This is somewhat a semi-autobiographical note on some of the personalities in Lanka with whom I had the pleasure of associating with. The purpose of this exercise is to let the younger readers and journalists know that the personalities concerned had been in the limelight as pace-setters. Let me take at random only three personages who now remain in the background. These notes are by no means profiles of them but only a record of a few traits of their personality that attracted me.
Last week, I saw a photo of Gamini Haththotuwegama and a feature in The Island Saturday Magazine. Among many of his activities he is remembered most as the pioneer Street Theatre person in Sri Lanka. But he is also an actor with fine voice quality, director, orator, teacher, lecturer, left-inclined social activist, a literary critic, columnist, and compere of The Arts Magazine over the State Radio, et al.
Gamini is a kind man but a Rebel with a Cause. He is friendly and yet adamant in his views on his pet subjects.
I first met Gamini in the 1970s when we were all members of the now defunct FCAJA ( Film Critics And Journalists Association of Sri Lanka) chartered by efficient organizer, the late Neil I.Perera.
The Association had as members some of the leading film critics and film journalists in the country who wrote in English and Sinhala (some of them were bilingual too). The late Sillayoor Selvarajan and yours truly were also members, and the latter wrote in English and Thamil. Presently I can recollect only the name of some of them: the late A.J.Gunawardena, Gamini Haththottuwegama, Tissa Abeysekera, Arthur Amarasena, Bandula Padmakumara, Palliyaguru, Edwin Ariyadasa, Siri Kahawita and a host of others. The FCAJA used to hold International Film Festivals in Colombo. Even earlier the Cinema 16 Society used to screen International Films with assistance from Foreign Missions in Colombo. The late K. Muralidharan was the man behind the venture assisted by the late Neil I. Perera. Again prior to that in the late 1950s, the late Lloyd de Silva and the late Carwalio (I hope I got the name correct) showed us black and white 16 mm films at the Lionel Wendt for the Colombo Film Society. Critics of the calibre of Sali Parakrama, Regi Siriwardena, Sita Parakrama, Donald Abeysinghe, Vernon Abeysekera, Mervyn de Silva, Charles Abeysekera and others were some of the patrons then. They are no more with us.
The man from Gaala (Galle), Gamini Haththotuwegama transcended communal exclusiveness and was even interested in staging trilingual street plays. Arjuna Parakrama too tried this exercise and now Parkrama Niriella and Dharmasiri Bandaranaike do this for all Lankans to get together.
I had attended a few lectures (private classes) on Shakespearean Drama conducted by Gamini. A clearly different perspective in understanding characters was the benefit I derived.
Gamini is inactive now and I miss his studied negligence of his hair style and dress. Wherever he is, I wish him good health, strength and a pleasant atmosphere.
I miss Guy Bibile too. When the Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon commenced its broadcasts in English in early 1950 under the stewardship of the Australian Clifford Dodd, assisted by Lankan Tim Horshington, broadcasting in Sri Lanka took a different form and style. A few brilliant broadcasters in English came to be heard.
Greg Rozkowski (of Polish-Japanese origin), Jimmy Bharucha (of Pharsee origin), Bob Harvey, Karl Goonasena, Eardley Pieris, Percy Bartholemeuz, Ronald Campbell, Guy Bibile, Geoff Fruightneit, Perin Rustomjee, Sita Jayawardena (Parakrama), Rohna Candappa, and a few others were the pioneer broadcasters over the Commercial Service. On the National Service, we had Myrle Swan, Livy Wijemanna, Mark Antony Fernando, Priya Samarajeewa, Cyril Lawrence, Chris Tambimuttu, Delorine Brohier, David Joseph and a few others who were seasoned broadcasters.
Since then veteran broadcasters in English have come over both the Commercial and National Services of the State Radio.
Guy Bibile had a deep voice and a peculiar way of presentation that was attractive, particularly because it was different from RP (Received Pronunciation) as it edged into American accent. Guy was working at the SLBC even after retirement as a Presentation Officer for a long time. He doesn’t visit Torrington Square any more.
I was moved when one of the present day presenters on the air over the English Service Roshan Abhayasekera informed me that Guy Bibile remembers me as one of the relief announcers on the English Commercial Service of the SLBC. Yours truly remains so even now.
Internationally known academic and scholar Yasmine Gooneratne lives both in Sydney and Colombo. She is active in editing manuscripts of potential writers and those already established who want to publish their works. As I said earlier, I am not giving details about her scholarship or her role as an academic. She had published a book recently in Colombo and had been featured in a few weekly English weeklies published here.
I first met her as a fellow participant in The Arts This Week radio programme then compiled and produced by the late Vernon Abeysekera and produced by Delorine Brohier. During that time (1964), she was editing two volumes on Ceylonese Witting as part of the journal Community published by C.R.Hensman. Both invited me to write about a Lankan Thamil Writing. I wrote a review of Lankan Thamil writer Ilankeeran’s novel Thentralum Puyalum. But to my pleasant surprise and gratitude Yasmine rehashed it in such a way that it looked almost academic writing, Prof Yasmine Gooneratne later went to Sydney to teach English at Mcquire University. And from there she invited me to write to New Ceylon Writing. I did, and few articles were published there. She had been contributing to the Lankan Bibliography of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature for many years.
She and her husband Brandon are indelible faces for me.
May I wish all the best in every respect to the three personalities remembered here.