Shanaka Amarasinghe may harbour ambitions of authoring the definitive Sri Lankan novel but will he ever find the time? As the host of Yes Fm’s ‘The Score’, Shanaka has seen the ratings climb steadily to a point where it is now the number one sports show on local radio. Not only does The Score dominate evening primetime on Fridays, you can also catch Shanaka bright and early on a Tuesday.
What remains of his time is divided, not always equally, between his career as a lawyer, his journalism and his acting. Could he ever settle down with just one? “For me it’s like batting, bowling and fielding. I could do one or too, but I don’t think I’d contribute enough if I had to choose,” he says.
Though he considers his role as Frank Strang in Equus his most memorable to date, he has great hopes for Willliam Scott Richard’s forthcoming production for the 60th anniversary of the British Council. The role promises to be “a defining process for me in terms of an actor,” says Shanaka.
Once a dedicated athlete, Shanaka captained a number of teams including the swimming, rugby and basketball teams through college and university.
Today, he wryly admits that his age has finally caught up with him, particularly around the shoulders and the knees.
He writes extensively and along with watching sports, his other great self-proclaimed passion is ticking people off. As for his book, try not to hold your breath. “I will write one...but only when I have a story worth telling,” he says.
He lives with his wife Menaka, who also goes by the moniker of The Librarian, in Colombo.
What are you reading now?
The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow. It’s an exposition of how randomness rules our lives, and how a lot of the assumptions we make on a daily basis are based on completely wrong notions.
It’s a great take on what lies just beneath the obvious. The mathematical calculation bits are tough going for me though because I never studied stats.
Very much. Completely changed my perspective on a lot of things, and the way I analyze them. It also confirmed some of the theories I had about planning and preparation - but I won’t go into those here.
Where do you like to read?
My current lifestyle dictates that I do most of my reading in the loo. It’s the only place that’s quiet and not rushed. Have I said too much? But apart from that I read in bed, at whatever time of day.
Is there a book on your bookshelf that you will never lend ?
I am under strict instruction that lending is the exception and not the rule. I don’t always agree with The Librarian though, because having a good book and not sharing it is just wrong. Let’s just say I don’t lend to everybody, but I do lend. Need to start keeping a register though.
If you had to play a fictional game for high stakes, which one would you take on and why? Flamingo croquet à la Alice in Wonderland? Quidditch as played in Hogwarts? Cripple Mr. Onion from Pratchett’s Discworld?
Is it fictional high stakes as well? I suppose not. I’d definitely play Quidditch. I must confess I’ve never read the Discworld series. My forays into the world of fantasy are limited to the other Pratchetts and Rowling. Flamingo croquet is just wrong. I don’t think any bird should be asked to give head to something like that.
Quidditch because of the physical element involved and the fact that you get to fly. Flying must be such an awesome sensation. The closest I’ve got is being lifted in a line out and I can only imagine the thrill of careening through the air. Must ask The Librarian whether she’d lend me her broom.
You’ve described your one virtue as being a desire to make people laugh - which book would you recommend as being most likely to get the job done?
Anything by Terry Pratchett, Calvin and Hobbes, Asterix. Some locally published stuff makes you cry as well.
Too rarely one finds a book that one is compelled to down in a single, greedy gulp. When was the last time a book inspired you to pull an all nighter?
Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew - Shehan Karunatilake. I try and avoid all nighters though because then it feels like work.
The high drama of international sports can make for thrilling literature. Is there a sport related autobiography that you would recommend?
It’s Not About the Bike - Lance Armstrong. You realise that Armstrong is not the most popular bloke by a long way. But his unapologetic nature is admirable. And to win seven tours after fighting a disease that could have killed him is epic.
I get knackered just riding up the Railway Avenue hill. It raises the question whether you want to be unpopular but legendary, or liked by all and mediocre. It’s a question I haven’t quite found the answer to yet.