9th January 2000

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A long journey for DiddeniyaKala Corner

A long journey for Diddeniya

From 'Pematho Jayathi Soko' to 'Swarnamali Natakaya' it has been a long journey for actor Nissanka Diddeniya spanning a period of thirty years. It has been a fine record on stage. Unlike most stage players, he is rarely seen on the small screen. One such appearance is in 'Gajaman Nona' currently being screened every Saturday evening. He plays Patteyame Lekam.

While he concentrated on acting for three decades, veteran Bandula Jayawardena managed to convince him that he should join Bandula to direct 'Swarnamali'. He did and the joint effort is quite praiseworthy.

According to Nissanka, he was so engrossed in acting that he never thought of writing a script or directing a play. "For 25 years I played Sinhabahu in Dr Sarachchandra's classic, replacing Charlie Jayawardena when he left Peradeniya. I was totally committed. Then came Dayananda Gunawardena's dramas. There was hardly any time to write or direct because I concentrated on acting," he says.

His university mate, Jayalath Manoratne was different. Both came under Dr. Sarachchandra's influence at Peradeniya, acting in his plays. Mano also started writing and directing his own plays.

The two are two fine examples of outstation talent, Mano having started acting as a student in Poramadulla Madya Maha Vidyalaya and Nissanka when he was studying at Gankanda Maha Vidyalaya, in Pelmadulla.

Nissanka has no regrets. "I have enjoyed acting over the past three decades. I have particularly liked the mix of dance and singing in most of the plays I have taken part," he says. Nissanka was very much a part of Dayananda Gunawardena's team, starting with 'Bak Mah Akunu' (1962), a translation of the French play 'Marriage of Figaro'. Dayananda depended heavily on him whenever he tried his hand in doing something new.

When he presented a modernised version of Charles Dias' nurti, 'Padmavati', he picked on Nissanka for a key role.

That was in 1974. The following year Dayananda produced 'Gajaman Puwantha' and Nissanka was very much there. In 'Madhura Javanika' which Dayananda described as "joyous scenes in a dramatised chronicle of 'hingala' people", Nissanka portrayed three characters.

While acting, Nissanka has been continuing his studies too. He collected a post-graduate diploma in writing and communications from the Sri Jayawardenepura University and is presently researching nadagam music, which he says is quite interesting and revealing. He is also actively involved in teaching drama to the youth as head of the Drama School at the National Youth Service Council where interested young men and women can follow an eight month diploma course. He is on secondment to the NYSC from the Department of Internal Trade.

Yet another Tarzan story

Dr. K. G. Karunatilleka has made a name for himself as the foremost translator of foreign works into Sinhala. He has been awarded the State Literary Award five times for his translations, having translated around 50 books into Sinhala which are quite popular with readers.

Dayawansa Jayakody Publishers begin the new year with the release of Karunatilleka's latest work 'Tarzan Saha Kuhumbu Minissu', a translation of 'Tarzan and the Ant People' by the famed US writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), on January 1. This is the ninth Tarzan story that Karun-atilleka has translated.

Godage literary awards

Leading book publisher, S. Godage has invited readers to select the best original novel and short story collection released during 1998 from among his publications. The best selected by readers will be awarded prizes.

The names of the publications are given in two coupons (one for novels and the other for short stories) which appear regularly in the Sinhala newspapers and readers have to indicate the books they have read and the ones they choose as the best. The competition closes on March 1.

Drama workshop

A team of experts from the National School of Drama, New Delhi will be here in January to conduct a workshop in Colombo. They are coming here under the Cultural Exchange programme and the workshop is being conducted in association with the Tower Hall Theatre Foundation.

The team comprises experts in voice and Yoga, mask and prop making, theatre music management, make-up, acting and overall co-ordination, set and poster design and directing.

A Taste of SinhalBy Prof. J.B. Dissanayake

Let's talk about Sinhala

The word 'Sinhala' entered the English vocabulary only recently to replace the word 'Sinhalese'. The word "Sinhala' is pronounced in three syllables: Sin is pronounced like the English word 'sing', ha like the English word 'her' and la like 'ler' in English 'dealer' .

The word 'Sinhala' has two meanings: First, it refers to an ethnic group, the Sinhalese who constitute about seventy per cent of the island's population. Thus if a Sri Lankan says "I am Sinhala" it means that he or she is a member of this ethnic group.

Second, it refers to the language that the Sinhalese speak and write. It is a language that belongs to the Indo-Aryan sub-family of the Indo-European family. The term 'Indo-Aryan' carries no connotations of linguistic or racial superiority. It's just another label .

The word Sinhala is used both as a simple noun and as a modifier of another noun. As a simple noun, it occurs in phrases such as 'the Department of Sinhala', the academic department that teaches Sinhala in a University and 'Winds of Sinhala', a novel written by Colin Silva.

As a modifier of a noun, it occurs in compounds
Sinhala language
Sinhala culture
Sinhala Buddhism
Sinhala nationalism

The aim of this series of brief articles is to give the English reader a taste of this language, which is spoken only in this Island.

Two factors prompted the Sinhalese to replace the name Sinhalese by the name Sinhala.

First, the name 'Sinhala' is the word found in the Sinhala language itself to refer to both the language and the people who speak it. In Sinhala, it is written thus:

Second, the name 'Sinhalese' has a touch of the colonial past, a feeling that the Sinhala people would like to forget. In the wake of the newly gained independence from the British,the Sri Lankans changed the name of their country too., from 'Ceylon' to 'Sri Lanka'.

The Sri Lankan Constitution uses the term 'Sinhala':

"Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages of Sri Lanka"

On the other hand, some would like to keep both words 'Sinhala' and 'Sinhalese', but with two distinctive meanings: Sinhala to mean the language, and Sinhalese to mean the ethnic group. Thus, one could say that the Sinhalese speak Sinhala.

Still others would like to use Sinhalese as a noun and Sinhala as modifier of a noun:
As a noun: "He is a Sinhalese"
"I speak Sinhalese"
As a modifier: "Sinhala culture"
"Sinhala Buddhism"
"Sinhala hegemony".

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