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20th December 1998

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Kala Korner - By Dee Cee

A colourful 'bitti pattare' on drama

Walking into Lumbini Theatre the other day, I was greeted with a colourful 'bitti pattare'- a wall newspaper devoted to drama. Titled Rupana, it was the inaugural issue of a bi-monthly put out by the Lumbini Vidyalaya Student Drama Circle. Mounted on wooden panels, it was handwritten in clear, big lettering for easy reading. Each page was the size of a newspaper sheet.

Rupana was interesting reading. The lead story was on the recently concluded State Drama Festival drawing the attention of the Sinhala Drama Panel of the Arts Council to the need to restructure the annual competition. (Wonder whether Panel Chairman E. M. G. Edirisinghe who was at the Lumbini that evening had a glimpse of it). Another page was devoted to a tribute to the well-known playwright Sugathapala de Silva in a feature titled, ' Get to know our dramatists'. A comprehensive list of Sinhala dramas based on Bertolt Brecht's plays was useful for any student of theatre. On top of the list was Henry Jayasena's 'Hunuwataye Kathawa', the ever popular Chalk Story still running in its 31st year.

Capturing the tragedy of war

In the mid-sixties a young lad returned to Sri Lanka having studied cinematography in Czechoslovakia. Armed with a Master's degree on the subject, Piyasiri Gunaratne made his first feature film, Mokada Une, the tragic tale of a young village girl who comes to the city with her little child and gets involved with the underworld. Piyasiri later joined the National Film Corporation and then the Rupavahini Corporation until the troubled days in the late eighties when he decided to leave the country. He has settled down in the Czech Republic, in the thick of the crystal country on the Czech-Austrian border in a lovely suburban town called Ladekh.

In the past few years Piyasiri has been doing a lot of research into the ongoing war and is now ready to do a documentary film. "The separatist movement and its consequences have shocked the world not once or twice but many times over. Its impact on the country's economy is devastating. Sri Lanka's image as a peaceful paradise is gone for ever," he says.

Piyasiri has also observed the plight of illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka, mostly Tamils, who try to get into Europe. "Very often they are transported illegally under inhuman conditions by various mafias and abandoned in thick forests in the border areas by ring leaders giving enough headaches to the authorities in these countries. The stories they relate in order to get 'political asylum' are heartbreaking," he explains.

Recognising creative talent

Hot on the trail of the State Literary Awards presentation, further recognition to Sinhala and Tamil creative writers and poets came in the form of Independent Literary Awards for the best creative works published in 1996. The awards were made at the Independent Literary Festival held recently at the John de Silva Theatre.

Obviously the judges were quite strict in their selections and only two Sinhala works - 'Vandanawa', an anthology of short stories by Ajit Tilakasena and 'Deviyange Minisun', an anthology of poems by Parakrama Kodituwakku won the Jayasankha Awards given to works of exceptional quality. There were none in Tamil, qualifying for this award.

Kalu Kahavanu,a short story collection by Kirti Welisarage and Pasaloswaka Sanda, poems by Lal Hegoda were selected as 'notable creations' and given merit awards which included cash prizes. There were no selections in two categories - translations and novels.

Four other Sinhala works have been identified as ones which deserve the special attention of critics. These are Oyabada Vavullu, Ariyawansa Ranaweera's anthology of poems, Nandunana Geheniya, short stories by Tilina Weerasinghe, Goduru, a novel by Jayatilaka Kammellaweera and Ballekuge Hadawatha, a translation by Gamini Viyangodage.

While there were no exceptional Tamil works, there were just two 'notable creations' -one a novel, 'Kauvattu' by T. Gnanasekeran and the other a collection of short stories, 'Kadalum Kateyum' by M. Ponnambalam. Two anthologies of poems- S. Atma's 'Miha Aditalai Neela Eetul' and S. Sivasekeran's 'Porin Muhankal' were given 'awards of encouragement'.

This was the sixth Independent Literary Festival organised by the Independent Literary Committee with S. Sivagurunathan functioning as Chairman, Organising Committee.

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