Three artistes from the Lankan Thamil
community were in the news recently. They are, "Sithi"
Amarasingham, Satsorupavathy Nathan and Anthony Jeeva, who all
deserve to be noticed.
The State has given for the second time a trophy
and fifty thousand rupees to a senior artiste born in the Thamil
community. Hitherto only Sinhala artistes had the privilege of
receiving these awards. JVP Minister Vijitha Herath had to bow
down to pressure applied by the only four Thamil-speaking
members of the Drama Panel of the Arts Council who demanded that
a Thamilian or an Islamite should also be considered for this
prestigious award. Accordingly an artiste, writer and publisher
from Thirukoanamalai received these awards at the National Drama
Festival Awards night.
Although it was called "National", the awards
for the winners at the Thamil Drama Festival were not honoured.
We are told that the awards for such people would be given away
on a later date. The awardee was "Sithi" Amarasingham, born in
He carries the title "Kala Booshana".
For the last 50 years Amarasingham has been in
the forefront of literary and artistic activities in the
Thirukoanamalai district. Theatre was his forte. He was an
actor, director, producer, makeup artiste and choreographer. He
has acted in many plays including a few in Sinhala. He excelled
in "comic roles", as they call them, and studied Carnatic music
and could sing well. For the past 45 years he has been
performing "Villu Paatu" with his group. I must confess
that I am unable to describe in exact terms in English what this
kind of musical performance is. In Colombo those who had
witnessed Soakkallo Shanmugam’s performance in the same
instrument and chorus singing would know what it sounds like.
The other exponents in this kind of musical rendition were the
late Ladis Veeramani from Colombo and Master Sivalingam in
Mattakalappu and a few others.
Amarasingham has acted in a locally produced
Thamil film, "Thentralum Puyalum" (The Breeze and the
Storm). He has his own publications interest called "Ilakkiya
Choalai" that had published 13 books by writers of the
district. He also conducts theatre workshops in the
Thirukoanamalai district. He had himself participated in theatre
workshops conducted by Vasantha Bandara, Jayalal Rohana, A. T.
Ponnuthurai and Jeyashankar.
A senior broadcaster in this country who is
still going strong is Satsorupavathy Naathan. She had been
reading the Thamil news bulletins for SLBC for the past 40
years. She joined then Radio Ceylon as a relief Thamil announcer
in 1965 and began her career primarily as a newscaster in March
15 that year. A graduate from the University of Chennai, Miss
Naathan is also a fine debater and excellent speaker in Thamil.
She became a Grade I announcer (only the second to hold this
post even today) in 1969 and 10 years later she was upgraded as
a Grade I newsreader. For three years from 1990, she had been a
controller of spoken word in the English service of the SLBC.
This was a remarkable phase in her career. She
was also in charge of the non-formal education service of the
SLBC. Having retired, she works as a part-time Thamil news
editor for SLBC and continues to read Thamil news bulletins.
For the first time in 1992 the International
Unda Awards were given to broadcasters in Lanka. Miss
Naathan was among the recipients. Other notable announcers and
presenters were the indomitable Jimmy Bharucha and the late K.
Pararajasingham. She also received several other awards for her
contribution in the field of broadcasting. She is also a
presenter of shop talk programmes and a conductor of interviews
for Rupavahini, Eye Channel and ITN. Indefatigable, she is a
valuable resource person.
When the SLBC completed 70 years of broadcasting
in the country, the listeners selected her as the most popular
Thamil newscaster and she received a Presidential Award. MTS, an
international organization awarded her the life long recognition
for best news reading. The Lankan Thamil Media Forum gave her a
national award for best news reading. Miss Naathan is a well
established spinster and her contributions to the arts and
literature in this country is appreciated by many. She is also
one of the vice presidents of the Colombo Thamil Sangam. I had
the pleasure of working with her when I had a stint at the SLBC
several decades ago.
A self-made literary figure, Anthony Jeeva hails
from Kirillapone although he is based in Mahanuwara and is
engaged in a hive of activity in Malayaham (the hill country).
Last year he reached 60. Fluent in Thamil and Sinhala, he is
well known in Sinhala theatre circles. The late Dayananda
Gunawardena was his mentor in theatrical exercises. Though
bereft of academic titles, he is an avid reader and writer. His
dedicated concern for the upliftment of literary and artistic
activity in Malayaham is genuine. He has direct contact with
writers, artists, poets and painters and those of importance in
the cine field in Thamil Nadu in India. He has served as a
bridge between these countries in promoting Lankan Thamil
literature in India. In fact, he has just returned from Chennai
after reading a paper on hill country Thamil literature at a
seminar organised by the University of Chennai. This is indeed a
great honour for a non-academic Lankan Thamilian. Earlier he had
participated in a theatre workshop in Chennai.
As a youngster, Anthony Jeeva was inspired by
the personality of the late A. N. Kandasamy, an intellectual
with left leanings. He inherited progressive thinking and began
his career as a literary and dramatic persona. He is not only a
writer of stories and plays, but also a fine speaker. His
literary columns in the newspapers and his articles in magazine
are testimony for his broadmindedness and lively enthusiasm for
quality writing and performances. In the 1960s he edited short
lived little magazines and presently edits Kolunthu, and
Kuntrin Kutal—journals from the hill country. He was also
a co-editor of Sengoal—a journal published by the
National Christian Commission. Anthony Jeeva has obtained a
Diploma in Journalism from the Open University in Colombo. He
worked as a trade unionist in his youth and cultivated personal
contacts with left wing giants like Drs. N. M. Perera, Colvin R.
de Silva and the like. The well known pioneer of hill country
writers like the late C. V. Velupillai and the late K. Ganesh
blessed him with their advice and inspired him to think in
serious terms. Perhaps one of Anthony Jeeva’s major
contributions is rediscovering the role of the late S. Natesa
Iyer in Lankan politics. Because of his persuasion, Saaral Nadan
did research on Natesa Iyer and brought out significant books.
Anthony Jeeva functioned as secretary to the forum he
established to promote cultural activities in Malayaham. He had
published 25 books covering the entire scene in the hill
country. He was also instrumental in organising seminars,
workshops, training etc. for the cultural and social awareness
of the youth especially of the hill country. He wrote a booklet
in English titled the hill country in Lankan Thamil
Literature. One of his books in Thamil is Eelathil Thamil
Nadagam Thamil (Drama in Sri Lanka). His talks in various
universities and institutions in India have been collected into
a book titled Malayahamum Thamil Ilakkiyamum (The hill
country and literature). He has published anthologies, short
stories and poems written by young Malayalam writers. His
contribution to children’s literature is his short novel called
Thitunthiya Asokan (The Reformed Asokan)
One of his plays is Akkini Pookkal (Fire
Flowers) staged successfully in Colombo. He has directed 14
plays. His play Veenai Althathu (The Veena Cried) was
banned as it exposed the crimes of politicians. His plays Laical
(The Waves) and Airfare Aardvark received state awards at
the drama festivals. He is also a pioneer in street drama in
Thamil inspired by his training in India under Baadal Sarcar.
His street dramas include Velicham (The Light) and
Sathan Vetham Oathukirathu (The Devil is Quoting the Bible).
Anthony Jeeva also toured European countries in
2003 and his interviews to the media in Thamil in those
countries are regarded as very significant in popularising
Lankan Tamil literature and the arts.
Anthony Jeeva is a dedicated, sincere,
outspoken, broadminded and socially conscious writer, dramatist,
columnist, playwright and unassuming thinker and activist. His
contributions to the Lankan Thamil cultural scene, particularly
of the hill country region are very significant.
The name Anthony Jeeva should not be confused
with the name of Dominc Jeeva, another towering figure in the
local Thamil literary scene.