ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 47

Kala Korner

By Dee Cee

A unique personality

As he celebrated his 88th birthday on April 5, Dr. Lester James Peries must have looked back at the past year with satisfaction. While he celebrated the golden jubilee of his first feature film, 'Rekava', he also saw the release of his latest - the 19th - 'Ammavarune'.

The conferment of the highest State honour- Lankabhimanaya - by President Mahinda Rajapaksa was a significant event. It was the first time that a personality in the field of arts received such a high ranking title. The award was made at a special gathering at the Presidential Secretariat.

On his birthday Dickman's Road, where Lester had lived for many years, was renamed 'Dr. Lester James Peries Mawatha'. It was yet another 'first' when he became the first living film personality to be honoured with the naming of a road just as it was five years ago when a stamp was issued to honour him on his birthday.

This year's Sarasaviya Awards Night was held on his birthday and a special award made to him. He was not there to receive it.

He would have been exhausted after the rather lengthy road-naming ceremony with proceedings starting quite late.

Last year also marked the release of two books on Lester. They were written by the father-son combination – A.D. Ranjit Kumara and Nuwan Nayanajith. While Nuwan's is a collection of articles by Lester (a useful collection specially for research students), Ranji Kumara's was a collection of all reviews of 'Rekava' along with the screenplay and stills from the film.

With another publication by Kumar de Silva due to be released shortly, Lester is easily the most 'written about' artiste in Sri Lanka, if not Asia.

Starting with Philip Coorey's 'The Lonely Artist' published in 1970, publications have been released at regular intervals both in English and Sinhala. Having spent tiring days and sleepless nights making films over the past six decades, Lester now likes to relax. He prefers not to accept invitations which come in regularly for one function or the other. Though he has indicated he should be left alone, the invitations keep coming. And he doesn't like to say 'no'.

A star departs

A star of yesteryear, Florida Jayalath bade good-bye last week. Having enthralled audiences from the days of 'Sujatha' - the massive box-office hit in the early 1950s,she had a large fan-base.

A chance visit by film director T. Somasekeran to her residence at Marawila to look for her sister paved the way for Florida to break into the film world. The sister was not at home, but Somasekeran saw her and picked her for the role. With the release of 'Sujatha' she became a household name and the screen duo Florida and Prem Jayanth created the 'star cult'. Florida Jayalath acted in nearly 20 films between 1951 and 1966. She directed one film, 'Sweep Ticket' in 1965.

After giving up her film career she spent most of her time abroad making Australia her home during the past few years. Meeting her in Sydney three years ago, we talked about the early days of Sinhala cinema and she was quite happy that she was able to contribute towards the progress of the industry.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.