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26th April 1998

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Kala Corner

The winning streak

Winning awards is nothing strange for veteran actor Joe Abeywickrema. But his performances in two films released in 1996 struck a significant note. He won the Presidential Award for Best Actor in Loku Duwa and recently his role in Bithu Sithuvam won the Sarasaviya Award for Best Actor. Both films were screened in 1996.

Joe can easily be ranked on top of the list among our character actors. He has dominated the scene for the past four decades. Remember Saraiya, the betel seller in Tissa Liyanasuriya’s Saravita? Joe’s first Sarasaviya award was for that role, way back in 1966. His role as the innocent villager in Lester James Peries’ Baddegama made him Best Actor in 1982. The following year he was adjudged best actor in Chandraratne Mapitigama’s Malata Noena Bambaru. Four years later, D .B. Nihalsingha’s Maldeniye Simeon brought him the coveted award followed by Ananda Fonseka’s Umayangana in 1993.

In between, for a number of years there were no film festivals. Otherwise he would have bagged a few more. Tough man Goring in Nihalsingha’s Weli Katara, the rustic village artist in Mahagama Sekera’s Tung Mang Handiya, the old soldier in Dharmasena Patiraja’s Soldadu Unnehe, Siribo Aiya in Sunil Ariyaratne’s ‘Siribo Aiya ‘ were among some of his finest performances.

Silver Jubilee

The Sarasaviya Film Festival celebrated its silver jubilee this year. The first ever film festival to be organised in Sri Lanka, it began in 1964 and was held annually until 1970 after which there was a break for ten years.

The decision to hold an annual film festival and make awards followed the launch of the cultural weekly ‘ Sarasaviya’ in April 1963 by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. “Sarasaviya was the brainchild of Chairman Ranjit Wijewardene” wrote its first editor, the well known poet Meemana Prematilleka in his Mage Premaya, Kalava Saha Jeevitaya (1965). Meemana’s assistant was Wimalasiri Perera who soon became editor and continued for many years.

An impressive record

Gunadasa Amarasekera is a man of many parts - novelist, poet, short story writer, intellect. Ever since the days he wrote the controversial novel Karumakkarayo (1955), he has been in the news. His writing career began with Ratu Rosa Mala (1952) and then he published a book of verses, Bhava Gita.

He has an impressive record - ten novels, six collections of short stories, five poetry books, two dramas and seven collections of critical essays. Some of these have not been available.

Godage Publishers have now come out with new editions of three of his works. One is the full length novel Gandhabba Apadanaya described as a study in the evolution of an intellectual who revolts against the bourgeois life patterns and values of the middle class to which he is born.

This is the fifth edition of this popular novel, which first came out in the late sixties. The collection of short stories, Ekama Kathawa depicts the departure of the writer from his early romantic musings to serious comment of life around him.

The third is Ganadura Mediyama Dakinemi Arunalu published ten years ago presenting the much talked about Jatika Chintanaya to the public for the first time. Four new chapters have been included bringing a new dimension to the concept which continues to provoke debate among the intellectuals.


Taming of the mighty Walawe

The Walawe Ganga rising in the Horton Plains, the Haputale and Kaltota ranges roars down its mighty way through the tortuous jungles infested with wild beasts, cascades down the Haputale slopes and the Kaltota-Balangoda escarpments and finally joins the sea at Ambalantota...... Our ancients diverted the Walawe ganga in its upper reaches in the 2nd century AD at a place called Ukgaltota in the Kaltota escarpments where a stone anicut was built.

It was aptly named Ukgaltota Amuna (anicut). In late 19th century, a part of the old anicut was repaired, restoring large tracts of rice fields which had turned fallow.... The first ever small river project that emerged in the 1950s into this part of Kolonne Korale was the damming of Hulanda Oya close to Embilipitiya in Halmillaketiya. Its man made tank was called Chandrika Weva. Hence this part of Kolonne Korale came to be under rice fields stretching far and wide, teeming with farming communities. In the whirl of these human settlements and developed lands, the sleepy village of Embilipitiya awoke from its long slumber.

With this picturesque introduction, Gamini de S. G. Puchihewa begins his ‘Vignettes of Far Off Things’ dealing with the history, tank civilization, jungle-lore, fauna & flora and adventure of the Walawe basin. Punchihewa, author of ‘Souvenirs of a Forgotten Heritage’ (1990) is a familiar name among newspaper readers. In his new book, he places before the readers a vivid description of a fascinating heritage - his own explorations and experiences - having worked and lived in the Gal Oya and Walawe regions for over 35 years.

Punchihewa takes the reader on a wide travelogue of the many interesting places in the Walawe region.

Little known facts are well described in the book. For example, the chapter titled ‘From Kekuna lights to aroma of citronella’ describes the value of Kekuna trees, the seeds of which yield an oil which was used in ancient times for lighting oil lamps in village homes. “The fruit has a thick covering. This thick covering is removed. The villagers then make holes in it. Pieces of wire are inserted into the holes which when hung on a string or on the roof would diffuse sufficient light, equivalent to one or two candle lights. At times when kerosene is hard to get, the villagers light their homes in this manner by making use of the kernels of kekuna fruits. Even in our local devil dances (thovil), in the incantations recited, mention is made of kekuna oil (thel) for lighting the pandama (torch) in the good old days”. Punchihewa devotes three chapters to elephant kraals, elephant drives, elephant tales and elephant charms. You need not be a wild life enthusiast to enjoy what he has written.

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