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DateLine Wednesday, 25 April 2007

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‘Lester by Lester’

BOOK LAUNCH: ‘Lester by Lester... as told to Kumar de Silva’, a celebration of half a century of locally and internationally acclaimed excellence, chronicling the creativity of a lifetime of the Doyen of Sri Lankan Cinema,

PRESENTATION: Kumar de Silva hands over the first copy of the book to Dr. Lester James Peries. From left: Malani Fonseka, Head of Consumer Marketing, Sri Lanka Telecom M. Z. Saleem, Sumitra Peries, Vijitha Yapa and Ravindra Randeniya.

 Dr. Lester James Peries, was launched on April 21 at the SLFI in Colombo.

The book is published by Vijitha Yapa Publications as a limited edition. Each book, which is a collector’s item, is numbered and autographed by Lester James Peries. As part of its endeavour to supporting the arts in this country, Sri Lanka Telecom has contributed towards the printing cost with a grant “to make the book more available to a greater reading public,” as Dr. Peries so desired.

The book’s 20 chapters are devoted to each of his 20 films, from ‘Rekhawa’ (The Line of Destiny - 1956) his first, to ‘Ammawarune’ (Elegy for a Mother - 2006) his last, showcasing and chronicling half a century of film making.

Media personality Kumar de Silva who closely collaborated with Dr. Peries on this project said that since ‘Rekhawa’ premiered in 1956, volumes have been written about him over the years, both locally and internationally. “But apart from the essays and articles he authored, never has Dr. Peries ever written about himself... something on the lines of an autobiography chronicling his film making career.

“This is the very first time he has chosen to write about himself and his half a century film making career, in a single volume. The book takes its readers through the trials and tribulations to a variety of anecdotes and memorable moments in the making of his 20 films. It takes on an even greater significance and importance given the fact that Lester James Peries has now officially ‘retired’ from film making and will direct no more films,” de Silva added.

BIOGRAPHY OF A MASTER FILM MAKER: The book dedicated to the films of Lester James.

Says Dr. Peries: “A journey in time is always fraught with multiple dangers; nostalgia and an obfuscation of the truth. I have tried to avoid both pitfalls it hasn’t been easy. When you have worked with artistes who enjoy iconic status today, but were unknown when you started their careers, how much can you reveal?

When you have ghost directed a considerable number of scenes, would you now reveal what has been an artistic triumph today? Historical veracity may try to force you to, but the ethical thing to do is to keep your trap shut”.

“Excavating the past, when film-making has been a part of your life, has triggered off many pleasant and creatively important memories. Remembering them has been painful sometimes, but often deeply satisfying,” Dr. Peries added.

Now revered as one of the Asian greats, Lester James Peries has won continuous international acclaim in several parts of the world.

Half a century later, with 88 years on earth, 50 productive years, 20 films, tele-serials, countless retrospectives around the world, bou quets and brickbats, national and international honours... Lester James Peries takes it all in his stride... they all rest on his slight frame... with ease.


Meet Devlo Doni

Stars, hide your fires;
Let not light see my black and deep desires:
The eye wink at the hand; yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to see.

(ACT I SCENE IV. Macbeth. William Shakespeare)

STAGE DRAMA: The third remake of Devlo Doni, a lively Sinhala comedy went on boards of the Tower Hall Theatre on March 31 and April 8. The new version brought forth contemporary issues and background,

INDIAN TOUCH TO THE LANKAN: Anjali Mishra and Prasanna Fonseka in the drama

 highlighting the pretentious life behind the authorities of high status in a country.

The story unfolds in the settings of a living room, at the residence of a maker of statues. Young and pretty she is the main attraction of many, and certainly those of high responsible rank.

Each of them visits her residence, pretending to be interested in her creations but the audience soon realise that their interest lies elsewhere! Soon a sequel of comic scenes follow as each of them engage in a game of hide and seek from each other while spilling out their deep, dark secrets to the onlookers, thus revealing their identity.

The debut performance of Devlo Doni was held at the Lumbini Theatre in 1974. This year’s performance of the updated version marks 33 years to the stage drama. The first performance of this series was held at Walasmulla Central College.

“Comic scenes are essential to captivate the audience, the elements that are of use to the contemporary society through the humour. The spectator should be a different person once he leaves his seat after the show. He would have added a new experience to his life. An experience which would have taught him a lesson for his own progress. That is what makes a good drama,” expressed Hector Kumarasiri, the director of Devlo Doni.

This play is produced by Sunethra de Silva. Anjali Mishra, an Indian Kathak dancer, took on the main role. This is the first time in drama history that a Hindi artist has taken the role of a protagonist in a Sinhala stage play.

The rest of the cast include Vijayaratne Warakagoda, Prasanna Fonseka, Gamini Hettiarachchi, Quintus Weerakoon, Damayantha Perera, Sarath Peries and Tharanga Bandara. The melodies are by Ostine Munasinghe and music is by Nimantha Heshan.

“It is a challenge to take up a drama in this era. Playwrights do not get even the basic facilities to stage their creations. This may be my last effort,” continued Kumarisiri with regret.

Witty dialogues, intensity, humour and vigour all included in one, Devlo Doni was a creation tastefully presented to its audience.


Eelatthin Kathai:

History book by veteran Tamil editor

BOOK LAUNCH: It was a rare occasion at Thamil Sangam hall, Wellawatta, on April 8, where a special book was

K. V. S. Vass

 launched, written by a very outstanding writer. It was a history book, Eelatthin Kathai (History of Sri Lanka), written by K. V. S. Vass, former editor of Virakesari, fist ever Tamil daily in Sri Lanka.

This book is supposed to be the first easy to read history of Sri Lanka in Tamil language. Another special feature of this book is that the contents of this book was serialised in a very popular weekly magazine published in Chennai Ananda Vikatan, in 1956.

This rare opportunity to serialise Sri Lanka history in Tamil Nadu, made the Tamil population in Tamil Nadu, who knew very little of the history of Sri Lanka, aware of this country’s past.

K.V.S. Vass was born in Tamil Nadu and graduated in an Indian university. He came to Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, to work at Virakesari in 1933. Vass who joined as a journalist, later rose to the post of news editor and was made editor of Virakesari. He worked, for 15 years in this capacity before his retirement in 1973.

During his tenure in Virakesari, he had written 45 fictions which were serialised in daily editions and written well over thousand articles on various subjects. His works were published as 14 books and even after retirement he did not stay at home idling.

He continued to work as Ceylon’s correspondent for the Hindu, Screen, and for a Malaysian newspaper. He had written a number of articles for the Daily News too. He had written two history books and the first was Kandy Arasi (Queen of Kandy) in 1940.

Eelathin Kathai is a 322-page book compiled by his son K. V. S. Mohan and published by Ravi Thamilvanan of Manimehalai printers of Chennai. This book begins with the birth of Sinhala nation(Sinhabahu) and ends its journey at the time the sacred tooth relic being brought to Trincomalee.

It is worth mentioning of his son K. V. S. Mohan who is about 65 years, old, presently running an advertising agency, was the editor of a monthly Tamil magazine known as Kathambam which was a very popular local magazine in the 50s and 60s and finally closed its gates after the 1983 riot.

At the book launch, the cream of Tamil society living in Colombo city were seen around the hall which comprised Tamil scholars, bigwigs of the city and older citizens who happened to be the friends of late KVS Vass. Those who spoke at the occasion insisted that his son should bring more of his father’s writings in book form.

K. V. S. Mohan should not only publish what his father wrote but also the biography of his great father who still stands as an unchallenged editor of this country’s Tamil newspapers. Vass was the one and only newspaper editor who had the unique ability of writing fictions, research articles and also he excelled writing in English too. He was an editor par excellence.


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