moving into the Vicarage with its old world charm and trellis work in the very premises of the church — unfold in this cloak-and-dagger tale.

Some of the other characters who make their appearance include Steven (Ryan Wijayaratne), cricketer and friend of  Randy and Gavin Ludewyke as Detective Cruse who busts the case. A searing scene is the sub-plot of exorcism of those possessed by the so-called devil (the victim played to perfection by Shamyla Fonseka) which sends a chilling message about the fear of the unknown which grips many a superstitious Sri Lankan, from the humblest to the poshest home across the country.

An illicit affair, right under the ‘unseeing’ eyes of two innocents, not caught up in a ‘love-triangle’, but a ‘love-square’ involving four would end with the conviction of Mathew Peiris of the double murders of Russel and Eunice. They were famously dubbed by newspapers of that time as the Vicarage Murders.

There is a packed house including all those who are playing even minor roles at the premiere of ‘According to Matthew’ on Monday afternoon at the National Film Corporation cinema. Interestingly, some who were part of this drama back in the 1970s, such as Dr. Siddiarachchige Terrence Gamini Raja de Silva, a young intern then who helped crack the case are in the audience, as also Prof. Ravindra Fernando who picked on the opportunity and wrote the book, ‘Murders at the Vicarage – the Mathew Peiris Case’.

As Rutnam’s depiction of this real-life mystery-murder thriller begins with an attention grabbing scene of the priest’s powerful intonation, starting with the ‘Our Father’ and other prayers to a Death Row prisoner, the graphic images of his hanging make the hushed audience ‘reel’.

In the darkened cinema, as scene after scene flits by, the Sunday Times goes back to 2013 and 2014, when ‘trailing’ behind cast and crew, sometimes on location, we wrote a hugely popular series. The articles published over a period of time in the PLUS began with ‘Mathew and me’ (July 28, 2013); ‘According to the doctor’ (August 5, 2013) which led to Rutnam re-writing the script; ‘The plot thickens’ (August 11, 2013); ‘People obeyed him through fear and blackmail’ (August 18, 2013); ‘Pettah comes alive with courtroom scene’ (January 12, 2014); ‘Setting the scene of a crime’ (January 19, 2014); and ‘In the robes of a priest dubbed demonic’ (February 2, 2014).

‘Anuragini’ will be the name of the Sinhala-dubbed version of ‘According to Matthew’, the media briefing preceding the preview is told and when asked, after some debate, it is described as ‘Seductress’. The handouts describe the film as “for the love of a woman, he broke God’s Commandments”, for the Ten Commandments that Christians are bound to follow include: ‘You shall not kill’, ‘You shall not commit adultery’ and ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife’.

Exhuming the body of Randy (Russel): Filming at Kanatte

“Excited,” he was, says Alston, when he was chosen to play the role of the villainous priest and going through three scripts, liked the second the most because it was in keeping with what he had read of what actually transpired. He has fitted into the role very well, with even his eye movements to match the character.

Referring to Jacqueline, his ‘partner-in-crime’ who debuted into English-language films with ‘According to Matthew’, he excuses her absence on Monday as she “just couldn’t be here” because she is in the midst of shooting ‘Drive’, one of the biggest Hindi budget films, in Mumbai, India, to be released in 2018.

Alston recalls how “crazy” things happened during the filming in Horana of ‘According to Matthew’, when one early morn, about 3, while on location there was frenetic banging on his door. All of them had their individual caravans. It was Jacqueline at his door, fraught with nerves, over the violent shaking of her abode. He then walked over to her caravan but there was nothing untoward happening there.

Aroused by the hullabaloo which was spooking his cast and crew, it was Rutnam who shooed them back into their own caravans with the words….“Stop this nonsense. There are no devils and no ghosts. We start filming at 5 a.m.”

The ghost, if ever there was one, never came back and Alston says in banter that “Chandran was the exorcist”.

The next episode was sometime later, when Jacqueline’s ‘general factotum’ was at Alston’s door, quite shaken about three big black dogs loitering just outside her caravan. When he made his way there, no trace of them could be found.

Regarding the intransigence of the Anglican Church in not allowing them to film within St. Paul’s, Alston is quick to point out that the church should have taken the cue from the fact that permission was granted to the producers of the award-winning film on the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Thomas Becket to conduct the filming inside a church.

“No  need to hide the truth under the carpet, whether it’s Christian or any other  religion,” says Alston, adding that this was a man (Mathew Peiris) who erred  which was documented. He was also convicted and condemned to death by  hanging.

Meanwhile,  for ‘According to Matthew’ — to be marketed and promoted by Movie Works Media — the  jury is still out. It will be the prerogative of the masses to deliver the  verdict of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ after viewing it.

The  original sequence of actual events:

 

* August 10, 1978 – Death of Russel Ingram, husband of Delrene, after being admitted to the General Hospital, next door to the Vicarage, with hypoglycaemia.
* March 19, 1979 – Death of Eunice, wife of Mathew Peiris, at the General Hospital after being admitted to the General Hospital in a coma.
* February 15, 1984 – The High Court passes the death sentence on both Mathew and Delrene. (Mathew had overdosed both Russel and Eunice, who were not diabetics, with anti-diabetic drugs.)
* June 28, 1985 – The death sentences are commuted to life imprisonment as Sri Lanka had halted the implementation of the death penalty.
* February 12, 1988 – The Court of Appeal affirms the conviction of Mathew Peiris, while upholding the appeal of Delrene and acquitting her.
* February 3, 1992 – The Supreme Court dismisses Mathew’s second appeal.
* October 28, 1997 – Mathew is released from prison under a general amnesty.
* May 12, 1998 – Mathew goes to meet his Maker. He dies at his home in Moratuwa aged 85.

 

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Jacqueline brand ambassador for SriLankan Airlines

Posted on 31 July 2016 by admin

 

 

 

Award-winning Sri Lankan carrier Srilankan Airlines, yesterday signed on board Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez, as their brand ambassador, Indian media reported. 

 

The letter of agreement was exchanged between Srilankan Airlines Chairman Ajit Dias and Jacqueline Fernandez, at St. Regis Hotel, in Mumbai. With this collaboration, the Srilankan Airlines brand continues to strengthen its presence in India, the agencies reported. 

Commenting on the association, Jacqueline Fernandez had said it was an honour to be part of Srilankan Airlines: 

"The brands heritage and ideology are depicted in its service and strong reputation, carried for many years."

"Ever since I was a kid I had great memories travelling with this airline. I am quite excited about this opportunity to represent the brand from my country origin."

 

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Jacqueline Fernandez on cover of Vogue India

Posted on 11 July 2015 by admin

Actress Jacqueline Fernandez’s July is off to a great start, especially because she appears on the cover of Vogue India magazine and, better yet, is HNGN’s Woman Crush Wednesday selection for July 1.

“FAB Vogue shoot! @AkshayKumar @S1dharthM & ‘husband’ @KaranJohar!,” Fernandez wrote on Twitter in a post showing her in a dress made by fashion designer Zuhair Murad, according to pinkvilla.com. The words on the cover of Vogue depict the woman as “fashionable, adorable, and unstoppable.”

You might have seen Fernandez in several movies, including 2015’s “Roy,” 2014’s “Kick,” 2013’s “Race 2,” and 2012’s “Housefull 2,” according to IMDb.com.You can also expect the celebrity to be in the new “Brothers” movie, which is set to debut in theaters August 14.

The beauty from Sri Lanka is next slated to star in 2016’s “Housefull 3″ that is due out June 3, 2016, according to bollywoodhungama.com. (Courtesy hngn.com)

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Alston Koch and Jacqueline Fernandez short listed for film on ‘Vicarage Murders’

Posted on 03 January 2013 by admin

Jacqueline Fernandez (Popular Bollywood Actress) & world renowned entertainer Alston Koch were placed on short list for major roles in 'According To Matthew' an ACE FILMS Hollywood production on the Vicarage murders (Father Matthew Pieris) Alston will play the excorcist priest while Jacqueline will play Dalreen Ingram in this true story. Filming to start in June 2013. If picked, this would be a tremendous break for both Jacqueline and Alston. It may be recalled that the 'Vicarage Murders' took place in the 80s . Rev. Mathew Peiris ordained in England in 1950s is a Priest of the Church of Sri Lanka, belonging to the Anglican Christian Fellowship. At the relevant time he was the Vicar of Saint Paul's Church Colombo. His wife Mrs. Eunice Peiris who was about 59 years old at the time of her death lived with him in the Vicarage. They had three grown-up children; two of them, a daughter and one son (Mihiri and Munilal) both married and were resident in England with their spouses; the unmarried daughter Malrani was also resident in England. All of them were employed there. Russel Ingram and his wife Dalrene were regular visitors to the Vicarage from 1976. Fr. Mathew Peiris was known as an exorcist and conducted exorcism ceremonies at his Church on Thursdays which the Ingrams attended. At this time Russel has lost his job. Dalrene who was a typist was also unemployed. They had three small children. Fr. Peiris employed Dalrene as his Secretary and later found employment for Russel at Lake House. Rest is history!

The sensational story of murder, romance, intrigue, poison, and the fall from grace of a revered priest has been captured by A.C. Alles in one of his books that was published a decade after the incident. TSL wish to publish below an excerpt of an interview conducted by Roshan Peiris with Fr. Mathew Peiris and published in the Sunday Times of November 9, 1997.

The prodigal comes back

 

 

 

 

"Who knows what tomorrow will hold? I have many enemies and a few friends, I hope they are still my friends," says this controversial Anglican priest. Roshan Peiris speaks to Mathew Pieris, who was released last month after more than a decade in prison convicted of double murder.

 

 

From 1985 to 1997 he was confined to a prison cell serving a life sentence for murder. The 9' by 10' cell with a 15 foot high roof with only a single high window and iron barred door was kept locked from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. everyday.

This was the same man who had attended a Buckingham Palace summer party given by His Majesty King George the Sixth. Ordained a Priest by the Arch Bishop of Canterbury no less, Father Mathew Pieris became the centre of a sensational murder trial in the 1980s when he was accused of the double murders of his wife and Russel Ingram, with whose wife Dalreen he was romantically linked. Found guilty, he was sentenced to death with the sentence being commuted to life imprisonment, but was released late last month for good conduct in jail.

Mathew Pieris, who prefers to be called 'Father' met us at his sister Cissy's suburban home at Moratuwa. For a 79- year-old, this most controversial of Anglican Priests was robust, ramrod erect and spoke with a strong loud voice which thankfully drowned the aggressive barking of a white Pomeranian.

Clad still in robes, he wore a stainless steel chain made while in prison by his co-prisoners, from which hung a cross with a statue of Christ embossed on it. The cross was given to him, he said, by a doting mother and is believed to be of Italian origin.

His white flowing beard like that of a Bibilical prophet has not been cut or trimmed for the last fifty years. He has also not cut his now thinning grey brown hair for about the same time. He made this decision, he says while he lived in an Ashram in India.

Prison memories still fresh, he reminisced of the days behind bars. In prison he was given the diabetic diet of a bun and pol sambol for breakfast, two vegetables, leeks and carrot or cabbage for lunch with fish or soya or lentil and for dinner, bread with the same two vegetables he had for lunch, with two eggs and a slice of papaw.

In all he lived on a daily intake of 16 ozs of white bread, he said.

"I must explain that I controlled my diabetic condition with this Spartan diet. But this did not prevent me being cricket captain of the prison team. Thanks to the prison officials I had a bed to sleep on, though I used the common toilets."

A Commissioner of Prisons said that Mathew Pieris was most helpful in prison, knowing three languages and helping with reports and administrative work.

"I am the sort of person who routinely goes to sleep around midnight and so I was allowed to keep my light burning to enable me to read. I always woke up at four in the morning, did yoga exercises, physical jerks and indulged in yoga methods of breathing and breath control.

"I want the world to know that throughout my traumatic experiences my family was with me, and gave me a glorious party last Sunday with my brothers and sisters present." He is the eldest in a family of six.

He has two daughters and a son in London and it was after they gave evidence in London that the second accused in the case Dalreen Ingram was taken into custody, and was found guilty by the High Court. She was released on appeal.

In prison he attended the only Chapel where first early morning mass was held for the Catholic prisoners.

"As a matter of courtesy I attended the mass followed by the Anglican service the next hour, every Sunday. The Bishop then had given me permission to administer the Chalice i.e. give wine and I also read from the Gospels and sang hymns. Yes I do play the piano. There was an old world piano at home.

"No never, never did I lose faith in God."

Though he was destined to become one of the Anglican priesthood's most controversial members Mathew Pieris says this was not his initial vocation.

"My father was Canon T.C.J. Pieris but I never had any desire to be a priest. I took up motor engineering and did a correspondence course from London and I acquired the British technical qualification of Associate Member of the Institute of Motor Trade. I obtained the MINT later and became a member of the Motor Industry.

After marriage he took up a position as manager of civilian repairs during the war. It was then he faced a serious illness, what was thought to be a brain tumour.

"Lying ill and anguished I had a series of visions where my godmother appeared to me and said that I will be healed by God, and to seek solace in the Ministry working for God. She asked me to go to London via India, and also to exercise the Ministry of exorcism.

"In India I lived for awhile in an ashram. It was there that I decided I would never shave nor cut my hair.

In London he met the Bishop of Lincoln who took him to Lincoln.

"I was well by then and after he spoke to me he gave me a place in a College in Lincoln. I passed as a scholar Lincolai, a kind of Pundit.

"I was ordained by the Arch Bishop of Canterbury and worked at St. Francis of Assissi of Welwyn Garden City. I was a Deacon later and then the priest in charge of Mary Magdeline Hatfield High Fr. Basil Jayewardene invited me to Sri Lanka to be his assistant at St. Paul's, Kynsey Road and later I succeeded him."

Mathew Pieris was known to manifest the stigmata, marks resembling the wounds of the crucified Christ.

I asked him if he experienced this phenomenon in prison.

"Of course I did on special days. Here is the mark you can see at the centre of my right palm. On Good Friday and the like I also bled from the side. It is a special spiritual experience given to me by God."

In the years before his conviction, Mathew Pieris had been a celebrated exorcist.

"Exorcism means we accept that in a given instance any individual is pressured by an external entity in an evil manner.

In Theological language it is described as a "discernate spirit haunting a person. Therefore by claiming clearly the authority that Jesus Christ gave his Apostles, authorizing them to deal with such afflicted individuals, so an ordained priest accepts that he has the continuity of that authority."

"In some instances, dwelling places and lonely spots are affected by such spiritual entities. An exorcist or priest will cleanse such situations. In parlour language it is called poltergeist appearance. It is a ritual authorised by Pope Leo the 13th."

How is it different from bali and thovil?

"Bali and thovil is completely contra to exorcism. These are appeasement ceremonies e.g. usually a cock bird is sacrificed. Exorcism, on the other hand does not in any way appease the evil spirit, but commands it to go away," he said.

"I admit that I have exercised the ministry of exorcism. I used the prescribed rituals authorised as I said by Pope Leo 13 which is the same used by Catholics all over the world."

Asked about reports that his licence to practise as a priest has been withdrawn, he said "Look life is a dream consisting of day dreams and hallucinations. Thank God I never built day dreams. Having now come out I have no hallucinations.

"I saw Bishop Kenneth Fernando and he specified nothing and nothing has been told to me. An ordained priest is ordained for life in the Anglican Church."

However, a statement from the Bishop of Colombo's office said, "Priests remain priests always by virtue of their Ordination. But Mathew Peiris does not hold the licence of the Bishop. He will only be able to participate in Church services and engage in activities that are open to lay members of the Church."

Responding to a question about reports of an impending marriage, he was quite snappish. "That question should never be brought up. Who knows what tomorrow will hold? I have many enemies and a few friends, I hope they are still my friends."

In prison Mathew Pieris says he spent time studying comparative religions Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. "I now have a manuscript to be published as a book called Gautama Buddha and the Creator God. It deals with all four religions."

 

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