19th August 2001
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  • Music exams called off
  • Kala korner by Dee Cee
  • Strangely startling
  • Nostalgic sounds of yesteryear
  • Post- colonial experience in Sinhala
  • Music exams called off

    On a directive issued by the Foreign Commonwealth Office, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, London has decided to cancel the August/October 2001 practical examinations which were scheduled to be held in Colombo, Galle, Kandy, Kurunegala and Ratnapura.

    After much deliberation with their local representative, the board was reluctantly compelled to arrive at this decision after the grave security lapses at the International Airport on July 23.

    The Board's local representative, Mano Chanmugam, on behalf of the ABRSM sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused to all candidates and teachers. The Colombo office will issue re-entry vouchers to all candidates for re-sitting the examinations in the March/April 2002 sessions.

    Kala korner by Dee Cee

    Not superstitious about Tuesday!
    Tuesday is generally considered an inauspicious day. Not many like to start a new venture on a Tuesday. But not young film maker Satyajit Maitipe of 'Smarna Samapti' fame. He was quite happy formalising the arrangements for his maiden film on a Tuesday. The venue was the Sri Lanka Television Training Institute where following tradition 'pol thel pahanas' were lit by a host of well-wishers led by the doyen of Sinhala cinema, Dr. Lester James Peries and a galaxy of stars who have been picked for the film.

    "Now it's the era of young film-makers like Satyajit. Our days are gone. We are now in the museum. That's our place due to the lack of a film archive," quipped Lester when he was invited to speak 'a word or two', which he said was an impossible task in Sinhala. "In English I could have said 'good luck' but that too is not enough," said Lester. 

    Reminding youngsters that film-making is now a tremendously challenging task with CDs and digital cameras taking over from traditional equipment, Lester said the next ten years would be a 'do or die' task for films. "Satyajit has got the right name. He should do well," he said wishing him all success.

    Satyajit is lucky in being picked by the National Film Corporation for funding. Obviously NFC Chairman Tissa Abeysekera would have been impressed with his maiden effort which was a brilliant piece of tele work based on the 'bheeshanaya' times. The tele-film won wide acclaim when shown about two years back. Since then Sayajit has been working hard to make a film and is happy he has succeeded.

    'Bora Diya Pokuna' is the title of the film (he calls it 'Scent of the Lotus Pond' in English). In the cast are several top names - Iranganie Serasinghe and Kaushalya Fernando, both of whom gave super performances in 'Smarna Samapti') and Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, not often seen in films these days. The Free Trade Zone forms the backdrop for the film.

    Time for 'This is my moon'
    Meanwhile, cinemagoers are in for a treat when another talented film-maker's award winning film (at international level) is screened . The film-maker is Asoka Handagama and the film - 'Me Mage Sandai'. 

    Asoka, voted the Most Promising Director a few years back, has scored heavily in the international film festival circuit with the film, his third creation. It is an impressive record - Best Film at the Jeonju Film Festival-Korea, Young Cinema Award for the Best Film in Singapore, Special Jury Mention in the FIPRACY/NETBACK Award category in Singapore and a Bronze Remi Award for the Best Feature Film in Houston.

    Describing his work as 'an anti-Hollywood style film", Asoka is, however, confident that it is powerful enough to keep the audience glued right through. "There is no magic, no effects. It employs the simplest of techniques, a rhythmic flow of static images to maintain the tempo," he says. Sounds interesting.

    Calling fiction-writers
    Dayawansa Jayakody, leading book publishers are offering a Rs 50,000 award for the best Sinhala fiction manuscript. This will be an annual award beginning this year. Only writers who have less than three published works are eligible to take part. Manuscripts of not less than 50,000 words are accepted until November 30. They can be sent to Dayawansa Jayakody Publishers at 112, Ven S. Mahinda Mawatha, Colombo 10.

    Strangely startling

    Check Point-Three Strangely Normal Plays.Performed by the Stages Theatre Company at the British Council, from July 27 - August 1 and Aug 12 and 13.

    A tentative yet positive step was taken in Sri Lanka's English-language theatre with this triad of original scripts being presented to an appreciative audience recently.

    The first, The 24 Hour Store, is set in a trendy mall of the now all too familiar type, and makes good use of the pathetic fallacy: that mannequins have feelings, ideas and intelligence. Tara Kumarasinghe's sentient dummies proceed with machinations that are both amusing and alarming to critique the indiscriminate and insidious ethic of 'rampant consumerism'.

    This play is strange because the content is disconcertingly normal. It parodies our pipedream of becoming 'plastic, smooth and beautiful'. A mockery is made of the cosmetic oeuvre of marketing necessary luxuries, for which we often dispense with common sense. The objective was to make us feel aware, uneasy and ashamed. 

    An inescapable irony in this travesty of advertising excess, soulless beauty and cliche fuelled lifestyles is that the epiphany arrives via the designer walking dead: five fashionable androids who, briefly, possess more vitality than the anonymous swarms they attract like drugged moths to a deadly, strangely cold, all-consuming flame.

    We sit up and take notice. Hey, that's us being lampooned. Uneasy laughter, general discomfort. 

    The sequence where slogans, catchphrases and buzzwords that hold our peace of mind and purse strings equally in thrall are exposed for the shallowness they represent was neatly accomplished with clinical repetition of empty words accompanied by mindless actions and eviscerated body language.

    The usually indefensible use of a film projector was validated in the point it made by playing commercials and catwalk footage on-screen while the action progressed on-stage: the persuasive and intrusive influence of media in pervasive marketing where the senses prevail upon reason to abdicate temporarily, for a frenzy of 'getting and spending'.

    A bold indictment of the bizarre new world where the cosmopolitan milieu is dominated by the sophistication of 24/7 malls. Whoever said "the consumer is not a moron, the consumer is your wife", was wrong on both counts.

    On to the Last Bus Ekay Kathaawa, but not before the audience is treated to mint-flavoured chewing gum. Strange, but not abnormal. Dhananjaya Karunaratne's story begins. A nice, ordinary young man boards the 11pm 120 to Horana, discussing the play he's just seen at the Tower Hall. The normal scene soon turns strange with the introit of a drunk with a story to tell. And what a story.

    A common-or-garden wage-earning labourer. Married, two kids. One day (in 1989) his son fails to return home. Panic. Wife sets out to Chief M inister for succour. Wife fails to return. Pandemonium. Man approaches C. M., is subjected to a load of B. S., discovers C. M. has detained both wife and son. Man on horns of dilemma. Cannot have both back. Unfair. C. M. has no kids, has wife, wants man's wife. Grief, remonstrations etc. to no avail. Man given son, 5000/-, told to get lost. Or else. Goes to everybody and everywhere for help. Nothing doing. Takes to drink. Confronts C. M., issues ultimatum. C. M. offers 50,000/-, tells man to get lost for good. Flabbergasted and totally intoxicated man boards last bus, buys passengers cigarettes-and-coke treat, regales them with his tragedy, flings largesse of 50-grand/- in their faces, disembarks, disappears after attempting suicide.

    Back to nice, normal young man on bus. He collects 3700/- of the money flying around, "gets laid", gets a few other things for himself, gets chewing gum for the entire audience.

    Strange? Normal! This was, after all, the 'bheeshana samaya', and the script is straight from the Sinhala theatre, ably translated by this newly formed performing troupe who had captured, retained and enhanced the ethos of those times of terror, with tragi-comedy thrown in for palatability to contemporary audiences.

    It was, however, the virtuosity of the one man show - Gihan de Chickera convincingly playing all parts - that glued this cracked tale of personal trauma, unpredictability and political exploitation into an integral portrayal of our strangely normal culture not too much forgotten.

    The evening concluded on a high note for experimental theatre with a foray into Forum Drama. The audience was introduced to characters, a situation and some possibilities - and then invited to evaluate options, craft the plot, and trigger the resolutions. 

    The themes of the unfinished plays pivoted on issues of sexuality, gender and identity. The players were superbly extemporaneous and even the most recondite directions from the gallery did not throw them off stride. On Sunday (29), Nimmi Harasgama was so entrenched in her character that she could not bring herself to deliver the resolution the audience craved for and dramatic justice demanded, despite sundry egging-on from bolder spectators. On that night Tracy Holsinger was in fierce good form as the supportive friend of an abused housewife, while Shanaka Amerasinghe was disturbingly convincing as a likeable-yet-loathsome bad boy husband.

    A novel aspect of this innovative approach was that the situations were drawn from reality, and the illusion of art imitating reality was heightened by the announcement that the real life inspiration for the plays were present in the auditorium.

    Three Strangely Normal Plays were directed by Ruwanthie de Chickera.

    - Strevan 

    Nostalgic sounds of yesteryear

    A review: 'A Champagne Toast to the Musicals of Yesteryear' directed by Jith Pieris

    I chanced upon this caba- ret-style revue while visiting Colombo last month. It was an unexpected and fortuitous occasion, which I was able to enjoy with my Sri Lankan hosts - in fact I think they knew more of the numbers than I did!

    The show opened with a virtuoso performance at the piano by Beverly Rodrigo, who, in his improvised medley managed to take the audience through a chronological journey of the shows - Broadway, West-End and the movies.That set the scene very well for the lights to come up on the chandelier-lit stairways.

    The Deanna School of Dance, then provided us with a colourful and energetic performance of the Can Can. The dancers must have only been in their mid- teens and unlikely therefore to be in full time training, but we were extremely impressed by their commitment and energy in both this and 'Singing in the Rain'.

    Each performer in the show does deserve to be mentioned, for each act had something very unique about it. Shannell Fernando's passion and versatility, Srima-nthaka and Miche-lle's timing and musicality, Eshantha's depth and mellow tones, Noeline Honter's sheer verve and professionalism, and her ability to command the audience and hold their attention were memorable. 

    The two acts which really stood out for me though, on this chance Saturday night, were Aparna Halpe's violin pieces and the medley performed by the lovely Anjuli Gunarathne. The violin recital was moving, partly because it was unexpected and therefore a well-chosen and unique variation but more for the fact that Aparna is a sophisticated musician with a classy act. 

    Her choice of pieces was good - they were numbers that we all knew - and the relationship with the accompanist, Neomal de Alwis, must be noted for its quality; both of these artists had rehearsed properly and made some clever and appropriate musical decisions. Anjuli, with her songs and movement coming at the end, performed with an advanced commitment for someone I understood to be so young. 

    It was a lovely evening and I only wish I had been able to go and meet the director to show him my gratitude in person. He brought people together to share memories and a sense of joy through the world of musical theatre, with a touch of nostalgic sentimentalism. 

    Phoebe Bryans - Barnes, London

    Post- colonial experience in Sinhala

    There is a flourishing interest today, among the reading public the world over, in the literature of other languages. As the world gets smaller people appear engrossed in a quest for knowledge of other cultures, their value systems and the new trends in their socio-political milieu. In such a context, the genre of translation attracts a prominent place in the field of literature. 

    Among all types of translations, those of post-colonial writings are perceived to have a wider appeal to our Sri Lankan readers since many such works are representative of the socio-political and economic crises experienced by the people of the colonized countries during and after independence.

    It is against such a backdrop that Marion Abeywardene has launched her maiden publication "Sitthara Kandulu" (Tears of an artist - "Colours Cry" in the original) as a collection of short stories in translation. 

    The bulk of the entries in this anthology which comprises translations of 15 short stories that appeared in the journal "Lotus", have been written by fiction writers from a post-colonial background. 

    At a time when not only the literature in translation but also the short story has begun to put down roots in the world literary scene, Marion's attempt to present the Sri Lankan reading public with a collection of short stories in translation is worthy of praise indeed.

    Most of the stories in this anthology revolve around themes such as poverty, oppression and corruption in society. 

    The protagonists of these narratives are simple people downtrodden by some form of authority, be it political, bureaucratic or other. 

    The hopes and aspirations of these ordinary people, their quest for happiness and a better life, the courage of women and their defencelessness under the attack of exploitation, the plight of human beings when deprived of their basic rights are some of the issues explored in these stories. In her choice of such works carrying themes that are relevant to a modern Sri Lankan situation, Marion has exhibited her sensitivity to the country's social consciousness and the problems of its society.

    According to Hilaire Belloc, many readers are under the impression that the content of a prose fiction is paraphrasable and therefore within the possibility of a straightforward translation. 

    However, translation is not just a substitution of vocabulary and grammatical structures between languages but a process aimed at achieving an expressive identity between the source language and target language texts. 

    Underlying this argument is the implication that sometimes, particularly in the translation of certain culture bound expressions and idioms, the translator will even have to do away with the basic linguistic elements of the source language text, so as to achieve this expressive identity. 

    Marion handles the language with such dexterity, particularly in the descriptive passages, that the reader does not even feel that she/he is reading a translation of a work which has been written in another language! As can be seen in the narratives like "Pin Adiya" ('Like Manna from Heaven' in the original) and Athmaya Saha Thrupthiya (The Wanton Waif) she makes effective use of Sinhala colloquialisms to convey a sense of informality in situations which centre around everyday normal occurrences. 

    Indira Atapattu Mawelle

    Lecturer, University of Sri Jayewardenepura

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