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23rd August 1998

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Her consent or her desire? It doesn't matter.

Rajiv Rajah was just 21. Someone whose life was movies, MTV and music-not books. He drove a big car, carried a mobile phone in one hand and a lady friend in his arms. After passing out of school he joined Zee TV as a production man, worked 14-16 hours on Zee programmes such as Insight, Special Report.

Today Rajiv is the most talked about 21 year old in New Delhi. Monica Malik was 27. She loved flowers, cards, good clothes, perfumes and life itself. She had a Maruti car, a mobile phone and enjoyed movies. The latest film she saw was Godzilla. She graduated from the Delhi University with English honours. She too had worked for Zee TV as a production woman, with the evening English news bulletins and sports shows.

Today Monica is the most talked about 27-year-old in New Delhi.

Rajiv and Monica were found dead on August 4 inside Rajiv's car parked in a garage.

Todate the mystery remains unsolved with new angles emerging every day and has been in the front page of all the newspapers since August 5.

People in Delhi say that no other crime has been under so much of media glare as the Rajiv-Monica case. The incident has raised a lot of speculation regarding the motive of the crime, the involvement of a third party and the failure of the police to examine all aspects of the crime before jumping to conclusions.

The case has thrown up a major challenge to the Delhi Police who are trying very hard to refurbish their image. Two young lives have been snatched away. Not by the wind, and the parents of Rajiv and Monica know that their children will never be back but they want to know how and why they went away.

I spend my free time at Zee TV in Delhi, where the action is and was able to name a face I saw once, after August 4. That was Monica.

Looking for gigolos

Radhika Chandramani runs a sex-related help line TARSHI. The helpline has been in existence in the capital, New Delhi, for sometime and she has received a number of calls relating to group and experimental sex. Most from men. When questioned whether the wife is a willing participant the general reply has been "her consent or her desire? It doesn't matter." It was recently that Editor of Femina Sathya Saran said that most Indian men are chauvinist and Shobha De wrote a book How to Survive Indian Men. Chandramani says against this backdrop most Indian women are now actively looking for gigolos and escorts because they feel it is rightfully theirs."

Namrita Gokhale who runs a column on human relations says that "Delhi is one of the most hurtful cities, a cauldron of broken contracts. There is no nurturing of values. This purchased closeness is actually a sign of desperate loneliness, not an opening of two human beings" clinical psychologists Sadhana Vohara adds. "The fact that India has the largest number of prostitutes in the world shows how repressed we are".

STOP OVER: India celebrated 51 years of Independence on August 15. Rains, balloons, flags, Vajpayee's backaches and nuclear power. It was declared a dry day. That means no liquor was available. This poor Sri Lankan who wanted to celebrate India's Independence with a beer was asked to have an Indian Lassi at the Le Meridian. French style Indian smile.

She has a way with words

By Alya Henry

Recently I was invited to lunch with Alfreda de Silva. I heard she was not well and wondered how I'd find the lady who insists on writing against her doctor's wishes. Alfreda's reviews, reminiscences and poems often appear in the Daily News or The Sunday Times. It's lesson for us who tire, get winded, catch writer's cramp or mental blocks.

Prior to this, an American friend told me the news which later I read about in Colombo papers that amongst Sri Lankan panoply of literary stars Alfreda was singled out by winning a prestigious award, at a worldwide poetry competition known as the Salute the Arts, sponsored by the Triton College School of Art and Science, USA.

A word about Salute the Arts. This worldwide poetry competition merits commendation. It aims at 'an international sharing of personal triumphs and tragedies, which are part of the human experience'. The 1998 themes were Innocence, Adversity, and Disillusionment. Alfreda's poem Moon Song in the category of Innocence, intrigued, charmed, and won the hearts and minds of the judges.

Alfreda has a way with words: her poems appeal to a variety of people. In the past few decades Alfreda won many awards for poetry and literature. Many times the awards offered her opportunities to travel abroad to the USA and UK. She has five books of poetry published; three of them for children. Her poetry is being taught in schools in Sri Lanka and the USA. She has done poetry readings for radio, schools, and universities in Sri Lanka and abroad. In 1994 she won the Zonta International Award for Creative Writing. Alfreda is listed in the Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry in English edited by Ian Hamilton.

Which reminds me, while travelling in Australia, not so long ago, driving my car on a deserted highway between Canberra's far-flung suburbs, I heard a haunting poem being read on the ABC. It was a surprise to me because the poem First Blood, sounded strangely familiar. Back in Colombo I searched my bookshelf and found it in a slim publication, a collection of poems titled Unpredictable Blood. Needless to say, Alfreda's poetry is known, and admired not only within, but also beyond the shores of Sri Lanka.

In the short time I have got to know Alfreda and her poetry I've come to admire her personal stoicism, and her range of skills. On the one hand she can tirelessly ad lib at a breakfast talk-show, on the other hand she can give an erudite talk on The Place of Poetry in the Teaching of English (British Council, for SLATE-Sri Lankan Association of Teachers of English)

During our discussion, Alfreda brought out poetic samples from her vast memory bank, and illustrated talking-points with a stanza here, a poem there: she could recall jingles or nursery rhymes at the drop of a hat. The poets she favoured were not only de La Mare, A..A. Milne, R.L. Stevenson, or Shakespeare, but also more contemporary ones like E. Dickinson.

As a teacher, Alfreda developed a method of presentation based on her thorough education in English and a supreme love for poetry. She is devoted to her craft, and believes in the importance of poetry in language teaching, she advocates its incorporation into various areas of the school curriculum.

Alfreda's passion for literature and poetry evolved into a lifelong philosophy of life and education: she is generous with her time and experience, and is kind to aspiring young artists, encouraging the flames of creativity originality and imagination in writers, poets and dramatists.

Kala Korner By Dee CeeTissa creates his Maya for TV

Quality is the hallmark of Tissa Abeysekera's creations, whether it be a film, a teledrama, a book or anything in the field of arts. Thus his latest creation, Maya will be eagerly followed by televiewers who are assured of first class entertainment every Saturday evening on Rupavahini.

Glimpses of the teledrama seen in the introductory programme telecast last week would have convinced everyone that Tissa understands the medium well. And in Maya he tackles a complex subject - rebirth.

Tissa has written the script based on the English novel by Manel Abhayaratna, which she describes as an attempt "to explain imaginatively the human meaning of reincarnation - the tensions, the confusions, the self searching it generates." He had earlier done a film script on Maya (directed by Sumitra Pieris and screened 14 years ago), but for the teledrama he has revised it. Viewers will notice the changes as the story progresses.

Once again Tissa has succeeded in getting the best out of his team. Acting is at a high level with talented players like Asoka Peiris (a university professor), Vasanthi Chaturani (a simple and ill fated woman from the Kotmale valley), Daya Alwis (husband), Roger Seneviratne (a clerk with an overpowering desire for social climbing), Radha de Mel (the professor's unhappy wife), and Maureen Charuni (traditional Kandyan girl married to the clerk) turning out polished perfomances.

Photography by K. A. Dharmasena is also at a high level. Daya Punchihewa has edited the teledrama. Rohana Weerasinghe has once again succeeded in composing a music score to suit the mood of the story.

Tissa continues his habit of picking up an old favourite or two bringing back nostalgic memories to many, particularly to those in Tissa's vintage. It was 'Nil Ahas Kuse' in 'Mahagedera', and 'Podi Kurullane' on 'Pitagamkaroya'. For Maya he has picked up 'Gumu Nade Dena Bambarage Dosina' and C. T. Fernando's ever-popular 'Pinsiduwanne'.

All in all, Maya is bound to be a lively and entertaining teledrama.

Singer presentation

Continuing their commit- ment to the promotion of quality entertainment, Singer has stepped in to finance and sponsor Maya. Obviously they were happy with what Tissa did earlier - Vanasarana based on R L Spittel's Savage Sanctuary which was also financed by Singer Agro Division.

"We have worked for a long time with Tissa. We have always allowed him to work independent of any interference from the sponsors so that his creativity as a gifted artiste will not be stifled," says Singer Chairman Hemaka Amarasuriya.

This first teledrama to be financed by Singer was Gehenu Lamai directed by Sumithra Pieris. The company had been in the forefront of sponsorship of teledrama from the inception of television in Sri Lanka. Among these were Palingu Menike, 'Ella Langa Walauwa', 'Irata Handana Mal', 'Mihikatage Daruwo' and Martin Wickremesinghe's short stories.

On the FICC Jury

Serving on the jury at the 51st Locarno International Film Festival held last week was Sri Lankan film journalist and film society activist, Ranjanee Ratnavibhushana. She was nominated by the International Federation of Film Societies to serve as a juror along with four others - Regina Naumann (Germany), Martha Otte (Norway), Bridget McMahon (Ireland) and Christian Lelarge (Switzerland).

Ranjanee, an executive committee member of the Asian Film Center and Vice-President of the Sri Lanka Federation of Film Societies, edits Film Annual Sri Lanka and is co-editor of 'Cinesith' film quarterly.

Sarachchandra festival

Coinciding with the sec- ond death anniversary of Professor Sarachchandra, his dramas are being presented at the Elphinstone Theatre these days. The festival is sponsored by Sri Lanka Telecom and entrance is free.

Plays to be staged in the next few days are Mahasara (Monday 24) Rattaran & Elova Gihin Melova Ava (25), Ekata Mata Hina Hina & Wellavahum (26), and Sinhabahu (27).

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