Friday, November 13, 2009

Gifted writer and true son of Jaffna :Aloysius Jeyraj Kanagaratna ..!!!

Aloysius Jeyraj Kanagaratna:

Gifted writer and true son of Jaffna
Wijitha Nakkawita

He belonged to a rare tribe of human beings who unfortunately were the minority among us but his vision and dreams embraced all humanity and all other living beings in the environment. Recently a collection of his writings, The Conscience of Jaffna was published and brought out in Colombo. He was Aloysius Jeyraj Kanagaratna better known as AJ among a wide circle of friends and the literati of the North and South. He was a teacher, journalist and a translator.

He was born in Jaffna on August 1934 and had his primary education at St.

Patrick's College, Jaffna and secondary education at St. Joseph's College, Colombo and higher education at the then University of Ceylon Peradeniya obtaining an English Honours Degree.

He started teaching English in a number of schools after graduation and joined the Jaffna based Standard Review as a sub editor till it was brought to Colombo. He also served the Daily News editorial and the Times of Ceylon editorial. In 1974, when the University of Jaffna was started, he joined it as an English tutor and served in that capacity till his retirement age.

AJ was a selfless man who asked very little for himself and was generous to a fault. When his people were suffering in the throes of the war, he often gave what little he had to others and went without many things for himself. He was not inclined to climb the social ladder though he was gifted much above the average person and he would not sacrifice his principles for any reason whatsoever.

He was a Marxist to the very end and lived in Jaffna even at the height of the terrorist war refusing to leave his people even when he had to suffer hardships.

Regi Siriwardena writing about some of his experiences in Jaffna says: "During the darkest years of the war I suggested to AJ through a friend since he was not only experiencing the privations of the beleaguered Jaffna but was circumscribed in his activity, he should migrate to Colombo, where I was sure fruitful and satisfying work could be found for him. He responded by saying he was a stick-in-the-mud who didn't want to transplant himself. I realized then that, together with the cosmopolitan culture and broad international awareness, AJ was also intellectually deep rooted in the soil of Jaffna, in its life, experience and language and for him to leave in its time of greatest ordeal, may have seemed a kind of betrayal."

Surprisingly AJ who was steeped in the Western culture and was grounded in English, Latin and Western classics, starting his primary education in a convent in Jaffna could not read or write in his mother tongue Tamil and his beginning to learn Tamil came only when he was 22 years and that also when criticisms were being written about Sinhala being made the official language.

He decided to learn Tamil to read the news and views in the Tamil newspapers and used to quip that Sinhala being made official language made him learn his mother tongue. Of course his application to learning a natural gift he had from his childhood made him a competent Tamil writer.

AJ was an indefatigable critic of capitalism and studied and challenged Western economists calling their bluff most of the time. He was also a true environmentalist and firmly believed that the so-called modern methods of agriculture destroyed the environment.

He did not seek limelight and lived a quiet life but his devotion to teach what he knew - a wide variety of subjects from English literature, Marxism, arts and the culture of his own people - and to the very end of his life he remained wedded to Jaffna sharing the joys, troubles and anguish of his people.

Among his books were Matthu (1970) Marxvadikalum Theshiya Inappirechchineiyum (1977) Avasrakalam 79 (1980) Marxiamum Illakiyamum Silanokkulal (1981) Ellamum Samathiyamum Varlatru Mosadium (1981) and Senkavalar Thalaivar Jesunadar (2000) and a series of his Tamil articles are to be published shortly.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

To speak, listen and write is one of the most natural and comfortable things a person could do....!!!


By Melanie Bamunusinghe

Seated at a quiet corner in “The Walawwa,” a hotel just off the Minuwangoda Road, she looked young, petite–and simple, but when she starts speaking, people realise that she is wise beyond her years. For her 27 years she is full of experiences; some not by choice but others due to exact and significant choices she made; her choice to become a poetess and a writer; her choice to become a journalist; her choice to travel out of Pakistan to the far corners of the earth.

Her interest in people is immeasurable. The depth and intensity with which she describes a persons’ character, actions, words, personality, talents and more specifically their emotions, perils, and opinions is vast. This is what she is here for, in Sri Lanka–to discuss her writing, her life and her views on a political dynasty.

“Whispers of the Desert”

She, the niece of the late Benazir Bhutto, arrived in Sri Lanka on an invitation to speak at the Galle Literary Festival, 2010.

Fatima Bhutto is an Afghan born Pakistani writer. Her first collection of poetry, “Whispers of the Desert” marked her rise to popularity as one of Pakistani’s new literary voices and won her critical acclaim. Her second book, “8:50 a.m. 8 October 2005” looks at a turning point in modern Pakistani history when a devastating earthquake swept through Islamabad to the valleys of Azad Kashmir. Fatima Bhutto is a regular columnist for “The Daily Beast,” “The New Statesman” and other publications.

The granddaughter of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and niece of former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, she has famously said, “I don't believe in birth-right politics. I don't think, nor have I ever thought, that my name qualifies me for anything”. In “Songs of Blood and Sword,” to be released next year, Fatima gives an account of her famous family and the events that have befallen it, including the murder of her own father–she believed–by people within the family. When asked of Benazir Bhutto, on a personal note she paused before saying, “You have to wait for the next book to come out,” referring to “Songs of Blood and Sword.”

Coming from an elite family, she is surprisingly modest and humble. Her explanations for some of the profound topics were the results of “out of the box” thinking, such as her ideas of politics. “Politics is about how people live: it’s the people’s imagination. Actually it’s one’s imagination of what a country should be or what society should be,” she said contemplatively. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, her Grandfather, in her point of view had that imagination, but not Benazir Bhutto. “For her, politics was about her, her dynasty. She was very ‘personality driven,’ which was not unique since we see that all across the world,” she said with an expression on her face that was quite hard to read. She agreed that her poetry is about herself and how she views things. “I’m specifically interested in those who are under the radar, the stories of those who don’t make it to the news. They are all around us, we just have to reach out to them,” Fatima said with a wry smile.

Writing is about memories

Speaking of “under the radar,” Fatima said that she hopes to find out what Sri Lankans read and which writers speak for and to the people of Sri Lanka–especially the local writers who don’t make the New York Times or become best sellers but who have reached out to the hearts of Sri Lankans. “I think it’s an interesting time to be here. With the end of the war, I want to see how Sri Lankans are dealing with the post war situation, how people are reacting, their mentality, both sides of the story, of the Sinhalese and of the Tamils,” she said.

Sri Lankans are moving on with their lives and many local writers are writing about the war or the war itself, thus Fatima’s definition of writing is timely and also appropriate. “Writing is about memories, a struggle to preserve things that happened to people. The ones that are overlooked by the fast flow of news, where words are controlled,” she said with determination and a tint of regret. According to her, many stories are misplaced, languages are lost, injustices collected, bravery wrongly highlighted. Thus writing gives an opportunity to correct them,” was another of her views. There was concern in her eyes when she said that writing is an art born from people’s difficulties in their community, politics and family. She is proud of South Asian women explaining brave traditions common among South Asian countries, specifically the emerging voice of the women. She had both the air of confidence and a whimsical smile only a South Asian woman could have, when she said, “I think many Non-South Asians are surprised how brave our women are in speaking to the public through writing and poetry. We see many female writers in South Asia who write about pressing and conflicting matters. They are strong and creative,” Fatima explained with a smile.

Warmth of Sri Lankans

She told me that this was one of the reasons for her to start writing and pursuing it. “I would write to cope with emotions I didn’t understand such as fear. On the other hand, poetry was the easiest way to express confusing emotions,” she said. She sadly explained that growing up in a frightening city, writing about what surrounded her, and how she felt about it, was her means of expressing herself. Expressing how overwhelmed she was by the warmth and friendliness of the Sri Lankans she said, “If you go to a Western country, let’s say America, you are just a number in the crowd.” She admired that here like in other South Asian countries, travelling is made memorable because of the warmth of the people. “When we head back home we take friendships, cultures and lifestyles with us,” she smiled. “Among South Asian countries there are similarities, as in cultural and traditional backgrounds and coming to Sri Lanka will give me an opportunity to talk about Pakistan, what is common in all of us, and share some ideas to bridge the gap between Sri Lanka and Pakistan,” she explained.

Fatima is a warm, sensitive person, full of life and inspiration for others. She perks up with happiness when she talks of people she had met and places she has been. Her hand movements vividly express her thoughts and her eye brows knot together in a worried expression when discussing some grave situations. It was easy to understand that she loves to read write and travel, that she is genuinely interested in reaching out to the people, or to be a voice to them or listen to their voices. In that light Fatima concluded that opportunities like the Galle Literary Festival will help foster communication as neighbouring countries; express what we have in common; what is important to our countries and engage in discussions regarding what is happening here as well as in Pakistan.

“Why?” she asked herself. “It’s because violence is too easy, it’s limiting people. But writing, speaking or listening is not restricted by the government. To speak, listen and write is one of the most natural and comfortable things a person could do.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

She had made an independent literary life for herself & she wishes to support other such women writers with talent to sharpen their skills with pen..!

Enokaa Sathyangani

Creativity comes alive
Enokaa Sathyangani Keerthinanda arms women writers to fly high:


She had made an independent literary life for herself and she wishes to support other such women writers with talent to sharpen their skills with the pen. In this light she decided to spearhead Panhindaka Sanhinda, a workshop for amateur women writers and journalists, a platform to address a variety of subjects to enhance the quality and writing techniques of the participants as well as sharing their experience. According to globally acclaimed film director and script writer Enokaa Sathyangani Keerthinanda Panhindaka Sanhida fills a much needed void in a society where women's talents falls rarely under the spotlight. This is probably the first time that such a group of women will be gathered to demand their rightful position in the field of writing.

The workshop is funded by the Norwegian Embassy in Sri Lanka and comprises a number of classes which will help them to grade their potentials and bring out the best of their talent to nurture the realm of writing in the island.The one-day workshop will take place at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute on November 8 from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene will deliver the keynote address.

A series of lectures and discussions will be conducted by renowned personae in the field like Dr. Liyanage Amarakeerthi (Modern novel writing), Vasantha Obeysekara (Film script writing), Namel Weeramuni (Stage drama script writing), Vijitha Fernando (Translation literature), Theliwatte Joseph(Tamil Literature), Buddadasa Galappaththi (Modern poetry writing) and Saman Wickramarachchi (Short story writing).Around 50 female journalists and 150 amateur writers will take part in the workshop. The journalists will take part to share ideas, encourage and boost the morale of the other party whohope to venture into the literary arena.

"We advertised through the Sinhala, Tamil and English newspapers and received around a 1,500 applications. Out of these 150 were chosen.

A majority of the participants are studying at universities and a few have even published their own creations. Each of the participants will receive a certificate of participation at the end of the day," Keerthinanda expressed on her pioneering project. With years of experience of struggling to make it to the top, Enokaa says it is tedious to breakthrough the male dominant spheres to make a mark in the industry.

"I faced lots of obstacles in my career but determination kept me going. Countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and the Maldives have cultural and social limitations which prevent women from spearheading some projects. However within this scope they have established means of the female artiste to shine.

India has a leading film industry and Pakistan and Bangladesh have established organizations for female writers," she said.

The award winning writer's maiden movie Sulang Kirilli (Wind Bird) clinched the highest number of awards won by a local movie in the history of Sri Lankan cinema in 2003; 24 national awards at the Sarasaviya, OCIC (UNDA) and Presidential Film Festivals and a string of 10 international film awards including the award for best cinematographer at the New York Independent FilmFestival. She was also the first Sri Lankan female script writer to win an award for her work.

A product of Sujatha Vidyalaya and Visakha Vidyalaya, Colombo, Keerthinanda had shown signs of her talent for art from her schooldays when she had been in the forefront in clinching the prizes forcreative and art related competitions.

Since her father, Tudor Keerthinanda and brother, Panduka, pursued careers in law, she too turned to the subject before realizing that her talent and destiny laywith the arts.She started her dabble with creativity by taking over the position of television commercial director at Telecine (Pvt) Ltd. the largest television production company in South Asia in 1992 and the pioneering TV production company in Sri Lanka. Later she turned to directing teledramas, tele films and documentaries. Her first teledrama was Nidi Nethi Rayaka Sihinaya (A Dream in a Sleepless Night) and she directed some creations which ranked the highest audienceratings.

She won the best director award at the Sumathi Tele awards 1997 for Urumaladdo and the Sumathi Tele Award in 1997 for the best single episode teledrama and the OCIC Film and Television Award Ceremony 1996 for Nonagathayaka Nimaawa. Speaking on the techniques behind her forte, script writing, Enokaa said other than focusing on the stream of the plot and dialogues one needs to understand topics like camera angles, editing patterns and structural arrangements.

She noted that technical knowledge is very important for a script writer."Unfortunately most script writers do not possess this feature. That is why their scripts tend to go shallow.

In addition she is a member of the Colombo Independent Cinema Forum and though work is at a stand still now, she expresses hope that the team will organize some activities to rejuvenate the forum.She says she owns credit to Dr. D.B. Nihalsinghe and D.B. Suranimala for brining her to television commercial directing, Teleview Chairman Sunil Ratnayake for giving her the opportunity to direct her first teledrama and Dr. Tissa Abeysekara for guiding her to films. "We have a longstanding plan after the workshop.

We hope to carry on the mission of recognizing and polishing the writing skills of women through conducting workshops, setting aside a particular day for each subject.

Some of the most experienced individuals on the subjects will take part and impart their knowledge and tips,"she noted.Each year five participants who display the most promising talent will get the opportunity to see their work in print. Having written all her scripts for her creations Keerthinanda will take to directing a script penned by another writer for the first time in her upcoming creation. She will be directing Mashenkage Lokaya, a teledrama based on seasoned writer Sumithra Rahubadde'sscript.

The project is expected to take shape in around six months. After a seven year lapse she is working on her second movie script, yet another art movie. Yet she says that though many producers have invited her to join them in directing a partly commercial movie of artistic value, she was not keen on the idea."Movie-making is a means of self expression. We do not target a specific audience when we indulge on a creation.

It is true that the movie should at least earn enough profit to cover the cost but for me doing justice to the creation comes first," she added, hinting that if ever a producer who understands her mission comes forward to lend a hand, she will not think twice in launching the project.She is grateful to all those who had lent a hand in her career including her husband Saman Wickramaratne, and daughter, Shanki, whom she brands as her 'source of inspiration'.