The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 26

Page 2 Sunday, October 20, 2013 Fine
reviews
Chamara Sumanapala
Science fiction writer of
Jurassic Park
fame Michael Chrichton once stated, “If
you don’t know history, then you don’t
know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t
know it is part of a tree.” History is what
makes a nation. A bond between a person
and his nation is created by history and
heritage. It defines the identity of people
and a nation.
Generally, academics are not
storytellers and storytellers are not
academics. Therefore, there is a lack of
communication of academic findings
and credible information to the public.
There is a dearth of history books written
by academics for the general public,
especially in the English language.
Professor Indrakeerthi Siriweera’s
Heritage of Sri Lanka
” is a collection of
‘snippets’ from Sri Lanka’s history and
heritage which once appeared as a series
of newspaper articles. This is a book for
any reader, both layman and academic.
His language is simple yet the facts are
precise.
The book contains 34 chapters and an
appendix. The chapters contain articles
on a wide range of topics. Although these
are ‘snippets’ of their own, there is a
certain logical sequence in them. The
book starts with a chapter on Mihintale
followed by a chapter on Buddhagaya,
which as the writer states “is part of Sri
Lankan heritage.” The next few chapters
give a brief, but comprehensive historical
account of certain common topics such as
the Srimahabodhi and the Sacred Tooth
Relic. Professor Siriweera’s account of
Sigiriya is very interesting as it helps
one understand the different aspects of
aesthetic beauty of the planned city and
functional merits. The author emphasizes
the fact that while Sigiriya was one of the
best planned cities of the ancient world, it
lacked functional merits. His argument is
that the city could not have been a capital
of ancient Sri Lanka for long as the city
was far away from a reliable source of
water. Otherwise, a palace of such beauty
may not have been abandoned even after
the fall of its creator.
Professor Siriweera then describes
some facets of the irrigation civilization
of Sri Lanka. While huge reservoirs are
important, they were just one part of the
ancient irrigation civilization. However,
many ancient chronicles also do not give
due recognition to the small
wewas
and
other important features of the irrigation
system. Professor Siriweera has discussed
salient features of ancient irrigation
technology and given special emphasis
for the small village level reservoirs. He
describes some large reservoirs such as
Padaviya and Naccaduva and Wahalkada
Wewas
about which there are only
passing references in the main chronicles.
Professor Siriweera has provided us with
a narrative of these important places
by combining information available in
different sources. He also gives an account
of the revival of irrigation system in
Rajarata with a chapter on Minneriya
colonization scheme.
The book enters its most entertaining
part when the writer starts describing
some aspects about which one hears
less often. These include the history and
heritage of the common people. There are
informative descriptions about sanitation
and hospital buildings in Anuradhapura
era. There are beautiful descriptions
of local fishing techniques,
chena
cultivation, kem practices and rituals
such as ‘
mutti mangalya
.’ Sadly, these are
now disappearing traditions. There is a
fascinating description of pearl fishing,
once a thriving industry in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, though an island in a
strategic location in the Indian Ocean,
cannot still be called a maritime nation.
Although there is a rapid development in
port facilities, Sri Lanka is not generally
known for shipbuilding and other
maritime industries. However, reading
through “
Heritage of Sri Lanka
” one finds
that ancient Sri Lanka had a developed
port system which made the island a
trading hub. Furthermore, ancient Sri
Lanka had a well developed shipbuilding
industry which could rival any nation.
The writer adds an appendix about the
history of the Peradeniya University.
Heritage of Sri Lanka
by WI Siriweera
History and heritage
the ID card of a nation
The book enters its
most entertaining part
when the writer starts
describing some aspects
about which one hears
less often. There are
informative descriptions
about sanitation and
hospital buildings in
the Anuradhapura era.
There are beautiful
descriptions of local
fishing techniques.
There is a fascinating
description of pearl-
fishing, once a thriving
industry in Sri Lanka
Professor Siriweera was an undergraduate
of the university from 1960 to 1964 and
therefore his descriptions of those days
are entertaining and thought provoking.
Meanwhile, as a former Chairman of
the University Grants Commission and
the first Vice Chancellor of the Rajarata
University, Professor Siriweera is amply
qualified to comment on Sri Lankan
universities then and now. This last
chapter of the book helps understand
the history of the writer as well as his
university. It is a most suitable finale for
an entertaining and informative book.
Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Nayange Kavi
, released on October 7,
is a collection of English poems by Sri
Lankan writers translated to Sinhala. D.
V Gallage is the creator of this product
which provides avenues for writers in
English to meet with readers of Sinhala.
The translator is not new to the
field and this is certainly not his first
collection of translations. He has
also written his own work. In 1981
Gallage contributed to Shilpa Sathwana
Dawasa Dakwamu, and in 1992 wrote
Bodhisathwarunge Deshaya
. He also
wrote
Mawwarunge Samaluwa
(2001),
Asalwasiyange Kavi
(2005) and
Cabinet
Amathiwarayakuta
(2008), a collection of
translated articles. His writing continued,
and he was also the lyricist for the songs
in Mihiriye (2012).
Nayange Kavi
or Poetry of Kinsfolk
features 98 poems written by 32 writers
including Daya Dissanayake, Vivimarie
Vanderpoorten, Malinda Seneviratne and
Carl Muller. Translated are poems like
‘The Room’ by Subha Ranaweera, ‘The
Absent God’ by Wijayadasa Rajapakse, ‘To
a Newborn’ by Asgar Hussein and ‘The
Ultimate Goal’ by Punyakante Wijenaike.
The anthology was published by
Wijesuriya Book Circle and the preface is
written by Prof Kamani Jayasekara, titled
‘literary work, translations and Nayange
Kavi’. Gallage has also included short
introductions to the poets featured in the
anthology. At the launch, the translator
thanked all those who helped him,
especially the poets, saying, “if not for
you, there would be no
Nayange Kavi
.”
In Sri Lanka, the English readership
is still quite small. Thus many of these
writers often go unheard of. However,
Nayange Kavi
hopes to give due
recognition to Sri Lankans who write in
English, by giving the opportunity for
those who read in Sinhala only, to enjoy
the poems of these writers. However, the
question remains if the translator has
done justice to the poems. Poetry often
requires reading between the lines. Has
Gallage succeeded in translating not only
the words of a poem, but also the message
and meaning it carries?
Further, one may wonder if a
translation of a poem, as opposed to a
novel or article, makes the translation a
poem of its own. Bringing in the rhythm,
words and style unique to a writer into
a translation is a mammoth task. This
would require the translator to go into
the mind of each writer. Taking into
account that Gallage translated the work
of 32 writers, one could question if he has
succeeded in his task.
The biggest fear a writer would have
regarding his work being translated is the
lack of credit-giving. However,
Nayange
Kavi
constantly reminds the reader that
the writer of the poem is one, and that DV
Gallage is the mere translator. They are, as
Gallage himself said, “The real stars.”
Nayange Kavi
is one of the first
attempts of creating a relationship
between the English writer and Sinhala
reader, in the field of poetry. One could
only hope the effort continues, as long as
the poems don’t get lost in translation.
Nayanage Kavi (A translation of 98 poems) reviewed
Offers Sinhala readers
a peep into English literature
Samir Vianney Fernando
Village boy Suran comes to the city to stay with
his friend Janith during their school vacation. Suran
brings with him his pet demon Gopalu and the
Ran Kevita
(gold wand). The ran kevita basically
has the power to make any wish come true. The
two boys amuse themselves by playing practical
jokes on many unsuspecting citizens until they are
accused of a crime they didn’t commit. Now Janith
and Suran must use the ran kevita to apprehend
the real criminals and clear their names.
Ran Kevita 2
: Gopaluge Wickrama (RK2) is
obviously the sequel to
Ran Kevita
(2007). The
new version follows the same format as the old,
but this time around it’s the village boy who visits
the city boy. Unlike archetypal films which contain
a Three Act Structure, this particular film has
only two. There’s a drawn out ‘beginning’ which
takes up two-thirds of the film and subsequently
a hurried ending. The opening scene establishes
that the two friends have reunited for another
episode of tomfoolery with the ran kevita. What
follows is a protracted barrage of unfunny events
where Janith and Suran play pranks. Some of the
situations shown in the film have been used in
countless other Sri Lankan films of the past. The
scene where a girl wearing a mini-skirt walks to
the bus stand and is greeted by a set of gawking
teenage boys is an example of a hackneyed
local cinema cliché. Some scenes convey the
wrong lesson to young impressionable children;
if my thirteen year old son finds a purse at the
entrance to a supermarket, I would want him
to hand it over to the Store Manager and not
hand deliver the purse to an absolute stranger’s
house. Practicality in the story is non-existent;
why would Janith’s parents leave two young boys
alone at home while they stayed at a holiday
bungalow? Regardless of whether this film targets
children, it was written by an adult. Udayakantha
Warnasuriya should have contemplated on whether
the exploits in the scenes made any sense.
Kid’s Movies made in Hollywood such as
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
(2010) and the
Harry Potter series
contain intelligent and
witty dialogue understandable to kids. But the
dialogue in RK2 clearly feels over simplified
for the sake of young minds. This makes the
on-screen conversations boring and lacking any
kind of style. Awful dialogue contributes to terrible
acting and this is evident in the performances
of Hisham Samsudeen (Janith) and Harith
Samarasinghe (Suran). Both young actors
display artificial mannerisms and their speech
sounds unnatural. Child actors haven’t trained
for years; all they have are their natural abilities,
so it’s the director’s responsibility to extract
the good performances. Haley Joel Osment’s
performance in M. Night Shyamalan’s
The Sixth
Sense
(1999) is a perfect example of that.
Unfortunately for Samsudeen and Samarasinghe,
their director was probably more focused on
special effects than the acting. Even the grown-up
supporting cast gives wooden performances.
Previn Jayarathna holds the titles of
cinematographer, editor and sound supervisor. This
is not necessarily a good think because the shots
in the film are as forgettable as an image drawn
on water. Anyone with a beginner’s knowledge
of Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere could have
cut this film together. The sound is irritating
most of the time; especially the noises made
by Gopalu, which brings me to the appalling
special effects. I have seen better special effects
in amateur short films on
YouTube
. Gopalu is
the Stone Age version of Dobby from the Harry
Potter films. The three CGI wizards of RK2 are
still unable to synchronize the lip movements of
Gopalu to his dialogue. The flying bicycle effect
was done much better, way back in Steven
Spielberg’s
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
(1982). Why showcase special effects in a Sri
Lankan film, if the effects look so poor and
cheap? Aren’t Sri Lankan children of today,
from both the city and the village accustomed
to seeing superior CGI in films like Harry Potter,
Chronicles of Narnia and Percy Jackson?
RK2’s writer and director Udayakantha
Warnasuriya has made a film that is sorely lacking
in story quality and production value. A common
marketing ploy is to air television ads that show
hordes of school children praising RK2 after exiting
the cinema. I’m sure the same kids who praise
this film on-camera, will have the opposite opinion
off-camera. Present day audiences both young
and old have simply seen better local children’s
films.
Handaya
(1979) and
Suriya Arana
(2004) are perfect examples of well made films
with uniquely Sri Lankan stories. Local filmmakers
need to duplicate this method and refrain from
making shameful versions of Hollywood movies.
Ran Kevita 2
Can’t fool all the people all of the time
A drama titled
Maath Ekkath
Natanna
by Veteran Director Deepal
Aponsu will be staged on October 26
at the Moratuwa Sarvodaya Vishva
Samadhi Hall.
The drama is shown in aid of the
construction of an indoor sports stadium
for Princess of Wales College Moratuwa,
and organized by the Princess of Wales
College Association. This stage drama
of fun and entertainment will features
Rodney Warnakulasooriya, Jayalal
Rohana and Rathnasheela Perera (Who
plays a female’s role) as the actors. The
organizers have made arrangements to
have two shows at 3.30 and 6.30 pm. The
organisers make a request to the public
to watch this drama and assist in the
proposed construction of the indoor
sports stadium.
Drama in aid of sports stadium
a tinny sound in my ear,
i close my eyes and
overlapping circles of
blue and purple make me smile
a tinny sound in my ear,
i pound on the ceiling
with the big broom and
the neighbors stop/
a tinny sound in my ear,
i stop, i look,
my eyes, my ears and
there’s a new crook/
a tinny sound in my ear
i close my eyes again,
my ears and my eyes
deceive me and then...
i squint for a hint
and the hum turns
into a thud/
a tinny sound,
rising to the wielding
of the conductor’s baton,
pierces in grandeur
and nightmare,
in chorus,
with no end for us.
Tony Courseault
poem
Tinny
the humming that won’t stop,
can’t stop, who can make it
stop, where is it going
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