8th August 1999
An act of gratitude to three deserving creative greats
It was a rare event. Three internationally recognised artistes being felicitated at one function. It happened at the BMICH when well known children's artist and writer Sybil Wettasinghe, doyen of Sinhala cinema Dr Lester James Peries and renowned script-writer, cine and tele director Tissa Abeysekera were felicitated by Eagle Insurance Company for their invaluable service towards the upliftment of our arts and culture.
Sybil has over 100 children's books to her credit - written and illustrated by her. She has also illustrated over 600 others. Her books have been translated into several languages and today she gets invited regularly to serve on international panels. The most recent was an invitation from UNESCO to serve on a nine- member panel (she was the sole representative from Asia) to select the best works on the theme 'Peace and Tolerance'.
She considers two of her books - Mallitai Matai' and 'Punchi Lamai Rattaran' (she wrote them on invitation by Eagle) - as creations for a worthy cause - to spread the message of safety. She has also contributed much towards this cause by being an active participant in the Eagle Safety Festivals held throughout the country, guiding children to draw on subjects relating to safety.
Just as much as Dr. Peries changed the course of Sinhala cinema over the past four decades, he has been a great ambassador of goodwill helping to put Sri Lanka on the map. When the French government awarded him the Legion of Honour, it was a rare honour bestowed on a Sri Lankan. When the prestigious 'International Film Guide' selected him as one of the 'Five Directors of the Year', there were just nine film directors from Asia (as compared with 91 westerners) who had gained recognition.
His masterpiece, 'Nidhanaya' was not only chosen the best Sinhala film made in the last 50 years, it was the only Sri Lankan film to be named amongst the best 100 films selected by 'Cinematique' to mark the centenary of world cinema in 1995. Eagle is close to him as creator of 'Giraya', the first Sinhala teledrama based on an English novel, which they sponsored.
A man of many parts, Tissa Abeysekera's career todate boasts of at least two masterpieces - the film 'Viragaya' and the epic teledrama 'Pitagamkarayo'. It will take a long time for someone to match the creative talent Tissa showed in 'Pitagamkarayo', unless he himself improves on his own effort. But he has a much more responsible task at hand - to pull the Sinhala cinema out of the mess it is in.
The thoughtful act by Eagle in presenting the three artistes with an annuity for the rest of their lives is indicative of how much the nation owes them.
Rights of the child
The felicitation of Sybil came in the wake of the launch of 15 books created by her on the Rights of the Child based on the UN harter.
The books are intended to illustrate children's rights through simple stories.
And judging by the popularity of Sybil's stories ('Kuda Hora' is a fine example), the message is bound to go down well among the younger generation.
The publication was by Sarvodaya Vishva Lekha on behalf of Sarvodaya's Legal Aid Division.
He deserved it
The Swarna Sankha Foundation deserves all praise for organising the Joe Abeywickrema Felicitation Festival at the Regal cinema. It was a well deserved tribute to a great actor.
Having collected many awards at local film festivals, Joe won the prestigious Best Actor's award at the 12th Singapore International Film Festival. He was, in fact, the first Sri Lankan actor to win such a coveted award.
The films selected for the festival ranged from Tissa Liyanasuriya's 'Punchi Baba' (1968) to D. B. Nihalasingha's Maldeniye Simeon (1986).
Discovery of India
The Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) is offering what promises to be an interesting cultural event - the history of India through Jawaharlal Nehru's much publicised work The Discovery of India written in the 1940s while in prison in Ahmadnagar Fort. It is a television series titled 'Bharat Ek Khoj' running to 53 episodes directed by Shyam Benegal.
Screening starts on Monday, August 30 at the ICC at Bauddhaloka Mawatha with the first episode which depicts a sequence of Nehru touring the countryside during the first general elections of 1935-36. A note from ICC says that the sequence provides an idea of the direction of Nehru's quest into the composition of Indian identity, the quest which resulted in the book during his prison term a decade later.
Journalism to astrology
Another seasoned journalist has written a book - this time on a rather unusual subject - astrology. Kawdane Piyadasa Perera, former editor of 'Silumina' and well- known poet of the Colombo era has titled his book 'Kantha Kendare' (Female Horoscope). Publisher Dayawansa Jayakody describes it as "a ready reckoner for females to check on their own horoscopes". It will be released on August 17 at the customary Tuesday launch.
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