Lester James Peries, The Legendary Pioneer Of Authentic Sri Lankan Cinema

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj The doyen of Sinhala cinema celebrated his 98th birthday on 5 April 2017. IF I were to pose the question “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the best Lankan filmmaker of them all?” to my personal magic mirror, the answer would be in three words – Lester James Peries! Though Sri Lanka …

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When actress Jayalalithaa reigned as uncrowned Queen of Tamil cinema

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj The recent demise of alluring actress turned powerful politico Jayalalithaa Jayaram has caused a void in the politics of India’s Tamil Nadu state. The 68-year-leader of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (AIADMK) served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu from 1991-96, 2001-06 and from 2011 to date. Jayalalithaa hailed as “Amma” (meaning …

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First Sinhala Talkie “Broken Promise” was Released 70 Years Ago on Jan 21 1947

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj History was made 70 years ago when the film ‘Kadawunu Poronduwa’ (Broken Promise) premiered at the Kingsley Theatre in Colombo on 21 January 1947. The Chief Guest was D.S. Senanayake, Minister of Agriculture and Lands under the State Council system of governance during the penultimate stages of British rule. Senanayake went on to …

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Magical “MGR” Charisma of Kandy- Born Actor-Politico M.G.Ramachandran.

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj January 17th 2017 was declared a holiday in the southern Tamil Nadu state of India. This was to acknowledge and celebrate the birth centenary of Marudur Gopalan Ramachandran or MG Ramachandran who served as chief miister of Tamil Nadu for 10 years from 1977 to 1987. It is the political party he founded …

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Lester’s “Rekava” Was First Sinhala Film To Compete At The Cannes Film Festival

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj Sinhala Cinema’s Line of Destiny Re-drawn By ‘Rekava’ 60 Years Ago – 2 “Rekava”(line of Destiny)directed by Lester James Peries premiered 60 years ago at the Regal theatre in Colombo on December 28th 1956. It was a path breaking venture in Sinhala cinema that notched many “firsts”. Among these was the singular honour …

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Sinhala Cinema’s Line of Destiny was Re-drawn By “Rekava” 60 Years Ago

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj December 28th 1956 remains a red letter day in the cinematic history of Sri Lanka formerly known as Ceylon. The maiden feature film of a 37 year old director called Lester James Peries premiered at the upmarket “Regal”theatre in Colombo on that day.It was a black and white Sinhala film named “Rekava”. Though …

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Action Hero Gamini Fonseka Was The First Super Star Of Sinhala Cinema

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj “Spotlight” beams this week on Gamini Fonseka the first super star of Sinhala cinema. I had begun preparing this article many months ago to mark the 80th birth anniversary of Sembuge Gamini Shelton Fonseka who was born on March 21st 1936. My old schoolmate and journalistic colleague Prasad Gunewardene had been extremely keen …

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‘Kaanaa Inbam Kaninthathaeno’ – Splendid “Singing in the Rain” Song ♫

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj Favourite Film Songs – 7 I love rain! One of the things I loved to do as a boy and even as a young adult was to get soaking wet in the rain. If it started raining while I was on my way home from school I simply got wet instead of …

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“Marikkar” Ramdas: The Brahmin Artiste who Transformed Into a Muslim Character

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj “Marikkar” Ramdas has passed away! Sadness spread among numerous fans of Sri Lankan origin scattered widely in different parts of the globe as news of the demise of the popular artiste reached them. S. Ramdas, known as “Marikkar” Ramdas was a radio, stage and screen actor cum writer who was a household name …

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♥ “Singara Velanae Deva”- S.Janaki’s Superb Solo with Nadaswaram Accompaniment ♫

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj Favourite Film Songs – 6 Sishtla Sreeramamurthy Janaki popularly known as S. Janaki is widely praised as the “Nightingale of the South” .In a splendid career spanning over fifty years Janaki has sung over 20,000 songs for films made in 16 different languages.The Southern nightingale has won four national awards and 31 …

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“Neeyay Unakku Endrum Nigaraanavan” ~ Sparkling Song by TM Soundararajan ~ MS Raju ♫

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj Favourite Film Songs – 5 “Neeyay Unakku endrum Nigaraanaavan” is a sparkling song from the old Tamil film “Baley Pandia” produced and directed by B.R.Panthulu in 1962.Sung by maestro TM Soundararajan(TMS) and “Konnakol”expert M.S.Raju(not to be confused with the Telugu film producer) the song was picturised in the film on actors Sivaji Ganesan …

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✿ “Roja Malarae Rajakumari” ♛ ♥ ~ Popular Song by PB Sreenivas – P.Susheela Duo ♫

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj Favourite Film Songs -4 “Ruritanian Romance” is a genre consisting of stories, novels, dramas and films set in a fictional country. Anthony Hope’s novel “Prisoner of Zenda” based in the imaginary state of Ruritania was the pioneering novel that spawned this popular genre. Literature, theatre and films of this genre are generally about …

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“Senthamizh Thaen Mozhiyaal”-Magnificient Singing by T.R.Mahalingam ♫♥

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj Favourite Film Songs -3 “Senthamizh Thaen Mozhiyaal”is perhaps the most popular song sung on screen by the magnificient singer and actor of Tamil cinema – Thenkarai Ramakrishnan Mahalingam generally known as T.R.Mahalingam. He sings this number in the film “Maalayitta Mangai”produced in 1958 by poet and film lyricist “Kavignar” Kannadasan who also penned …

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“Dingiri Dingaaley Meenatchi, Dingiri Dingaaley”- Rocking “Baila”-Type Song ♫♥

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj Favourite Film Songs -2 “ Dingiri Dingaale Meenatchi Dingiri Dingaale, Ulagam Poara Poakkaip Paaru Thangamay Chiillaaley” was a song that rocked Sri Lanka then known as Ceylon in 1958-59 and the years after. The rhapsodic song from a Tamil film “Anbu Engey?”was widely popular during my childhood days. It was released in Sri …

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Southern Skylark Susheela Soars To ‘Record’ Heights In Singing Film Songs ♫♥

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj “Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass… how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?” – Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Ode to a Skylark’ An indispensable feature of Indian language films are the song sequences. The songs are usually picturised on actors or actresses who lip-synch them on screen. …

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“Neela Vannak Kannaa Vaadaa” – Uplifting Lullaby Sung By Balasaraswathi Devi ♥ ♫

by D.B.S.Jeyaraj Favourite Film Songs -1 This article is the first in an on going series about film songs I have come to love over the years.Watching Tamil movies on screen and listening to Tamil film songs over radio was an integral part of life for me as a child growing up in Colombo. The …

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An ‘affair’ of the mind between a nubile undergrad and her ageing professor

By D.B. S. Jeyaraj Asoka Handagama’s latest film ‘Let Her Cry’ is currently being shown in theatres on a limited run from 13 May to 10 June. The director apparently preferred to utilise the gap in between already-scheduled releases and screen his film rather than wait for 16 more months in the queue to get …

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When “The Da Vinci Code” Film was Banned in Sri Lanka by the Rajapaksa Regime 10 Years Ago

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj ( Dan Brown’s best selling novel “The Da Vinci Code”published in 2003 created much controversy. Ron Howard’s block buster film based on the novel with the same name was also equally controversial. “The Da Vinci Code” starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou was banned in Sri Lanka in May 2006 by then …

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Southern Nightingale S. Janaki and the Story of Her Popular ♫Singaara Velanae Deva♫ Song

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj Sishtla Sreeramamurthy Janaki popularly known as S. Janaki celebrates her 78th birthday on April 23rd. The well known Indian singer of film songs who is praised as the “nightingale of the South” was born on April 23rd 1938 during the British colonial period at Pallapatla in Repalle. The Repalle town is located …

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“Maestro” Lester James Peries: Doyen Among Sinhala Film Directors .

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj “If we adopt the Auteur theory to look at the body of work of Lester what stands out is his humanism, we are here concerned mostly about humanism as it developed in western society after the Renaissance and became a strong influence on Lester James Peries” – Dr.Sarath Amunugama (2012 Lester James Peries …

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Kandy-born Actor-Politico “MGR” Reigned Supreme in Tamil Nadu Cinema and Politics

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj There was a time when the magical initials MGR were a household name in the Tamil-speaking homes of countries with a substantial population of Tamils, including India and Sri Lanka. The initials referred to swashbuckling actor M.G. Ramachandran, who starred as an action hero in over 100 Tamil films. MGR, as he …

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Indian Actress Asin Who was “Black listed” by Tamil Cinema for Being Sri Lanka Friendly Weds Rahul in Grand Style ♥ ♥

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj An adorable actress with lovely looks being swept off her feet into a grand wedding by an efficacious entrepreneur with dashing features is the romantic stuff modern fairy tales are made of. No wonder then that Indian newspapers were full of news stories last week about the wedding between the Punjabi Hindu …

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“Nagaichuvai Mannan” Nagesh: Monarch of Humorous Actors in Tamil Movies

by D.B.S.Jeyaraj An intergral part of the Tamil Film tradition has been humour. While a few films have been devoted to comedy alone the bulk of Tamil movies have had actors playing out amusing roles evoking mirth and laughter. These roles are generally supplementary to the main roles of the hero and heroine. The actors …

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M.N.Nambiar : The Virtuous Villain of Tamil Cinema who Terrified People by his Grimaces and Scowls

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj The eighth death anniversary of a man named Manjeri Narayanan Nambiar or M.N. Nambiar fell on 19 November. He was 89 years of age at the time of his death. Nambiar was a terrible villain who could terrify people by merely grimacing and scowling. M.N. Nambiar was arguably the greatest screen villain of …

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Jaffna Film Festival and Indigenous Tamil cinema in Sri Lanka before ‘ 1983 Black July’

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj “Yaarlpaanam” (Jaffna/Yapanaya) regarded by many as the cultural capital of the “Ilangai Thamizhar” of Sri Lanka hosted an international film festival from 15 to 21 September. Jaffna, the capital city of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, is probably the only city in the world named after a musical instrument. The Tamil name ‘Yarlpanam’ is …

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Gamini Fonseka, Lester James Peries and the Milestone Movie ‘Nidhanaya’

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj Sembuge Gamini Shelton Fonseka, known generally as Gamini Fonseka – the uncrowned monarch of Sinhala cinema – passed away at the age of 68 on 30 September 2004. Gamini was one of my favourite actors since the age of eight when I first saw ‘Ranmuthuduwa,’ a film starring him at the Gamini …

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Gorgeous Actress Geetha Kumarasinghe Stars in New Role as Galle District MP

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj Elections are over and a new Parliament has been elected. The political excitement however is yet to subside. ‘Spotlight’ returns after a brief interval to focus on films, film personalities and film-related matters. The focus this time would be on an alluring beauty who made a successful name for herself on the cinema …

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Jacques Audiard’s Film “Dheepan” About Three Tamil Refugees in France Wins Golden Palm at Cannes

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj Cannes is a city on the picturesque French Riviera-Mediterranean coast in South-Eastern France. It is classified as a French commune which is an administrative division roughly equivalent to a municipality. The pride of Cannes in contemporary times has been the annual international film festival held in the city. Known as the Cannes …

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“Mellisai Mannargal” M.S. Viswanathan and T.K. Ramamurthy, the ‘Monarchs of Light Music’ in Tamil cinema

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj Watching Tamil movies on screen and listening to Tamil film songs over radio was an integral part of life for me as a child growing up in Colombo. The Tamil ‘Varthaga Oliparappu’ or Commercial service of ‘Radio Ceylon’ was a treasure trove of film songs. Apart from broadcasting the latest Tamil film songs …

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♫ Kaadhal Mannan ♫ Gemini Ganesan, Romantic Actor King of Tamil Cinema ♥

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj In writing last week about legendary film actor Tony Ranasinghe, I referred to the comment by Malani Fonseka about Tony being the greatest romantic lover in Sinhala films. The queen of Sinhala cinema who has acted in about 40 films with him said of Tony Ranasinghe “I find him the most romantic …

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Tony Ranasinghe, the Greatest Character Actor and Romantic Lover in Sinhala Cinema

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj “Tony as an actor is the best character-based actor not even witnessed in the Indian screen. He has an actor within himself who emerges at the correct moment. Tony Ranasinghe is the best character actor in Asia” – Gamini Fonseka. “Tony Aiya was a well-read man of wisdom. Not only as his …

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Sir Christopher Lee: Legendary movie villain played Dracula, Fu Manchu, Scaramanga, Saruman and Dooku

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj There was a time when I was afflicted by the supernatural in the form of ghost stories and horror movies. Being terrified by terrible tales of ghosts, devils, vampires and monsters was an enjoyable type of agony then.It was a self-inflicted period of craze for the macabre. This phase in my life began …

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“Kaatriniley Varum Geetham” Sung by M.S. Subbulakshmi in “Meera” is a Classic Among Tamil Film Songs.

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj A perennial classic in the sphere of Tamil film songs is ‘Kaatriniley Varum Geetham’ based on the Sindhubhairavi raga.It is sung by the nightingale of India MS Subbulakshmi in the film ‘Meera’ where she plays the title role.This song was a favourite of one of my aunts who would be singing snatches from …

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♬ P. Leela, ‘Forgotten’ Singer Who Sang Unforgettable Songs In Tamil Cinema ♥

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj I was pleasantly surprised this week when a South Indian journal asked me to revise an article I had written earlier about the singer Porayathu Leela – popularly known as P. Leela. The request for an article to denote Leela’s birthday was most unexpected as she had passed away 10 years ago …

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Katharine “Kate” Hepburn holds Oscar record for most wins in acting category

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj 12 May was the birthday of an actress who was described by the American Film Institute as the “greatest American screen legend” among female stars. Katharine Hepburn, known popularly as Kate Hepburn, with her regal appearance and distinctive patrician-sounding accent, strode majestically across stage and screen in an acting career spanning more than …

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Gregory Peck’s flu cured by ginger-coriander tea when filming in Ceylon

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj The ‘Spotlight’ column returns after a lengthy interval. The focus this time is on American actor Gregory Peck. There is no particular reason other than nostalgia for writing about this former Hollywood idol at this time. Born in 1916, Peck passed away in 2003. So this year 2015 does not mark any …

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♥ Remembering PB Sreenivas and His Enchanting Duets With S. Janaki ♫

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj The traditional April new year dawned on a sad note for me last year.I woke up to the news that well –known singer of film songs Prathivadi Bayankara Sreenivas (P.B.S) had passed away in India. He was one of my favourite filmsong singers.I grew up with the Tamil film songs of people …

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Gamini Fonseka and Lester James Peries: Cinematic relationship of an actor and director

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj Ten years ago on 30 September the brightest light of Sri Lankan cinema went out. Gamini Fonseka, the monarch of Sinhala moviedom, passed away peacefully on that day. Gamini Fonseka was my favourite actor on the Sinhala silver screen and became an important part of my childhood. This week’s ‘Spotlight’ focuses on him …

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How Jayalalithaa Sparkled on Silver Screen in her Actress Avatar as Uncrowned Queen of Tamil Cinema.

by D.B.S.Jeyaraj (Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Ex-Film actress Ms.jayalalithaa Jayaram who was convicted over charges of acquiring disproportionate wealth has now been acquitted of all charges by the Karnataka High Court which heard her appeal.This article written for “Spotlight” Column in the “Daily Financial Times” of October 11th 2014 is re-posted here without …

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Jayalalithaa Jayaram: From Alluring Actress to Powerful Politician

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj (This Article is a condensed version of an article written on the occasion of Ms. Jayalalithaa Jayaram’s 60th birthday in 2008.It was reproduced here on the occasion of the Tamil Nadu Chief minister’s 66th birthday early this year on February 24th. Now it is posted here again without any changes at a time …

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Michelangelo Antonioni Masterpiece ‘L’Avventura’ at International Film Festival Colombo

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj In my earlier writings on the film scene in Sri Lanka before launching the ‘Spotlight’ column, there were two things I emphasised as being necessary for the upliftment of serious cinema in the island – one was the need to establish a fully-fledged Film Institute; the other was about holding an international …

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“Supersinger Winner Diwakar, “Balaey Pandia” Film and the TMS-Raju Song”Neeyay Unakku Endrum Nigaraanavan”

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj ♫ “Neeyay Unakku Endrum Nigaraanavan”♫ The fourth season of Vijay TV Airtel Supersinger Competition has concluded with a fairy tale ending. The winner Diwakar is from a humble social background and without any formal training in singing. Diwakar was not only the choice of the Judges, but also of the people who endorsed …

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Sivaji Ganesan: Tamil cinema’s versatile actor par excellence

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj The first Tamil film which impacted on me greatly during childhood was ‘Veera Pandiya Kattabomman’. It was a kind of bio-picture about a ‘Paalayakkaaran’ or Polygar (feudal chieftain) who defied the British during the last decade of the 18th Century and paid the supreme penalty. Kattabomman whose full name was Veera Pandiya …

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Lester James Peries and the Making of his Path-breaking Sinhala film “Rekava”

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj ‘Rekava’ or the line of destiny was the path-breaking film by Lester James Peries which altered the destiny of Sinhala cinema. (Though Rekava is spelled with both a ‘v’ as well as a ‘w’ in English, I am sticking to v because the original titles shown in the film spelled it with …

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The Unforgettably Popular Film Songs of Tamil Cinema Classic “Devadas” ♫

By D.B.S.Jeyaraj The demise of renowned Telugu actor Akkineni Nageswara Rao has revived memories of his many films.Although most of his films are in Telugu, the great thespian has acted in several Tamil films too. “Devadas”, “Anarkali”, “Manithan Maaravillai”, “Manjal Mahimai”, “Engal Veetu Mahalakshmi”, “Kalyanapparisu” are but some of the films featuring Nageswara Rao who …

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Sivaji Ganesan: A doyen among actors in Tamil cinema

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj Hello Friends Sivaji Ganesan who passed away on July 21st 2001 is widely regarded as the greatest thespian of post-independence Tamil cinema. This doyen among Tamil actors was one of my favourites. Like many of my generation I memorized the dialogue from “Veera Pandiya Kattabomman” during my childhood and repeated them with …

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Actress Asin combats Tamil filmdom over Sri Lanka

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The South Indian state of Tamil Nadu has a robust Film industry. From it’s nascent stages ,film- making in the state has been inclusive in nature. Artistes and technicians from various parts of India have worked and continue to work in Tamil films. Many non –Tamils employed in the film sector have chosen to live in Chennai.

Asin Thottumkal looks up during a news conference, about her new film “Ready” which is being shot in Sri Lanka, in Colombo June 30, 2010.~ Reuters pic

Sri Lanka’s film industry too has had historical links with Tamil Nadu. The first Sinhala film produced by SM Nayagam a Tamil was shot in Madras as Chennai was known earlier. Several other Sinhala films in the forties and fifties were made in India.

Sexual violence in the past by police and security forces against Tamil women

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s remarks while addressing the UN security council had an inaccurate reference about the Sri Lankan armed forces using rape as a tactic of war .

This is the relevant quote from the US Secretary of State:

“The resolution we passed today represents a step forward in our global efforts to end violence perpetrated against women and children in conflict zones, and it builds on two prior Security Council resolutions: Resolution 1325, which called on all parties in conflicts to respect women’s rights and increase their participation in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction efforts; and Resolution 1820, adopted last year, which affirms the ambitions set out in 1325, and establishes a clear link between maintaining international peace and security, and preventing and responding to sexual violence used as a tactic of war to target civilians. Yet despite these actions by the United Nations Security Council, violence against women and girls in conflict-related situations has not diminished; in fact, in some cases, it has escalated.

Now, reading the headlines, one might think that the use of rape as a tactic of war only happens occasionally, or in a few places, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Sudan. That would be bad enough, but the reality is much worse. We’ve seen rape used as a tactic of war before in Bosnia, Burma, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere. In too many countries and in too many cases, the perpetrators of this violence are not punished, and so this impunity encourages further attacks.”

Predictably Secretary Clinton’s comment evoked a storm of protests in Sri Lanka.While there have been many instances of rape during the course of the long war of many decades in Sri Lanka there have been no allegations of this particular type.

Gamini Fonseka: “Maharajaneni” of Sinhala moviedom

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Gamini Fonseka, the uncrowned “Maharajaneni” or monarch of Sinhala moviedom passed away peacefully on September 30th in 2004. Though Gamini is no more most of his fans like this writer have not forgotten him. This article coinciding with Gamini’s fifth death anniversary today is a humble tribute to to the memory of a man who lives in the hearts of many.

Gamini Fonseka (March 21, 1936-Sep 30, 2004)

This article is to honour the memory of a man whom I loved as an actor, appreciated as a director, admired as a politician and above all respected as a decent human being. Gamini the actor on the Sinhala silver screen became an important part of life in childhood.

Lester James Peries: Liberator of Sinhala Cinema

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Lester James Peries is the acknowledged pioneer of authentic Sinhala cinema. It was he who created an indigenous cinema in every sense of the term . It was he who first gained worldwide recognition for Sinhala cinema.

Western background

The path-breaking director was born on April 5, 1919 in Dehiwela to Catholic parents with an affluent westernised background. His father Dr. James Francis Peries had studied medicine in Scotland. His mother Ann Gertrude Winifred Jayasuriya was the first student to pass the Cambridge senior exam at St. Bridgette’s, Convent.

T.K. Kalaa gets “Kalaimaamani” award

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj Among those receiving the Tamil Nadu state governments “Kalaimaamani” award this year will be the singer TK Kalaa of “Thayit Sirandha Kovilum Illai” fame.Kalaa who displayed great promise when she burst on the Tamil film scene in the early seventies faded away gradually. It is to the credit of Chief minister Jayalalitha …

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