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Uditha Devapriya
54 followers -
Someone who loves books and films.
Someone who loves books and films.

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Like Dayan's father, Malinda was nurtured in those aforementioned three institutions. Like Dayan's father, Malinda rejected the right-wing, elitist ethos of those institutions. Unlike Dayan's father, he became a nationalist. But there's never just one kind of nationalism: there are nationalisms, so soon enough we saw Dayan and Malinda fighting via newspaper columns despite the fact that both were opposed to the government over its handling of the war. Consequently, no one batted or bowled for them: the "intellectuals" were opposed to both since they were "nationalists", so they enjoyed the fires they were igniting against each other.

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In bringing on stage the army tank and the Sinhalese soldiers, with those laser sound effects that were unfortunately at odds with the seriousness they tried to evoke (which is why I have reservations about Rookantha’s score), he was secularising a war that was rooted in a struggle between the gods, as seen in the beginning with an argument between Poseidon and Athena. By refusing to do away with those gods, however, he confounded us. Again, I am not paying a compliment: without a proper justification for this incongruity, "Trojan Kanthawo" eventually becomes a hazy political comment.

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There’s something about these tunes that strikes at us. We live in a society which dotes on Jane Austen, Barbara Cartland, and Danielle Steel. In music we are very much American and nostalgic, even if the songs we listen to are derived from Europe. No concert or party would be complete without "I Could Have Danced All Night", "Shall We Dance", and "My Favourite Things". That’s the way it has been and the way it will be, for some time at least. For this reason, whenever we hear these songs, we are taken back immediately. We hit the rewind button when they open up and by the time they are over, we are so happy that we are oblivious to the world around us.

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Samitha remembers the Taiyuan International Open Junior Table Tennis Championship, held in 2004. “We clinched the Silver Medal in the Under 12 category. It was a difficult tournament to get through, because one of my two partners, Chameera Ginige, was down with a fever. I won the first single, Chameera lost the second, my other partner Hasintha Sashiranga closed the third at 10-12, and I was left with the task of winning the last singles AND the country’s honour. If I lost, we wouldn't get even a Bronze Medal. To complicate matters even further, I had to contend against the Number One player from Qatar. That I got to ace him 10-4 despite this was a miracle.”

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Racket games in general intrigue me. Not because they are qualitatively different to other more vigorous sports, but because they teeter between proximity and distance in a way which pits one player against the other while compelling him or her to empathise, to understand. Regrettably, though, I don’t have the kind of patience such activities require. Samitha, going by that, has exceeded everything he’s taken part in. To the dot. His return to form will therefore be awaited. By us. Right until the end.

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We will survive, and by all accounts we may even emerge unscathed, but until then, it will be futile to hedge our bets on an individual without accounting for the fact that political rationality has always been secondary to populist irrationality here. To break away from this circle requires considerable courage on our part and on the part of our elected representatives. Are we brave enough, though? Only time can tell.

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I met Lester James Peries for the first time four years ago. He was 94 at the time. I can’t remember the exact day and month. I remember waiting for him in his veranda, though. I also remember a small figure, clad in a sarong and a shirt (signifying the synthesis of East and West in him, perhaps) beckoning to me to the sitting room. We sat, he smiled, and conversation ensued. After a few preliminary introductions, we swerved off to the movies. Halfway through that conversation, he asked me the inevitable question: “What kind of cinema do you like?” “David Lean,” I blurted out at once, half-expecting him to assent to my choice.

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To talk about what The Garage Show is means dwelling on what it is not. It’s not constrained. It’s not epic. It’s not inhibited or empowered by the amenities of a hall. It’s for the most devised, which means that, despite the fact that there is a script, and more than one script, it’s rooted in ideas as opposed to preconceived plotlines. It doesn’t just encourage one to imagine and fill in the blanks, moreover: it forces one to be part of the performance, since all its shows have been “staged” in houses where spectators get to see a skit from different angles. There is no single, exact “slant” to a Garage Show, in other words. One sees, one infers, and one leaves.

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What’s ironic is that our political elite have been upended by their own self-contradictions. They knew they’d get into power, they spawned their own variant of meritocracy, but they wouldn’t have known about the enormity of the opposition against them. By that I am not trying to wish them away: I am merely pointing out that in a context where privileges bestowed by the fact of being members of schools, universities, and other cliques are being popularly repudiated (we don’t live in a Little England, after all), meritocracy hasn’t yet been rooted in the ethos of our people.

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Looking back, it’s quite evident that the man’s career has been prolific. When I put to him that his time would have been qualitatively different to ours in terms of the interrelationships between the composer, the lyricist, and the performer, he agrees and says, “Back then there was a sense of unity. Quality had to be in top form. Today you have digitalised the process: if you get your recording wrong, you can always rely on software to correct it. What gets ‘absented’ there is spontaneity. And sincerity.”
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