Midweek Review

As I Like It
Women all the way
by K.S. Sivakumaran

In recent times, understandably, women have been in the forefront. Take for instance, the women’s organisations that are active in different parts of the island. One such organization is the Women’s Education Research Centre (WERC) headquartered at 58, Dharmarama Road, Colombo 06. Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran heads this institute. They publish a trilingual bulletin. Vol 12, No. 1 of this bulletin named "Pravahini" carries tidbits of information pertaining to women in general and the Thamil version compiled by Mahes Vairamuthu focuses naturally on Thamil women in general.

The English edition has a tribute to the late Regi Siriwardena. It’s signed by S.T., presumably Selvy Thiruchandran.

She says "His greatness was testified by the fact that a few of the Thamil writers who write exclusively in Thamil journals and newspapers, could not but pay tribute to him in Thamil. One UK based writer (Yamuna Rajendran) in an Indian journal called "Uyirmai"–another one in a Thamil Marxist column–entered into a debate with a non-Marxist writer who had referred to Regi as a humanist who has gone beyond Marxism. I do not want to enter into this debate. It is merely to mention the impact Regi had on such writers both Marxist and Non-Marxist. "Thetithal", a small unconventional newsletter like quarterly paper published in Jaffna which had referred to Regi as a great man and an honest Marxist, marks his contribution to art and politics and how the Thamil community benefited by reading the translation of his work into Thamil.

Incidentally, Yamuna Rajendran, who is a man, is greatly admired as a great critic by some of the Thamil-only young intellectuals and critics in Sri Lanka, particularly "Natchathiran Sevvinthian" (an incongruous pen-name of a promising poet, now domiciled in Australia). Personally I have reservations on his film criticism because he voices outdated Marxist views culled from earlier Marxist handouts and slogans. However, he has written a few books in Thamil on Cinema that is outside the confines of the Thamil Cinema.

Let’s go back to S.T. on Regi:

"Besides the literary genius and his intellectual and creative powers, the political man in Regi has appealed to these writers. His uncompromising stand on the ethnic questions and his uncritical condemnation of the betrayal of the Left on the language issue has been remembered by these Thamil writers as worthy of comment in a world of political opportunism and bargains in the power game."

Selvy Thiruchandran by the way is the daughter of the late Handy Perinpanayagam, a pioneer left winger in Yaalpaanam, more than half a century ago. She is also a sister of Siddharthan, a professor in Sociology in the U.S.

Sinhala and Thamil conferences

Flipping through the pages of "Pravahini", I found that the WERC had had the annual Sinhala conference a few months ago. The theme of the conference was "Women’s Contribution to Sinhala Cultural Productions". Ten specialists presented papers on this occasion. Cinema, drama, lyrics etc. were the subjects on which papers were presented.

A similar conference in relation to activities and contributions in Thamil would be held in the latter part of the year.

Satsorupavathy Nathan: a

woman of great talent

Although well known as a broadcaster in Thamil, Satsorupavathy Nathan who had had more than 40 years of service with Radio Ceylon, broadcast in English, and, above all, was at one time a programme organiser for talks and features in the English service of the SLBC. It was under her aegis that I compiled and presented the arts magazine on this frequency. I also presented "Rhythms Thamil", a quarter hour programme presenting Thamil film songs with introductions in English, was also broadcast over the commercial service of the SLBC. Presently I am on the panel of presenters in English on the same service, but could not come on the air for the past two months due to slight changes in the structure of the programmes where young and new presenters are given way. It is understandable. After all "Old is Not always Gold".

Ms. Nathan, as she is popularly known, is also an orator, speaker on women’s interests and a presenter of chat shows over Rupavahini’s Eye Channel. She is also a part time editor of the Thamil news bulletins over SLBC and a visiting lecturer on media in many institutions. She is also associated with the Kolumbu Thamil Sangam as one of the members of the governing body. Such is her greatness. She had been feted recently by many institutions. The very recent one was by the Yaalpaanam Hindu Ladies College Old Girls association.

A Gunda Awardee, Ms. Nathan is one of the greatest Thamil women in this country contributing her varied talents to the media, women interests and the society at large.

Jimmy Bharucha

The passing away recently of Jimmy Bharucha, a fine and knowledgeable broadcaster and trainer with amiable manners and an unostentatious profile removes from us the memories of a golden age in English broadcasting in this country. Jimmy was a distinguished man of talents belonging to the immensely talented Farsi Community in Sri Lanka.

In the late 1950s, there were many quiz programmes over the Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon. The indomitable Vernon Corea, Geoff Fruightnit and Jimmy Bharucha, then very shy and young, presented on the stage in studio 06 of Radio Ceylon a sponsored quiz programme. As a student I appeared on the programme and won a prize. It was then that I saw Jimmy for the first time. I was also a contributor to the Radio Journal programme compiled and presented by Jimmy.

In 1966, I joined as a relief Thamil announcer over the Commercial Service. I was trained by the late S. P. Mylvaganam, the legendary voice that along with the late Greg Rozkowski and the late Prosper Fernando and the Ganjal sisters put Radio Ceylon on the world map of popular broadcasting. Jimmy was listening to me while I was being trained and I made silly mistakes on the air, particularly reading the clock and airing the correct time due to tension and excitement. Jimmy walked into the studio and told me that I would be a good announcer because I am making mistakes and that I would learn by making mistakes and built confidence in me.

When I worked as an editor of Thamil news bulletins, Jimmy was the director of news. Jimmy read widely and that was one of the reasons for his sound knowledge in broadcasting. He was a regular reader of my columns in the newspapers and had something complimentary to says when he meets me in the corridors of the radio station.

Jimmy was also behind the mike man for GFU News Reels and Documentary films.

In the annals of Radio Ceylon, the chapter on Jimmy Bharucha would be a revealing account of the country’s exercise in broadcasting.

Pathma Somakanthan

Last Sunday, Pathma Somakanthan, a woman writer of this country who has brought out three collections of short stories and also a book for children in Thamil was feted for her golden year’s contributions towards Lankan Thamil Literature. She had also been feted recently in Toronto, Canada and Chennai, India. An educationist, Pathma edits a journal of women’s interests besides being a good speaker in several seminars. Belonging to a Brahmin family, she broke the restraints of that community even as a teenager when she wrote progressive short stories under her nom de plume–"Puthuma Piriyai". Her husband, N. Somakanthan (Eelathu Somu) is also one of the foremost writers in this country combining spiritualism and social realism as his spouse is.

T. Easwaran of the well-known mercantile establishment, Mala Sabaratnam, an attorney who speaks elegant Thamil, P. Balasundaram, Ananthi Balasigham of the Thinakaran, A. Sivanesachelvan of the College of Journalism, Jeyaraj of the Kamban Kalagam, and Dominic Jeeva, editor of "Mallikai" eulogised the writer Pathma Somakanthan befittingly. Pathma Somakanthan is a very senior writer in Thamil in this country.

Some recent events

Three Thamil books were launched recently; "Vaanil Mithantha Valluvar Vaimoli" - a collecton of radio plays written by S. Paramasamy was one of the books. The new president of the Kolumbu Thamil Sangam, Kumarasamy Somasudaram chaired the function. Dr. V. Maheswaran of the University of Peradeniya was the guest speaker. Annaladchumi Rasadurai, editor of "Kalaikesari "of the Virakesari and yours truly reviewed the book.

On the same day (June 26, 2005) the late Rajanayagan’s collection of short stories, "Sontha Munn" was released. The reviewers were Siva Subramaniam, editor of the Thinakaran, Vasanthi Thayaparan, an emerging literary critic, T. Mathusothanan, editor of " reviewed this book. The author’s son Bharathi delivered the vote of thanks.

Also on the same day a book of short stories in Thamil by M. Basheer was launched. Ali Akbar of Sri Lanka Islamic Art and Literature Forum chaired the occasion. Member of the Shipping Corporation, Hashim Omar was the chief guest. Nazimul Husain, Ilaya Abdullah, N. M. Ameen, T .Mani, M. A. M. Nilam, Ashraf Shihabdeen – all notable writers, poets and journalists participated in this function. Yours truly has written the foreword for M. Basheers’s book – "Nijangalin Vali" (The Pain of the Real).

The fifth in a series of talks in Thamil on Cinema organised by the Thamil Unit of the Film Corporation was delivered by the hillcountry literati, Anthomy Jeeva on Lankan Thamil Films.

Some weeks back Tissa Devendra’s collection of short stories was released at the BMICH. Minister Sarath Amunugama, a fine speaker and sociologist entertained the audience with his anecdotes as a former civil servant and media boss.

Thus we see a lot of cultural activities are taking place in the country despite the uncertainties of the future of our country.

Contact: kssivan19@sltnet.lk

 

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