ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 27
Kandy Times

Getting to know Bevis

By Tinaz Amit

He has been dubbed the Maara Man by Carl Muller. Described as an enigma in the city of Kandy, he is known to everybody only by his first name 'Bevis'. Seated under the Maara tree which gave him the name in the first place- near Bake House on Dalada Veediya for the past 30 years or so, in his sarong, shirt and crutches, Bevis is seen simply as a disabled person and often mistaken for a beggar. I notice the inquisitive glances thrown at me as I stand under the tree talking to him.

What the hundreds of people who pass by him daily do not know is that behind this outward appearance, is a musician, dramatist, sculptor, philosopher, humanist and even political activist. In fact, Bevis Manathunga tells me that even those who keep him company in everyday life do not know about his involvement in the arts and politics. "They just see me as disabled, that's all and I don't care. Because I know where I stand."

His artistic instincts are very much alive. A product of Kingswood College and a musician by profession, Bevis is an expert on the guitar and mouth organ. He sings for and on peace and human rights. His performances are one of a kind as they are all one-man shows in which Bevis makes use of his talents in both instruments. He has composed six to seven English songs and some twenty to thirty Sinhala songs.

Asked why he had not yet released an album with such a vast collection, he replies that though he has live recordings, he is not financially in a position to release a CD. But he adds that he would always opt for a live performance instead of a CD. "In a country like this live performances are more effective than a CD, especially when you are performing on two instruments. It's something new to society. When I get on stage it's a novelty to see me playing two instruments.

"My music is also different, it's a mixture of all kinds and I really don't know what particular style it is," he adds. Bevis has had ten live performances so far and looks forward to the eleventh in a couple of months.

Bevis is also a sculptor who carves on coconut shells. His artistic abilities do not stop there. He proudly states that he is a member of the Universal Arts Foundation and has contributed to many dramas throughout his life. He has acted in two teledramas; 'Sura Tharuwa' telecast on Swarnavahini in which he played the second major role of a blind musician. Here he performed on the mouth organ on TV for the first time. His second TV appearance was in Sudath Devapriya's ‘Chandragrahana' in which he portrayed the role of a fortune teller.

Bevis has also been involved in composing and directing music in a couple of Sinhala dramas. At present, after a short time away from the stage, he is back working on a production of Chekhov's 'Uncle Varnia'. The script is being translated into Sinhala at present and work on the production is expected to begin in January.

This multi-talented human being has a deeply philosophical attitude to life. "I always take the progressive side of the human mind. I see value in every individual. I don't care who they are but I see value in them. I'm against exploitation. What I feel is that poverty is there because of exploitation. Life keeps changing. I meet so many people and I know the problems they have today are not those they had yesterday and what they'll have tomorrow will not be what they have today."

People passing him on the streets everyday may dismiss him as just another unemployed man but on the contrary, Bevis is very much an active and committed individual, one whose talents are used for a worthy cause. Says his friend Richard, "In 20 to 30 years time, no one would remember all these rich and famous people but they will definitely remember Bevis."

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.