18th June 2000

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Kala Korner By Dee Cee

The tradition continues

She is cute. She is talented. She is confident. Her name is Thajithangani - Thaji, for short. She is just 12 years old. She is Hapana in Vajira's beautiful children's ballet by the same name and Ranma in the other delightful ballet 'Rankikili'. She shows promise of becoming a prima ballerina in the years to come.

"She is my granddaughter. I am happy she is so keen on doing what we did exactly the way we did," Chitrasena, a proud grandfather told me. Vajira should feel consoled there is someone in the family to continue the tradition.

Thaji also performed a Kandyan dance solo at the Festival of Ballet at the Bishop's College auditorium that evening. In the souvenir there was a picture of Vajira in the early days in a ves costume designed by Somabandu. Thaji looked exactly like that.

The response to the Festival was rather disappointing. It was for a good cause - the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya Building Fund, a cause that deserves everyone's support. Having been gifted a piece of land in Narahenpita, now the buildings have to come up. It is no easy task but it can be achieved if everyone rallies round. The Festival will continue in October with 'Berahanda' and 'Gini Hora'. Let's hope for a better response then.

A peerless group

In his 79th year, Chitrasena can feel satisfied that for over six decades he and Vajira have trained a fine set of talented dancers. As the Festival souvenir mentioned, "the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya has nurtured, groomed and bequeathed to the world of culture a peerless group of artistes, some of whom are vibrantly active today". Among them are Upekha, Khema, Ravibandu, Channa, Anjalika and Heshma.

The Chitrasena legacy dates back to the forties when Somabandu Vidyapathi (Ravibandu's father), late Ganganath, Premakumar, Sesha Palihakkara, Sena Walawe, Vajira and Padma de Alwis became big names on the dance scene. They were followed by Vipuli, Khema, Sumithra, Malika and Ritani in the fifties and Upekha and Anjalika (both daughters of Chitrasena and Vajira) in the sixties. Ravibandu, Channa, Samanthi, Visha, Tanya and Janaki blossomed out in the seventies.

Writing on 'Chitrasena at Sixty', (1981) Karen Breckenridge said: " The man is Elemental. More fire than wind. As a dancer he is the greatest we have. Not in terms of ritual or the mere folk. But on the stage, in theatre. His love and knowledge of the performing arts is intuitive as much as it is learnt. His greatest endeavour has been his school. It has been one of the mainstays of our theatrical world. It is perhaps the best known collaborative effort of teaching in the arts...The over 40-year span of Chitrasena in the dance is a magnificent history."

Though a little feeble, Chitrasena continues to do his bit. His mere presence is a source of strength to others. The Festival consisting of the third and fourth generation students is "to pay homage and humble obeisance to a great Guru, pioneer of Sri Lankan dance theatre".

GT of 'Veda Hatana' fame

As I paid my last respects to dear friend, varsity mate, and fellow journalist at Lake House, I pictured G. T. Wickremasinghe playing the lead role in 'Veda Hatana', Newman Jubal's adaptation of French comic dramatist Moliere's 'Le Malade imaginaire' presented by the Peradeniya University's Sinhala Drama Society. That was in 1953. It was GT's initiation to theatre. He was superb as the imaginary invalid.

GT was a senior undergrad when we, the first batch of freshers, went up to Peradeniya. Being a popular figure, as he always was, he had been elected President of the Jayatilaka Hall Society and was leading the ragging team. It was clean fun and GT saw to it that no one was harassed.

GT covered campus activities in a column he wrote to the Lankadeepa under the pen name 'Teekadasa'. He was a good story-teller and a fine conversationalist. Jovial and carefree, studies came second. A good weekend outing, a dip in the Mahaweli off Lady McCallum's Drive, a climb to Hantana or Balana, a hike to Pidurutalgala - these got preference in his Peradeniya days.

After joining Lake House, his outings with Meemana Prematilleka (who edited the Silumina) made him a nature lover. He also got interested in digging into the past and presented many an interesting TV feature.

A Taste of Sinhala (22)

Mind your words

By Prof. J.B. Disanayaka

A Kandyan lady stepped into the new grocery store opened by a rich businessman from the south.

He was happy that someone from the aristocratc families in the highlands had came to his store for her shopping. With the hope that the visit would be the beginning of a new relationship, he spoke to her with respect:

Ohe:ta monavada o:nae (What do you want?)

Much to his surprise she never returned to his shop. Something had gone wrong. The shop-owner discovered some time later that he had hurt her by calling her "ohe:"

One hears the Sinhala pronoun 'ohe:' (you) in southern Sri Lanka. It is a respectful term.

Ohe: Kauda? (Who are you?) ;

Ohe:ge nama mokadda? (What is your name ?) ;

Ohe: ta mahansi -da? (Are you tired ?) and

Man ohe: gen aehuve nae: (I didn't ask you).

However, in the Kandyan villages, the word "ohe" places you on an inferior social level.

Thus when the shop owner called the lady "ohe" he insulted her unwittingly.

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