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DateLine Wednesday, 20 February 2008

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A welcome gesture

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's move to have a housing complex built for artistes with all modern facilities would be welcomed by all those with a keen interest in the country's performing arts and have the welfare of our artistes at heart.

At a special meeting with artistes at Temple Trees on Monday, President Rajapaksa who himself had a passing acquaintance with the Sinhala cinema valued their contribution towards the rejuvenation of the indigenous film industry saying his decision to construct a housing scheme for artistes was borne out of a gratitude for their untiring efforts and dedication in the fostering and development of the local cinema.

In addition to the proposed "Cinema Village" and "Fund for Artistes" a quarterly payment scheme for Artistes' creations by the relevant institutions too was mooted in keeping with a pledge in the Mahinda Chinthana document.

Time was when the Sinhala cinema was the mainstay in the country's entertainment sphere and it was a common sight to see matinee halls around the country overflowing with crowds which also brought in a bounty to many of our artistes.

But while some went on to strike gold, most others in the field, especially 'bit part' actors or those who played secondary roles did not do well financially. A majority of them took to the celluloid world as a profession and was dependent on the cinema for their livelihood.

We often come across accounts in the newspapers about laments by past artistes who had once graced the stage and cinema with their performances, fallen into penury and resigned to their fate in forgotten limbo. Most of these artistes had been recipients of awards but are living in want and destitution.

From their plight it is apparent that the mere presentation of 'trinkets' with no monetary value, had not brought them any solace or fulfilment and that rewards of a more tangible nature would have made all the difference making them a happy and contended lot in the evening of their lives.

There had also been many complaints in the past that housing benefits to artistes was dispensed selectively and the more deserving left out.

That President Rajapaksa had gone to the core of the problem faced by our artistes and taken remedial measures to redress the situation should no doubt win him many accolades among the large fraternity of artistes and give them an added impetus to give full rein to their creative talents and contribute with added vigour for the development of the Sinhala cinema.

As already mentioned, almost all those involved in the performing arts have made this their sole profession and it is common knowledge that not all artistes command the same remuneration and that bit part players in films have sometimes to wait long for the release of films before receiving payment, leaving no room for any savings for their future.

This is why most of our artistes today have fallen into the abyss of poverty and living a hand to mouth existence. Some don't even have a home to call their own while others are dependent on their children or other handouts to maintain body and soul.

With the local film industry too now in the doldrums not only the performing artistes but also those depending on the film industry for their bread and butter, such as technicians, are facing a bleak future steps should be devised to recognise their roles in the fostering of the Sinhala cinema and reward them fittingly.

There is also the urgent need for a fresh initiative to pump in the much needed oxygen to an ailing Sinhala cinema and bring it to its glory days of the past where people flocked in their large numbers to see their heroes and heroines on the silver screen.

The dynamic new Chairman of the State Film Corporation Jayantha Dharmadasa who is a prominent entrepreneur and is conversant with the business end of things should take immediate steps to halt the rapid decline in the local film industry and resurrect it to function as a profitable venture while providing the local cinema goer with entertaining fare.

He should forthwith come out with a solution to deal with the fast disappearing cinema halls in the country which are today been converted into business enterprises by their owner who no longer consider the film exhibition as a viable venture.

While the housing needs of the artistes are being met it is also worthwhile to look into the possibility of launching an insurance scheme so that all "actors" in the industry would perform to their optimum with the knowledge of a secure future and a dignified existence and give of their best for the development of the Sinhala cinema.

The Buddha and the World

The Buddha was the avatar of the situation we find ourselves in today, because he refused to rely on the traditional gods or God. He didn't use the social safety net of the priestly caste with its automatic connection to spiritual privilege. Above all, he accepted the inescapable fact that each person is ultimately alone in the world. This aloneness is the very disease the Buddha set out to cure.

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Who are the real poor ?

The existence of poverty is as old as human civilisation itself, and concerns about it have a long theoretical, conceptual and empirical tradition. Almost all holy books, from the Gita, Mahabharat, Ramayan and Koran to the Bible, illustrate that poverty existed in contemporary societies. These holy books have also asserted that God would always help the poor in one way or the other.

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'We now want only a final solution'

President Mahinda Rajapaksa outlines Govt's plans for curbing terrorism and restoring peace in India Today interview:

India's approach vis-a-vis Sri Lanka has been very positive and encouraging and the relationship is now probably at the best of levels, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told Raj Chengappa in the exclusive interview.

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