All that Jazz
Playing Azdak in distant Melbourne may have been something Henry Jayasena never bargained for. He has just returned having performed the unforgettable character in 'Hunuwataye Kathawa' at the Frankstan Cultural Centre, Melbourne where an enthusiastic gang of Sri Lankans led by Shyamon Jayasinghe (Pothe Gura in Maname) produced the play and invited Henry to play the key role.
"It was a fine experience. The Centre is equipped with the latest state of the art facilities. It was a pleasure to perform in such a place amidst a hall full of Sri Lankans," Henry says. Manel who accompanied Henry preferred to stay away from playing her memorable role as Grusha.
Henry was away for a month having completed his assignment as George, the stubborn proprietor Manter in the popular teledrama Nedeyo (I somehow prefer him as the more sober, peace loving Sudu Seeya in Doo Daruwo).
Apart from acting in a teledrama occasionally, Henry has been devoting a lot of time to writing. His autobiography which came out a few months ago in three volumes - 'Karaliyaka Kathawak' and 'Nim Neti Kathawak' 1 & 2 - is indeed a story without an end. (In fact, these are a continuation of the narrative he began in 'Minisun Vu Daruwo' way back in the mid sixties). The recent work is not a mere narrative of his life story but a fine record of the life and times of our century, seen through the eyes of a dramatist who has contributed a great deal for the development of Sinhala theatre. It deals with the trials and tribulations of a playwright intimately.
Most of Henry's dramas have come out in print - Janelaya, Kuveni, Tavat Udesanak, Hunuwataye Kathawa, Apata Puthe Magak Nethe, Diriya Mawa Saha Ege Daruwo, Makara and Devlowa Giya Shishyabatayo. Just as most of these productions made a lasting impression on theatre fans, they will add to our rich collection of theatre literature.
Now that Henry is back from a short holiday (he calls it a working holiday having conducted several workshops while in Melbourne) we wish to see him continue the good work he has been doing over the past 35 years.
Madhubashini's piece on Sugathapala de Silva last Sunday reminded me of the night we sat at the Lumbini Theatre 33 years ago enjoying what was then revolutionary drama, Harima Badu Hayak. It was Sugath's fourth drama since his entry to the drama world with 'Eka Valle Pol' six years earlier.
With Bordingkarayo (1961) Sugath and his Ape Kattiya began to create quite a stir in the local theatre scene. Tattu Geval (1963) followed, both dialogue dramas discussing contemporary issues. Then came Harima Badu Hayak, a thematic adaptation of Pirandello's 'Six Characters' in search of an Author, described by Sugath as "a futuristic drama aiming at total participation with the audience at all levels". The name itself was intriguing enough to draw the crowds. And the six key characters - Tony Ranasinghe, Prema Ganegoda, Malini Weeramuni, Wickrema Bogoda, Anura Ganegoda and Kamani Ganegoda - did not let the fans down. It was theatre with a difference. So was the stage set by Ralex Ranasinghe, the brochure and the posters.
In 1966 Sugath adapted Tennesse Williams' 'Cat On a Hot Tin Roof' giving it the title Hele Negga Dong Putha. And then he tried his hand in yet another experiment with Nil Katrol Mal based on the Sigiriya story in 1967 following up with an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's Good Woman of Setzuan and titled Hitha Honda Ammandi (1969). Critics felt that with Dunna Dunu Gomuwe (1972) he proved his talents as a top grade dramatist and his creation 14 years later - Marat Sade endorsed it. In between he produced six other dramas.
Meanwhile, he wrote a couple of novels - Bitti Hatara, Asura Nikaya and Ikbiti Siyalloma Sathutin Jeevathwuha, the latter winning the Sahitya Award. He also produced heaps of radio dramas. He continued to write until he was struck with paralysis.
Today Sugath is confined to bed and is lying helpless. The touching story written by Gamini Sumanasekera in his weekly column in Sunday Divaina two weeks ago on Sugath's condition would have moved the reader to tears. He made a plea (just as Madhubashini did) that now is the time for the authorities to help Sugath. Let timely action be taken to make the life of this highly talented artiste a little more comfortable.
No tamashas. No variety shows. It was a show with a difference. Eight lorry loads of essential items being distributed among the most needy in the war-torn areas.
That is how Lakhanda Radio celebrated their first anniversary. Their concern for the needy made the Lakhanda team led by veteran broadcaster Newton Gunaratne look for an ideal area for their project. They had travelled the length and breadth of the country during the first year of their operations and seen how the masses suffer without even the basic facilities - food, clothing and shelter. For their project they selected the Mahavilachchiya Divisional Secretariat area. It comprises 18 villages where around three thousand families are being hit on two fronts - the terrorist war and wild animals.
The Lakhanda team publicised their project and appealed for assistance. The response was marvellous. Not only foodstuffs, clothing, medicines and other basic items but also sewing machines, bicycles and agricultural implements were among the things they got. Eight lorry loads in all. On November 15th they paid a visit "to the relations". Having made a token presentation to the families of Ulpatgama, one of the worst affected villages, balance goods were handed over to the Tantirimale hamuduruwo and the Divisional Secretary to be distributed to the other villages.
"A most satisfying experience" was how Newton summed up. A fine example by a relatively new media outfit on how anniversaries should be celebrated. Well done, Lakhanda!
Manoranjana Herath's debut exhibition of sculptures and paintings will be held at the Heritage Art Gallery 61, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7 from November 29 to December 7.
A new era is dawning in the domain of painting and sculpture in Sri Lanka . No doubt the institute of Aesthetic Studies, the only academy in Sri Lanka to specialise in the Fine Arts contributes to this new era which is tainted with violent political transformations which invade all aspects of village as well as urban life.
This is the era in which perspective young artists make efforts to transform their perceptions into objectified manifestations. Manoranjana Herath begins his socio-political- cultural interpretation with a gusto by combining the traditional idiom with the new grammar of sculpture.
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