Roshni Abayasekera is the only Sri Lankan presenter on MTV Asia, hosting the hourly news segments and jetting around the world to hobnob with celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and Alanis Morrisette. Afdhel Aziz talked to her on the phone from Singapore.
What are your thoughts on Sri Lanka?
Well I was born there, and spent a brief amount of my childhood there before moving to Singapore. My dad is a businessman and consultant, he's a lawyer by profession but he also teaches at the university here. He travels there quite often and sometimes I tag along and I may be there again at the end of the year.
The music scene seems to be happening there and I'd like to focus some attention on the music and the talent there. Especially since we broadcast to the whole Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, I think it would be nice to feature some Sri Lankan artistes. With the jazz festivals and the musical concerts in Sri Lanka , I think it would provide more exposure for participants.
But there is a big problem in that there are no record companies to manage and promote artistes here - how could MTV help without the proper structure? Could they help by shooting videos for musicians?
I don't think that's going on. The basic precursor to getting on MTV is a video, after which comes the interviews and more spin-offs. But mostly MTV prefers to deal with record companies and their talent and PR divisions.
How did you get into MTV?
I studied international affairs and really wanted to get into political reporting - I used to work for a newsmagazine called "Inside Asia".
I went to a dinner party and met someone who was convinced that I should present on MTV and at first I wasn't convinced because I didn't really want to present videos. They asked me four or five times and then when I realised it was MTV News and would be a little bit more journalistic, I felt I should do it.
So you never wanted to be a VJ?
No , I always wanted to be a journalist . I like working on my own scripts rather than reading something written for me off a teleprompter. I now do a fair bit of producing as well , I write my own questions and interviews for scripts. It's basically entertainment news and pro-social issues like AIDS and the environment - MTV does have a very strong conscience, in areas where youth can be active and take a little pride in their work.
What about the allegations that MTV is extremely violent and doesn't promote so-called Asian values ?
MTV has always been very sensitive to local culture and our policy is to be a window to the rest of the world . 80% of our programming is already Hindi pop videos which are created for the local market . For this part of the world they are very relevant and connect to the youth.
What else do you do?
Well, I've interviewed people like Alanis Morrisette in Seoul, Korea when she was on her "Jagged Little Pill" tour and for a 21 year old she was remarkably mature, warm and down to earth. I've covered the Planet Hollywood opening in Singapore where I interviewed people like Jean Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone and I've also done things like Positively Global which addresses the AIDS problem and files a HIV report from each country.
Do you plan to move on to the other MTV networks in other parts of the world?
No, I think they like to localise talent - like the MTV that you get in Sri Lanka is the one that comes out of India and has a lot of Indian VJ's operating out of Mumbai.
But MTV is a wonderful channel , the people are great, it's a fun office, very creative. My father always told me to find a job that was fun and then you'd never have to work a day in your life - I guess that's what I've done.
Why do you pronounce your name in such an unconventional way?
Ooops ! I didn't know there was any other way to pronounce it.
Why have you changed your last name to Azani now ?
I'd prefer to let people speculate!
Lankan writer Shyam Selvadurai, author of Funny Boy will present a reading from 'The Monkey King and Other Stories' today October 26 at 4.p.m at the Gallery 706, Colombo.
The Monkey King and Other Stories is a collection of Sri Lankan folk tales re-interpreted, and is edited by Griffin Ondaatje, son of Booker prize winner Michael Ondaatje. The reading is open to the public.
The well loved children's classic Peter Pan will come alive on the Colombo stage shortly when Wycherley International School present their production of J.M Barriy's all-time favourite on November 7,8 and 9 at the Lionel Wendt. This adaptation has text, music and lyrics by Piers Chater-Robinson.
75 talented youngsters, aged between eight and 15, directed by Samantha de Soysa are presently hard at practice for the show.
Wycherley, in its ten year span has a proud record of theatre productions, from Fame and Cinderella to Alice in Wonderland. Peter Pan will also have the expert touch of Oosha Saravanamuttu who will handle the choreography, while the stage is done by another theatre veteran Jith Peiris with Shehani Fernando in charge of the music.
The magical story of Peter Pan has all the excitement and adventure of every child's dreams. It appeals to all children and all those young at heart. Do they believe in Fairies? And as they follow the adventures of Wendy and Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and co. through Neverland, through escapades with mermaids, pirates and Red Indians there's enough action to keep them totally engrossed. So look out for this grand production.
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