Daily News Online

Wednesday, 28 March 2012



'Lankan women surprise us all'

Originally we wanted this column to focus on arts beyond our shores. Although "Arts from Afar' might be misleading as we may have to write about Colombo based cultural activities as well, However, even our provinces are far from Colombo and readers there too would like to know what's happening in this part of the country. So, that's it.

Now recalling something that happened in the early part of this month.

I was awe-struck a couple of Sundays ago (March 11) listening to two distinguished women mesmerizing the houseful audience at the Kolumbu Thamil Sangam when a group of concerned people of varied talents from Colombo organized a function to commemorate the International Women's Day, 2012, under the aegis of the literary magazine "Kolunthu" (Tea Bud) under the initiative of the editor Anthony Jeeva, a playwright, actor, producer on stage and screen, a writer, critic, orator and social service enthusiast.

Ladies of difference

Before I go further I must mention the names of the two ladies who astonished me. One was from Kilinochchi entering politics while running a school there and the other was from Colombo, an artiste. Their names: Geethanjali Naguleswaran (a very convincing speaker with intellectual perspectives and fluency in speech with the right modulation of voice, although it was justifiably emotionally-charged), an aspiring politician in the making.

She spoke in her mother tongue with a choice of words. The other was Prathiba Dharmadasa (her stage name), wife of minister Dulles Alahapperuma. Her voice was melodic and sober. She sang the opening of one of her numbers 'Yaal Devi' and addressed the gathering in her mother tongue.

Other attributes

It was significant because men had organized this function in celebrating and talent spotting Lankan women from different communities in the Island Nation struggling to evolve a Lankan consciousness instead of parochial dominance with different labels.

Mention should be made of the organizing committee which included Kalai Chelvan(dramatist, actor on stage and film, producer, writer, speaker among many other attributes, Thambu Siva (writer, critic, columnist and moderator), A K Vijaya Balan (press photographer), K.Ponnuthurai (photo-journalist) and of course, indomitable Anthony Jeeva.

It was not the two women who were feted, but there were other achievers who remained unsung and unheard because the vast majority of people did not care to understand and recognize the Tamil-speaking writers and artistes. Fortunately a Thamil-speaking organization came forward to honour them.

At the same time a few elite Tamil and Muslim women had been honoured at national level because the English media propagated them.The other ladies seated on the dais included the most senior working journalist in Thamil, Annaladchumy Rasadurai who has worked for the Thamil newspaper, Virakeasri for the last 50 years or so.

She edits an elite journal on the arts and culture called "Kalai Kesari" and also the" Sangamam" (on arts) for the daily Virakesari- both published by the Express Newspapers Limited. An unassuming and experienced editor Annaladchumy is also a fiction writer and poet. She deserves the award given to her, although belatedly came to her.

The other ladies included an educationist from the hill country, Navam Vellaichaamy, who is also a very fine speaker in Thamil, another young lady from the hill country, Suryakala Chandrika Jeevanandam who is a Delhi trained Bhratha Natyam dancer, Rimza Muhammed, editor of a 'little magazine' called "Poongavanam", Mirunaalini Sithamparanathan, an achiever in cricket at national level and also Kala Amirthalingam, a successful entrepreneur in export market.The function was chaired by M Thevagowri, a former journalist and presently the senior lecturer at the College of Journalism. The evening's programme was worked out in the presence of social worker, Kaushalya Devi Govintha Pillai. The programme also included two selections of a repertoire of Bharatha Natyam for libretto in Sanskrit.

Ladies from the hills

The young dancing girls were marvelously perfect in the abhinaya, footwork, and quick footed mutras. They were trained by Suryakala Chandrika Jeevanandam.The highlight of the evening as far as I was concerned was the speech made by Prof. Saba Jeyarasa who vividly explained the origin and spreading of different approaches to the ideal of 'Feminism'. It was the first time I heard somebody speaking on the subject clearly and understandably.Also on the occasion two publications were lunched: The 36th number (March 2012) of"Kolunthu', a special issue in the International Women's Day and a booklet titled "Penn Poraalikal" (Women Liberators) written by V. Sinnathamby.

Women liberators

The magazine features the pictures of celebrities Prathiba Dharmadasa, Annaladchumy Rasadurai, Vivienne Goonewardene, Meenakshi Iyer, and Vethavalli Kanthiah- pioneer women liberators in Lanka. And in the booklet in addition brief notes on Thangarathinam, Parameswari, Vaalambikai and Philominamma appear. The writer of the notes the late V. Sinnathamby had worked for Beijing Radio and the newspaper Eelanadu in Yaalpaanam, besides having been a young Marxist influenced by the legendary communist N Shanmugathaasan.

At a time I wanted to take a break without writing columns, it was my friend, (who is also a well known politician), A H M Azwer who was present at the celebration persuaded me to report and comment on the event in the interest of the many. Hence I am back. Hopefully we shall connect every week through Artscope.



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