Sri Lankeya Cinemavanshaya, by
Nuwan Nayanajit Kumara. Reviewed by D. C. Ranatunga
N.M. Perera (later Dr.) acted in the first ever Sinhala film way
back in the 1920s for Rs. 100 a week. He was then a student of Ananda
College and thus became our first paid film actor. He played the
role of a prince opposite Sybil Feem, the film’s heroine.
film, 'Rajakeeya Wickremaya' (also titled 'Shantha') was made in
1925. It was the first of two Sri Lankan silent films, but was never
screened in Sri Lanka. The only copy had mysteriously got burnt
while being brought to Sri Lanka from Singapore after being screened
there. A rival filmmaker was believed to have been behind the act.
in India as well, the film was produced by businessman T.A.J. Noorbhai,
and directed by an Indian named Gupta. Detailing these rather obscure
facts in his Sri Lankan film chronicle, 'Sri Lankeya Cinemavanshaya',
young researcher Nuwan Nayanajit Kumara does not, however, consider
this the first Sri Lankan film because it was not screened here.
Neither does he consider 'Kadavunu Poronduwa' (Broken Promise) screened
in January 1947 the first feature film. He believes the history
of Sri Lankan cinema should begin with the second silent film, 'Paligeneema'
(Revenge) screened in May 1936.
has his reasons. "Though 'Paligeneema' is a film restricted
to three reels (30 minutes) its content is essentially that of a
feature film. It had a storyline. The first Indian feature film
(Raja Harischandra-1913) ran only for 41 minutes but it was not
considered a short film," Nuwan argues. It was also a silent
film and the first Indian talkie, 'Alam Ara' came in 1931. Yet the
silent film is considered as the start of Indian cinema.
which falls into the category of 'silent films', was directed by
the well known Tower Hall singer, W. Don Edward (1901-1952) who,
Nuwan considers, the pioneer of Sri Lankan cinema. He embarked on
a venture hitherto not tried out by any Sri Lankan. He may have
had financial constraints, that made him curtail its length but
he not only produced and directed the film, but was its director
of photography too. The film was screened at the Gaiety Cinema in
Kotahena on May 19, 1936.
says that Sri Lankans had their first taste of a movie in 1898 when
the Greek-Turkish war and images of some cricketers had been screened
at the Public Hall in Union Place. The two 'movies' lasted only
two or three minutes. The Boer war prisoners had been shown a silent
film in 1901 by a British photographer, A. W. Andree, who, two years
later started getting down silent films for public screening at
the Pagoda building in Chatham Street. 'Rambles through Ceylon'
(1907), the first silent documentary made here, was a British-French
is a thorough study of the Sri Lankan cinema and he has meticulously
documented his research in 15 main chapters and several appendices.
It's the result of hard work spanning over two decades. To collect
details on 1024 Sinhala films screened from 1936 to 2004, 44 Tamil
language films and eight English language films itself would have
been a daunting task. He also lists out 22 foreign films which had
been dubbed in Sinhala between 1947 and 1969. Most of them were
had attempted to include a still from each film, even though some
are not of acceptable quality. The biographical sketches (with photographs)
of actors and actresses run into 236 pages. Thus, there is now a
record of each and every player who contributed to the development
of Sri Lankan cinema.
The table of events compiled by Nuwan from 1898 onwards is invaluable.
has recorded every possible event related to the Sri Lankan cinema
year by year thereby providing a complete history in a most lucid
style. Not many may remember that Rukmani Devi was the first actress
to play a dual role in a Sinhala film. It was in 'Umatu Vishvasaya'
(1952). Sesha Palihakkara, better known for his dancing, did the
first male dual role in 'Matalan' (1955). Nuwan picks the reputed
painters Sarlis Master and G.S. Fernando as the first art directors
in Sri Lankan films. They were part of the team that made 'Rajakeeya
history of the documentary film starts with Basil Wright's 'Song
of Ceylon' (1934) produced for the Ceylon Tea Board. It was commended
at the 1935 International Film Festival in Brazil and ranks as one
of the most creative documentaries even today. Nuwan has included
a complete list of the documentaries made by the Government Film
Unit since its inception in 1948.
The publication also includes details of awards won by Sri Lankan
films at international level, local film awards, film journals and
a list of cinema halls in the country.
has been fortunate in getting H.D. Premasiri of Sarasavi Publishers
to produce this exhaustive publication. Pushpananda Ekanayake of
'The Font Master' has done a fine job in setting the text and laying
out the pages. The printing of the 800-page volume has been handled
by Samayawardena Press.
has a task for the future as well. He should continue the story
of the Sri Lankan cinema. Ideally he should periodically put out
supplementary volumes and bring the story up to date.
Well done Nuwan!
Endangered Elephants– Past,
Present and Future edited by Jayantha Jayewardene
All over their range elephants come in-to close contact and conflict
with people. Elephants with their massive bulk and power, their
social habits and their assumed intelligence, have been a figure
of reverence in religion, a cultural symbol and a useful work animal
that has fascinated man from the earliest of civilization. While
this is true of all elephant-containing geographical areas of the
world, in Asia especially, people have nurtured close ties with
the elephant for centuries. In Asia also, are the worst incidences
of human-elephant conflict when both man and beast turn against
each other resulting in fatal clashes that claim lives on both sides.
of the elephant habitats of Asia are densely populated. The agricultural
practices in many of these countries encourage elephants to venture
out to human habitation. The elephant’s great adaptability
to changed environments and its preferences for open, forest edges
places the animal in more danger of direct contact with humans.
of the world’s elephant population, the majority live in Africa.
Although there are very large natural reserves and less population
density, human elephant conflict is not rare in Africa. The root
causes of the conflict and socio-economic situation of the people
involved are startlingly similar in both continents.
2003, Colombo hosted a landmark symposium that brought researchers
and conservationists from 23 different countries of Asia and Africa
to share lessons between the two vastly differing continents and
come up with a way forward that would ensure the survival of the
elephant species. The three-day symposium was titled ‘Human
Elephant Relationships and Conflicts’ and served to expose
new conservation techniques, unveil new and exciting elephant research
and present many past experiences in dealing with conflict between
man and elephant.
legendary Iain Douglas-Hamilton from Africa in his opening address
to the forum spoke emotionally about the plight of elephants all
over the world. “My heart bleeds when I read the endless and
almost hopeless catalogue….’, he said. “Elephants
are weekly being shot, snared, electrocuted, run into trains, poisoned
and everywhere deprived of habitat.”
posed the question – do we leave elephants all alone to the
wilds and hope they survive the best they can, or as certain conservationists
insist, actively manage wildlife so that species have a better chance
of survival especially if they have an economic value?
symposium resulted in over 50 papers on a wide range of elephant-related
topics presented by scientists, field researchers, funding agencies,
zoological gardens, veterinary surgeons and conservationists. The
topics ranged from historical perspectives of human elephant relationships
to genetic research, to documentation of conflict in different countries
and ranges, management of domesticated elephants and traditional
knowledge in elephant capture. These papers are now published in
a book titled “Endangered Elephants: Past Present and Future.”
these papers with their accompanying maps and photos was to primarily,
fulfill the aim of making this information available to a wider
audience than the 220 delegates at the symposium. The research,
the field experience and the methodologies discussed in the book
under different subject headings would lead to better understanding
of the species and their conservation needs in areas that are becoming
highly populated and where agriculture is taking over previous elephant
Jayewardene, editor of the volume, who was instrumental in organizing
the symposium said, “This book will be a substantial addition
to the scientific information out there on the elephant and contribute
greatly to future conservation practices. It is a great resource
for practitioners and researchers alike, since rarely have we managed
to get experiences of such a wide range of countries into a single
volume.” Jayewardene is also the Managing Trustee of the Biodiversity
& Elephant Conservation Trust and recently organized a study
tour for Asian elephant conservationists to the elephant research
sites in Kenya.
final discussions at the 2003 symposium led to an agreement that
the forum would request the United Nations to establish an inter-governmental
body with scientific support from the IUCN Specialist Groups on
Elephant Conservation. The aim of such a body would be to coordinate
initiatives within a global strategy for future survival of the
species and also to encourage inter-agency communication and facilitate
synergies. This organisation would also be able to assist range
states in the development and implementation of policies that would
protect elephant ranging habitats. This letter, signed by Debbie
Olsen of International Elephant Foundation and Jayantha Jayewardene
of Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust is also included
in the book.
The book is available in bookshops and with Jayantha Jayewardene
phone 0777- 895 770 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
rich values in children
Ruwanmali Sil Aragena by Deepa
“Ruwanmali Sil Aragena” (Ruwanmali observes sil) written
by Deepa Manawadu Jayewardene is a lovely children’s story
about a little girl who observes sil on Vesak Poya Day.
story is based on “Ruwanmali”, a little girl who eagerly
awaits her grandmother from the village. When she gets to know granny
is observing sil on poya day she too wants to be a “A Little
Upasaka Amma”. So on poya day they observe sil, meditate,
have the “Dane” and the story ends with some unexpected
book is written ideally for children between five to ten years.
The story also gives the young reader moral lessons such as understanding
the difference between good and bad, the happiness one is rewarded
with for good deeds, respecting elders and fostering unity etc.
Manawadu Jayewardene is also the author of the children’s
book “ Surathalee” (Cuddly). The illustrations are by
Piyal Udaya Samaraweera and the cover is designed by Dinindu Siriwardene“
Ruwanmali Sil Aragena” is a Printec Publication.