16th January 2000
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Different strokes in colourful harmony

By Asoka de Zoysa
In our times, when one has been conditioned to come to terms with multiethnic and multicultural societies, the word "Harmony" is unfortunately tossed around without any reflection. Seldom does one reflect on the prerequisites for harmony or its consequences. The exhibition of visual art organised by the Indian Cultural Centre in association with the Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts held at the Indian Cultural Centre from December 17-18 was given this very name "Harmony".

The word "Harmony" has a more piquant connotation in our own Sri Lankan context meaning blending of traditions, cultures, lifestyles and convictions or preferences in a much confined space of a small island. Organisers of this exhibition may have had this in mind when choosing five most outstanding artists to respond to the theme "Harmony" in terms of visual art at the exhibition.

To Gopalapillai Kailasanathan, Assistant Director of Education from Jaffna and art teacher for over 20 years, "Harmony" means a juxtaposition of the most jarring colours while retaining the balance in his composition. His painting of a peacock bearing the title of the exhibition is far from being naturalistic: yet one can see this most colourful bird cry out in desperation. 

To Godwin Rodger Constantine, medical practitioner and performance artist, "Harmony" means bringing letters from different scripts to form words like "Peace", all on a sombre background of grey, black and white.

The exhibition was dominated by Kushan Manjusri's line drawing called "Prosperity".

This sketch for a mural draws freely from prototypes and compositions seen in the paintings of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods. What may appear fragmentary in Sigiriya, the Mihintale relic chamber and at Thivanka Pilimage has been rounded off. This drawing shows a kind of yearning for a lost paradise of celestial indolence in a world of Devatas and Apsaras standing in most devoted attention.

As against Kushan's "Prosperity", the works of the other artists Muhanned Cader, Godwin Rodger Constantine, Gopalapillai Kailasanathan and Nilanthi Weerasekara show influence of the masters of modern art. Nilanthi, the only female artist at the exhibition attempts to deconstruct the very standards of female beauty to be found in the classical poetry of South Asia and transferred visually through the Sigiriya frescos. She isolates the much praised "swan like breast", "flower like hand" and the flowers and other accessory bits of jewellery from the overall composition, asking if the aesthetic or erotic component will be sustained if the figure is fragmented. Nilanthi uses the very colours missing in Kushan's drawings making her "Fabricated Woman" a very much diametrically opposite to Kushan's "Prosperity" .

The biggest merit of this exhibition was the introduction of paintings done by Kailasanathan who has only been known to a few friends in Jaffna and in Colombo.

His oeuvre from 1992-1999 represented by over twenty paintings show an extraordinary development in style, choice of material and themes. His early Indian ink painting of "Bathing Nymphs" (1992) is not just of a bevy of village belles, but a composition of six individual women, each engrossed in her own toilette. One cannot but single out his animal paintings like the bull in "Hidden Energy", the owl in "Night Watch" and the peacock in "Harmony". Each animal has its inherent symbolism, which is seldom derived from external sources.

Kailasanathan's later works, roughly of the last five years, show his ability to make a political comment more openly. His metaphors change constantly, being forced to face another political reality, living and working as an artist in Jaffna. In spite of difficulties with material etc., he has been experimenting with techniques and at times even recreating older works. The Indian Cultural Centre and the Vibhavi Academy of Fine Arts take the credit of introducing this artist to a wider audience.

Kala Korner By Dee Cee
Bogoda achieved a rare feat
To play the same role in a trilogy spanning over half a century or more is indeed a rare achievement. We have at least one actor who achieved this, probably creating a record. He is Wickrema Bogoda who played the role of Tissa in Lester James Peries' trilogy based on Martin Wickremasinghe's well known novels, 'Gamperaliya', 'Kaliyugaya' and 'Yuganthaya'.

Recently, ITN viewers had a rare chance of seeing the three films consecutively and enjoying Bogoda's performance, watching the transformation from the young boy in Koggala in 'Gamperaliya' through to the mature younger brother of Nanda (Punya Heendeniya) in 'Kaliyugaya' and the lone bachelor and seasoned campaigner in 'Yuganthaya'. He is the sole survivor in the trilogy - a silent observer of the changes throughout an era. He begins life in the village, comes to the city, watches the transformation of simple people to a wealthy lot and observes the radicalism brought in from the West by the revolutionary type of young intellectuals.

Bogoda's was a unique performance. Possibly he was overshadowed by other key players - Gamini Fonseka (Jinadasa in 'Gamperaliya' & Simon Kabalana in 'Yuganthaya') and Henry Jayasena (Piyal in 'Gamperaliya' & 'Kaliyugaya'). Yet he was the link threading all three stories. 

Obviously Lester James Peries was impressed with his performance in 'Gamperaliya' (1963) that he chose him for a role in 'Delovak Atara' (1966) and the lead in 'Golu Hadawatha' (1968).

A staffer in Bank of Ceylon at the time, Bogoda's first love was the stage. The Sixties was a busy time for him. As an active member of Ape Kattiya, he was seen in most of Sugathapala de Silva's productions - 'Bodingkarayo', 'Tattu Geval', 'Harima Badu Hayak' , 'Hele Negga Dong Putha' & 'Hitha Honda Ammandi'. He played Kalu malli in R.R. Samarakoon's 'Kelani Palama'.

Now retired, Bogoda runs a small fruit farm in the outskirts of Colombo. "It's really satisfying," he told me when I tracked him down after seeing the trilogy. How about continuing acting, I asked him. "May be if I get the correct role. As it is , I am sick of the set-up," he said.

We have never seen him on the small screen. Maybe someone should make an offer. 

The trilogy
ITN deserves a big 'thank you' for giving the viewers the privilege of watching Lester James Peries' trilogy virtually at one sitting. Many of us had forgotten how he had handled the three stories. Although 'Gamperaliya' (made in 1963) was being screened repeatedly, 'Kaliyugaya' (1983) and 'Yuganthaya' (1985) were rarely seen.

As Lester explained when he introduced each film, he was fortunate in having the services of the key players when he decided to do the second part of the trilogy 20 years after the first. In their real lives, they had advanced in years to fit in exactly to the time gap in the story. Piyal (Henry Jayasena) and Anula (Trillicia Gunawardena) were still very active on stage and screen. Nanda (Punya Heendeniya), though away in Zambia was willing to return. Tissa (Wickrema Bogoda) was also available. By the time he started 'Yuganthaya', except for Tissa, the other characters were not there. So he could bring back Gamini Fonseka (Jinadasa in 'Gamperaliya') to play Simon Kabalana, a business tycoon.

It is sad that the young pair in 'Yuganthaya' - Richard de Zoysa (in the role of Simon Kabalana's rebel son) and Ramani Bartholomeusz (Richard's sister) are no more. 

While Regi Siriwardena wrote the 'Gamperaliya' script , the other two were done by Dr.A.J. Gunawar-dena. Willie Blake handled the photography in the first and third films while Donald Karunaratne did 'Kaliyugaya'. Pandit Amaradeva was music director in 'Gamperaliya' and Premasiri Khemadasa directed music in the other two. None had any songs.

Winston in Sinhala films
Few may remember that Winston Serasinghe made his presence felt in several Sinhala films. Starting with Lester James Peries' 'Rekawa' (1956), which also happened to be his wife Iranaganie's maiden film, Winston played a role in another of Lester's films, 'Delovak Atara' (1966). Winston was also seen in several other Sinhala films right up to two years ago. These included D. C. L. Amarasinghe's 'Vesaturu Siritha' (1966), Manik Sandrasagara's Kalu Diya Dahara' (1975), Dharmasiri Bandaranayake's 'Thunveni Yamaya' (1983), Parakrama Niriella's 'Ayoma' (1996) and Nihal Fernando's 'Amanthaya' (1997).

Tele viewers remember his role in 'Rupiyal Satha' as Sidambarama Nona's husband. 

Breaking into the Sinhala stage in Dhamma Jagoda's 'Porisadaya', Winston played the role of Makara in Dharmasiri Bandaranayake's 'Makarakshaya'. 

With his departure, we have lost another talented actor.

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