his own path
His father's name is legendary but Kushan Manjusri has no intention
of resting on parental laurels. He is determined to follow his own
path. The diminutive, soft-spoken artist is most often difficult
to track down, preferring jungle haunts to the urban milieu.
This time around
Kushan Manjusri is surfacing because he has an exhibition planned.
Unlike other artists who show their work on a regular basis, Kushan's
exhibitions are rare events. "Once in ten years," he says
smiling. His forthcoming exhibition will be held at the Harold Pieris
Gallery of the Lionel Wendt from June 11-13 on the insistence of
some of his friends.
Not that there
isn't a demand for his work. His murals adorn the main entrance
hall of the Parliament at Sri Jayewardenepura, Kotte and visitors
to Temple Trees may also recall his paintings there.
to the point of abstraction, Kushan has spent the past years working
on a monumental project-that of recording all wood and stone carvings
in the country.
It all began when in the early '80s, Kushan was commissioned by
the UNESCO Cultural Triangle project to copy the Dambulla cave paintings-all
2000 sq metres of it. This he successfully did, enlisting the help
of a small band of fellow enthusiasts, including his two sisters
who share his propensity for art.
When the project
was finally finished after 11 long years, he realized the need to
document all of the work of the master sculptors and artists of
yesteryear. "When you copy these stone carvings you can go
to the heart, the very essence of the artist," he explains.
And so began
the mighty challenge of recording our artistic heritage from the
Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa right through to the Kandyan periods.
"Except for Ananda Coomaraswamy's book Traditional Sinhalese
Art, in recent times there has been no volume that contains all
traditional designs. I would like to publish a series of books so
that this wealth is available to the public," he says.
What pains him
deeply is that the majority of artists today though not lacking
in talent or creative impulse are content to follow Western tradition
without drawing on the country's own rich artistic traditions. "Walk
into any Sri Lankan home today and though there is lip service to
culture, all you will see are representations of Western symbols
and Bollywood pinups," he says.
are not aware of or even open to the idea of using our own designs
and patterns found so abundantly in the work of master craftsmen
of yore in their everyday life and surroundings." He shows
us a design taken from the steps of the Vishnu devale, done in bright
green, red and yellow.
the original colours but he believes in making people see it afresh.
"When I do modern paintings I use archaelogical, cultural and
prehistoric symbols in them. When we talk of modern paintings, they
should have a link with the past," he says emphatically.
The link with
the past is ever present in his life. In his Anderson flat home,
he is surrounded by artist's paraphernalia, and delving into a bowl
brings out a symbol of the past- a 'Draughtman's Brick Red Winsor
and Newton dry colour cake, used by his father L.T.P. Manjusri.
Manjusri pere was a founder member of the '43 Group and renowned
for his contribution to the artistic traditions of the country,
especially Buddhist art. He tried, says Kushan to get the same paints
today but was told the company had wound up about 30 years ago.
Like his father,
Kushan spent some years as a Buddhist monk before leaving robes
to pursue his artistic inclinations. Retreating into an ascetic's
life is not difficult for him and these are periods he enjoys tremendously,
scouring the countryside for hidden caves and crumbling dagobas
to record the work of their creators.
a long nose," he laughs, to sniff out such 'treasures' and
of course, the help of village trackers who know that you go with
good intentions, to record such treasures for posterity and not
like old friends for Kushan for he spends long periods on them,
preferring to work on several at a time, rather than churn them
out in quick succession. At the exhibition will be works from different
periods in his life. Not a huge collection but certainly worth checking
out for their distinctive style.
of old favourites
By Esther Williams
The nuns file into the auditorium, chanting acappella the Morning
Hymn, from the Sound of Music followed by the powerful 'Climb every
mountain' - adding a touch of solemnity to the occasion. They are
practising for the concert 'Song Dance Magic' presented by St. Bridget's
Convent that will go on the boards of the Lionel Wendt on June 17,
18 and 19 at 7.30 p.m.
Ruwani Seimon, the concert will feature many old favourites from
musicals like the Sound of Music, Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat
and Pocahontas amongst others.
will have a good combination of group and solo numbers - those needing
special mention are 'Killing me softly’, done unaccompanied
in four part harmony, 'Something Stupid’, 'Cabaret' and a
couple of popular ones from Walt Disney's Cinderella and Sleeping
Beauty, besides the all-time favourites of Abba.
The cast comprising
72 members from the age group of 11-18 have been hard at work since
March, all through the long holidays. Ruwani got the students together
for nine four-hour practices. "That really helped us to get
the show ready," she explains, adding that during school days
they had only the ½ hour intervals to practise in.
Most of the seniors have been involved in every aspect of the production
- choreography, costumes, etc., under Ruwani's able direction.
will provide the accompaniment for the solo items, a four-piece
band comprising Billy Fernando (Base guitar), Kevin Baduge (Drums),
Kamalini Samarakoon (Piano) and Mahesh Denipitiya (Keyboard) will
do the group numbers.
Mahesh has been able to reproduce all the special sounds of the
forest, etc., found in the original tracks. Colombo audiences are
also in for some special effects, with the puppets will be used
for the Goat Herd Song.
will be used to pick up the voices of the dancers/singers throughout
the show. Nadeeni Perera and Dilini Perera of year 12 have participated
in many of the previous productions and have been more involved
than others in putting this show on the road. "Dancing and
singing at the same time is tough and needs a lot of concentration,"
Nadeeni laughs adding that it had become easier with practice.
With just ten
days to go for the show, the cast who have obviously been having
fun are having mixed feelings. "We are both nervous and excited,"
Dilini says. As usual Ruwani has put in all she has towards the
production. Sounding hoarse, she says that she has no voice left.
This year's production has 25 brand new choristers who are dancing
and singing for the first time.
a very talented group of girls and I will not accept no for an answer
- it is that trust that makes them want to give it back."
memories of those grand musicals
A few of the vintage era kindred spirits - those incurable addicts
of the Hollywood musical were gathered early for the matinee show
at Majestic Theatre. It was heartwarming. A sort of a homecoming.
The musical movie ‘Chicago' had come to town! With the demise
of musical greats like Stanley Donan, Vincent Minnelli, Fred Astaire,
Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly it was a foregone conclusion that the
Hollywood musical was more or less dead. But 'Chicago' in a way
has given us hopes of its revival.
the first musical since 'Oliver' in 1968 to win the Academy Awards
best picture award. There were, of course, others that received
this coveted prize before like 'An American in Paris', 'West Side
Story', 'My Fair Lady' and 'Cabaret' to my recollection.
The movie is
set in the Chicago of the 'Roaring twenties' which Sidney Sheldon
described as a 'dynamic giant, crude, and without manners'. Based
on a Broadway musical by Bob Fosse (who directed 'Cabaret' and also
made that Cannes festival winner, the stunning 'All That Jazz) Chicago
tells the story of a smiling, avaricious lawyer who has never lost
a murder case and two murderesses of the Chicago jazz scene.
It's a treat
to watch it from the very start. The jazzy music with its reverberating
sound and its dazzling dance sequences particularly the near acrobatic
wizardry of Catherine Zeta-Jones (best supporting actress winner)
film editing clipping from scene to scene gives depth to the narrative.
One sad note however, was Renee Zellweger losing the best actress
award. The most extraordinary thing is it took more than 25 years
to make this movie, hiring and firing many writers, directors, actors
and actresses along the way!
It was an altogether
satisfying experience, a poignant reminder of those classic musicals
of the great Hollywood Studio era. That's for us veterans but it
would also show the younger generation how good movies are made
- musicals, of course. -Asoka Weerakoon