quartet of musical rapport
Transworld piano quartet in concert June
9 and 10, at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo
Reviewed by Arun Dias Bandaranaike
It proved to be a wonderful way to spend an evening! The Transworld
Piano Quartet are not a regular ensemble, but the rapport which
informs their work, and the finesse which they attempt to bring
to their performance is evident demonstration of their professional
de Silva is based in New York while Ashan Pillai (viola) and Damien
Martinez (cello) are together in the Barcelona Symphony, and Jagdish
Mistry (violin), the third among the Asians- who comprise the quartet,
is found to be active in more than one European location. That verily
defines their collective name!
What was notable,
and added the difference to the evening's concerts, was the generous
spirit, a desire and a willingness to present a "shared experience"
with the audience. Having dispensed with the formalities of printed
programme notes, the players spoke and introduced the works and
wove an ambience into the proceedings which helped immensely. They
communicated not only in word, but, as a consequence, also through
their instruments. This splendid mix does not occur often enough!
was possessed of a dulcissimo tonality, which worked well with the
demands of the opening Mozart ( Piano Quartet No.1 in G minor);
interestingly, it was in the 2nd Movement-Andante - that the "G
minor-ness "of the work was abundantly displayed, and where
(in borrowing a phrase from Mistry's opening remarks) it presaged
the Requiem of later years, and where the aria-like exposition by
the instruments were heard in full. In the treatment of the entirety
of the work, one became aware, that in context, Rohan's piano was
a little overbalanced, to the degree that it tended to overpower
the dulcissimo of the violin. Even when the pianist was more restrained,
it tended to overshadow the ensemble- which may possibly have been
avoided by employing the simple device of closing ( half- closing)
the lid of the piano, which would have brought the tonality closer
to the period's customary sound.
It was in the
Brahms (Piano Quartet in C minor Op60) that everything jelled, and
rendered the evening "compleat" ( in the Shakespearean
sense of the term). From its opening two phrases it was definitely
the broiling, roiling romance of Brahms that one was confronted
touch provided the ineluctable elements of murkiness combined with
verve, along with intuitively performed arpeggio and other phrased
ornamentation to delightful effect. Particularly in the 3rd Movement
-Andante- where the 'cello became the central instrument as it opened,
before giving way to the other two voices, Rohan's well- honed collaborative
instincts came compellingly to the fore, offering a perfect "foil"
to the charged melody by the 'cello. It is this reviewer's belief
that the 3rd movement could well stand on its own as a telling piece-
a trio for Strings with a verdant richness as its backdrop, provided
by the piano.
one was aware that Mistry was working hard, but, there was a tendency
for the violin to be submerged, and he may well have benefited from
a more resonant instrument. Those matters not withstanding, the
particular rendition of the Andante and the Allegro Comodo-Finale
offered by the Transworld Quartet was sufficient reason to justify
one's presence for the entirety of the evening!
It was also
a welcome feature at the concert, that Ashan Pillai delved into
the work of Benjamin Britten. It is gratifying to note that Britten
is being revisited a little more avidly at present, more than two
full decades after his demise. Two of his operas (even his controversial
Opera for TV) have been presented in recent times, to critical acclaim,
by the Australian Opera.
Elegy for solo viola was one of Britten's very early works (as Ashan
explained- was written in 1930 when he was just 17), and is assumed
to be wrought of the angst and torment which affected the young
man's whole being. Yet, the sensitive attack and tonal colours that
were evoked by Pillai, allowed one to appreciate that there was
controlled resolve inherent in the apparently brooding piece, expressed
via some sumptuous intervals in legato, replete with mysterioso
sixths, and a delightful coda- including a masterly diminuendo fade
offering was, contrary to commonplace occurrence, a composition
by Beethoven for viola and 'cello. While the levity of this work
exposed a lesser known aspect of Beethoven's personality, it was
nevertheless, quintessentially Beethoven in the cast of melody and
harmony. Pillai explained that this was a rarely performed work,
and that is true; it is only two movements in extent- but certainly
was a gentle joust among confreres.
If these are
not the best players in the world, the Sri Lankan audience (and,
I dare say, others among nationalities represented here) in Colombo,
Kandy and Kurunegala in the days after the Lionel Wendt theatre
performances, have nevertheless been treated to the shimmering proximity
of world-class musicians. May they pass by our way again!
portrayal of fantasy and reality
Many films show the good guys and the bad guys, with sex and violence
thrown in supposedly for entertainment.
film sub-titled in English is different. It is a sensitive portrayal
of a man who loved and laughed and then changed into the epitome
of evil, a killer hungry for land and power and thirsting for glory.
For us in Sri
Lanka, the personal growth of king "Chandi Ashok" (Evil
Ashok) to "Dharma Ashok" (Holy Ashok) has special relevance.
brings with it the beautifully contrasting picture of King Devanampiyatissa
hunting the deer when he is stopped in his tracks by the serene
picture of Arahat Mahinda bringing the message of Buddhism to Sri
Lanka from his father, Emperor Asoka of India.
acting as Asoka is natural. He exudes power and magnetism and is
a perfect foil to the lissome grace of Kareena Kapoor. Their love
story is beautifully enacted through song and dance.
The words and
movements convey sexual innuendoes far more tastefully than a vulgar
romp in bed. There is love and romance that capture the imagination.
No, there is no happy ending, for real life is not a fairy tale.
But there are moments of happiness juxtaposed with the tragic history
of the protagonists.
The film is
part fantasy, part reality and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
There is adventure, action, romance and finally a message to take
home for those who advocate violence in Emperor Ashoka's heartbroken
words: "I have won it all.......... and destroyed it all".
did not last but his journey from violence to non-violence as a
way of life is relevant to our times.
See the film
"Asoka" and join the travellers who, like Ashok, finally
strike a balance between what this world can offer and move forward
into the beyond.
They fight, struggle and choke. They take on villains and double
up for heroes to do dangerous action scenes. Chamintha Thilakarathna
meets the lesser known stars of the cinema- the stuntmen and women.
Beaten up to
save the hero, they leap from high bridges, get shot at, thrown
onto walls and through glass doors. Heroes are made at their expense.
Lean and mean,
they usually have unshaven faces, skull tattoos on their arms, wear
black vests and carry weapons.
These are the
stuntmen, the little appreciated lesser stars of the cinema audiences,
who not only play the villain ready to take on any hero who is likely
to stand in their way, but also double up to do the dangerous action
sequences in place of the heroes.
the stuntmen, The Sunday Times met pioneer and 'guru' to many, Robin
Fernando, taking a break from the fights and falls. Yet, reminders
of the 'golden years' of his past, were visible everywhere. Swords
of various types and sizes, shot-guns and pistols, Rambo-like bows
and arrows decorate his sitting room.
With 40 years
of experience in the industry and having acted in over a hundred
films and directed action scenes in another hundred, Robin Fernando
tells us that it won't be easy tracing stuntmen, "especially
since there aren't many new ones and the old ones are out of the
about 15 years ago, the actors did all their stunts on their own.
Today, the action film industry is almost inactive," he said.
But The Sunday
Times soon had the opportunity of watching some stuntmen in action
on location for a new film.
(29), was fighting, struggling and choking. There seemed no end
to all the assault and harassment he underwent. Wasantha is a martial
arts exponent and gymnast and has the ability to adapt to and cope
with falls and jumps.
stuntmen at my gym at Piliyandala. It is not an easy field, there
are lots of risks involved," he says.
in the teledrama 'Sanda Yahanata', Wasantha related a narrow shave
he once had while doing a stunt for actor Sanath Gunetilleke. "I
was to be set ablaze but should have had the flames on my body only
for 30 seconds. Yet, the fire brigade failed to extinguish the fire
in time and I could feel the heat on my skin through the protective
suit. I didn't know what to do because in such situations, the judgment
of the directors and technical support teams is crucial as a stuntman
cannot compromise the scene," he said.
Dammika Pushpakumara has faced some life threatening incidents in
his career as a professional stuntman. In an Italian film shot at
the Colombo harbour, he had to hang onto a rice sack suspended from
a plane flying 80 feet above the ground and then jump to safety,
before the sack hit the ground.
his colleagues, this was the first and only time such a stunt had
been performed by a Sri Lankan.
(32), another young and muscular stuntman agreed that doing a stunt
is not as easy as it appears on the big screen.
in a fight, I broke a finger and to this day I cannot use that finger,"
he said. The scene had involved a fight with iron bars. In an attempt
to defend himself in the fight as expected, his finger had been
plastered for three months, and I had to pay my medical expenses
as well," he complained.
Also on location
were a few stuntwomen. Nothing like the muscular and tough stuntwomen
we see on television, these were young, pretty and quite talkative.
At the site,
they were shooting the good guys and defending their masters. They
too jumped off buildings, fought aggressively with each other, and
were involved in stunts on moving vehicles. In fact, Sewandi (27),
Janaki (28), Sabitha (21), Dinusha (18), Prashanthi (30) Saduni
(26), Maya (24), Natasha (19) and Naomi(18) are thrilled at having
the opportunity to learn and perform stunts.
So why choose
such a dangerous field? "We like it. It's fun. Of course, it
is a great challenge but we think we are upto it," they echoed.
is no discrimination in the field for men and women. We are treated
equally but the stunts are considerably milder for us," said
Sewandi Samarasinghe (27).
are enthusiastic and quite determined to pursue this art. However,
they have not faced any life threatening experiences yet. "Of
course, when we watch some of the stunts being done, it scares us,
yet with training and guidance we feel we can do them," they
And does it
affect their personal life? "I am married and have a baby but
I don't find it restricts me," said Janaki de Silva (28).
that one needs only well developed muscles and a mean looking face.
It requires more....hard work, commitment, the willingness to take
risks, courage, skill and training. While most of them are driven
by the challenge, they are not ignorant of the risks they face and
hence are dissatisfied about the way they are treated by the industry.
paid very poorly. There is no recognition among directors or the
public. We are not insured. If something happens to us, it is our
loss and we have to bear it," they said.
billions of dollars are spent on stunt equipment, fees, and training,
in Sri Lanka these artistes are hardly recognized.
You don't think
so? How many stuntmen can you name?
very important to train stuntmen. Without appropriate training it
is difficult for them to handle the requirements or take risks.
But in Sri Lanka training is not stressed on and we are not appreciated,"
Wasantha said. Even the handling of weapons needs to be taught,
safety measures such as special padding, etc. are not used in local
stunts due to the high cost. "There are no safety measures
taken on stunt locations unless it is crucial. Local films don't
have budgets for stunt scenes. There are no awards for stuntmen.
It has come to be accepted as something that can be done by any
person off the street. But the truth is, it requires training and
skill without which the Director would not only place the stuntman
at risk but also his fellow actors," Robin Fernando said.