Thursday, January 31, 2008

Obeying the Command - GLF

I'm half dead. seriously. I've been all over colombo today, half in a tuk-tuk, half walking, doing nothing in particular. i have also just exchanged a green piece of my heart for a pair of shades i know I'm never gonna wear. i feel like shit. but haren commands me write a full report of the Galle Literary Festival and so here goes...

the festival was the best excuse that came by for me to convince amma to let me spend some time with pavi at matara. thus monday found the two of us up at 4am, on the way to colombo. a couple of killer hours spent roasting in the mid-day sun found us on a bus to matara, a five hour journey which i am amazed at having held myself through. this has to be the worst trip i have made so far. i am never gonna do that again. take my word on this. a full two-days was absolutely essential to get over the fatigue and thus wednesdays' programmes were sadly missed. not too sadly though i guess, since it was just the opening ceremony and a tour of the Fort (which i wasn't really interested in) that day.

thursday was different though. the bus ride upto Galle from Matara wasn't too bad or eventful, except that we got off the bus a few miles too far away from the Galle Fort to feel too good about ourselves.

this was the first time i ever walked into the fort (or any fort for that matter!) and pavi's description of it's beauty and grace did no justice to the amazing moment i shared with the place as i walked out past the inner side of the entrance. it's a different world. it's impossible not to imagine pale-skinned "white men" walking down those little streets feeling terribly important and superior yet looking hilarious in their khaki "tropical" gear with faces turning slowly, yet steadily and painfully from pink to red. there is an air about the place of a terrible calm. i say terrible because it feels forced. like the peace in the air, unshaken but simmering calmly in the mid-day heat, pushing down on the dwellers-within, forcing them down with the pressure of the heat. only the occasional sea-breeze gives relief. fleeting relief, hot and salty, a painful memory the moment it is gone. the place was poetic. perfect.

and thus the first day for us began. with a moment. pavi had been here before and she was sure she could find the Barefoot Gallery. NOT. we walked and walked and the bloody heat killed us and pavi was acting so totally like somebody from the opposite sex: "we don't have to ask for directions! I know the way!!!". right. half an hour (yes, half an hour during which we had walked up and down and roundabout the fort twenty-three times missing the exact spot we needed to be and FINALLY decided it was not TOO embarrassing to ask directions) later we had discovered the gallery and the registration desk (and a loo!!! i will just mention in passing that i spent most of my time bugging pavi that i need to take a leak, i need to take a leak, i need to take a leak...) and the fact that we were gonna be broke for the rest of our lives thanks to this excursion. luckily it turned out that pavis' accent and my bandanna and my (apparently) weird sense of normal costume combined had landed us in the "tourist/resident" category. some moments of agony later during which we considered dropping the whole thing, we were allowed in the "student" category. meaning we got in for roughly an eighth of the original fee.

this brings me to a point haren made in his post about what he didn't see at the festival. (sorry! he he...) the festival WAS great, but 800 bucks seems like a hellovahellova lot to pay for an hour of sitting around and listening to some whackos listen to their own voices. that wasn't what the festival was, but I've decided to put it negatively just now, to get my point through. i know amazing people, many amazing people who can't afford to pay 800 bucks an hour. hell, even i can't!!! i can't help but imagine how many people would have walked the idea of attending straight out of their minds simply because the price-tags on the little event passes were a little too shocking. i suppose this is neccesary in a way, to keep the crowd filtered, to make sure only people who feel strongly enough about this to spend so much get in, but it does also lose the festival a lot of amazing people. imagine if i didn't go!?!?! LOL...

okay, i still haven't got to anything worth reading...

event 004: English in Sri Lanka with Michael Meyler and Richard Boyle

This session was alright, the topic wasn't of particular interest to me. the discussion focussed mainly on how the English language had been adapted over time, with use by the Sri Lankan people. although much wasn't to be learnt, many were to be entertained. Michael Meyler is a teacher at the British council who has just had his Dictionary of Sri Lankan English published. he is not an expert but has experienced Sri Lankan English in his work, and a random list of singlish words compiled for his personal use later became what he called "the first dictionary of Sri Lankan English". Richard Boyle on the other hand, knows his stuff. South-Asian English is his line of study, and Michael found himself contradicted when Richard said "actually, this is NOT the first dictionary of Sri Lankan English..." and went on to mention the title and author of the book that WAS. slightly embarrassing moment there... but it was all good.

one of the phenomenons suffered by the language, brought to light, was the "verbication" (or verbifying or whatever!) of nouns and vice-versa. example: horning. much laughter was induced by the implication of vulgarity in the sound of that word. in the UK, the driver is tooting the horn. in Sri Lanka, the driver is horning. or maybe he's just horny???

event 009: From Page to Stage with Tracy Holsinger, Delon Weerasinghe, Senaka Abeyrathne and Indu Dharmasena

this was VERY interesting. definitely a highlight. the discussion started off innocently enough, with people (most of them well-known) introducing themselves modestly and all that. the line of discussion was about the process of writing a play and getting it on-stage and what comes inbetween. Delon, Indu and Senaka all three write plays. Delon made the amazing point, which although it might be obvious to the playwright, probably did not occur to the average theatre-goer: to write a play, you need to think in dialogue. that was the only point he made which is worth mentioning. no, that was the only point he made. fullstop. except of course, unless you consider the fact that he revealed a shocking secret about himself: he writes crap. he didn't really do this on purpose, he just mentioned in passing that "playwriting is all about marketting: you can write an amazing play and not get published, you can also write crap and sell millions" or something to that effect. so that's what happened to him. he wrote crap, but with amazing marketting capabilities, managed to sell. obviously this statement did not recieve a positive response from the audience. actually it didn't recieve a positive response from anybody, even those on the panel were pretty taken aback. i only wish it didn't recieve any response at all, because intelligent people who appreciate art don't need to waste time and energy debating with dumb-ass theories leaking out the mouths of artless businessmen. i want to take a moment here to question the organizing committee as to why on earth he was sitting on that panel. actually, what was he doing at the festival at all? he should have been licking stamps at some dead, fly-infested government office.

Tracy is not a writer, but we all know her as a prolific director, and she had many stories to share about going beyond the expect level of involvement, getting creative and actually working with the writer during production. she also used the opportunity to inform anybody interested about her upcoming productions and audition dates and such, but nobody grudged her opportunistic attitude, thanks to Delons' absurdities.

the round of questions brought up an issue i addressed in my previous post. the panel was asked what they thought of the belief that the Sinhalese theatre in Sri Lanka is far more advanced than the English. opinions were mixed, some saying it was absurd and some saying it was absolutely true and some saying it was a debatable matter. it is definitely debatable, but not conclusive. I'm not keen on repeating myself, and thus i won't go into detail of what i think of it.

this session was as i said earlier, definitely a highlight, and I'm sure eveybody walked away feeling (like me) that an hour was not sufficient, and with much to think about.

event 014: Writing: The Pain and The Pleasure with Indran Amirthanayagam, Julian West and Randy Boyagoda

Indran is a poet. an amazing poet. the poet. he speaks in poetry and he inspires me. he writes for the people. he writes for me.
Julian is a journalist who has had a very very eventful life. her inspiration to write came from a moment near-death, lying half-naked in the baking sun with bullets whizzing past her. she thought she will survive it. she decided she would. and she wrote about it.
Randy is a writer. meaning he is a reader. a passing sentence in a newspaper article inspired him to write about something he knew nothing about.

the three of them, as you can see, are totally different. their opinions are are similarly "totally different". since we were discussing getting a first publication through, somebody from the audience asked "what would you say to a young person who wants to give up a day-job to write?"

the responses from the panel:
Indran - it depends. you could be a terribly useless writer, thus it would be stupid, but you need to discover that you are a terribly useless writer.
Julian - do it. if that's what it takes, do it. if you need to live in a one-room shack and work by candle-light to get it done, do it.
Randy - marry rich.

Deepika Shetty beautifully managed the moderating, leaving the audience again feeling that an hour was not enough. just not enough stop listening to people with beautiful minds say beautiful things.

thus our activities for the first day came to an end leaving us tired and hungry, but impatient to get back the next day. the next day shall be described in the next post because i am NOW tired and hungry!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Catching with the Lion

oh lord! it's been centuries. I've been totally uninspired and not taken up strongly enough to write about anything at all. the Galle Literary Festival was absolutely amazing (definitely on the first although less so on the subsequent days) and i definitely found myself inspired. at least for the moment.

i am right now in some remote corner of kalubowila, in a huge house, and a relatively small room cramped full of sound equipment, watching three middle aged (in caution) men stamp the floor and jump up and down around a mic half wispering, half screaming "rung dha gath gunda" something something... ignoring the fact that they look pretty dumb immitating a tribal dance in denims, absurdly tight t-shirts, numerous chains and bracelets plus sunglasses (the room is pretty dark mind you!) the whole thing is quite dramatic. the dim lights and the low sinister hum of the airconditioner adds to this, and it's almost possible, with a little stretching of the imagination to see a dark night, a gloomy forest, the trees dripping with the Lion King's tears of anguish, and the three fugitives, running away from their only protection, while the spirits of the underbush swiftly follow... hunting them unseen.

Sinhabahu. the tale of our origin. in english. the topic was raised at the festival last week that people have a notion that english theatre in Sri Lanka is not as rich as the Sri Lankan theatre. there were many in the gathering to agree and just as many to disagree. i think it's a two way thing. as is everything else. the sinhala language is much more developed than english, and it follows that the stories tend to be more effective since the script is more effective. yet on the other hand, the english theatre, in it's production tends to be more versatile and thus creative, making the experience of watching the play more entertaining on the whole. this particular production uses a translation of the original script by Ediriweera Sarachchandra, combined with a completely new soundtrack and a fusion of dance styles. the point being to retain as much of the original production as possible, without boring a modern crowd.

i must deter at this point to say that rehearsal has become quite hilarious right now. The Lion is overdramatizing to the point that he is melodramatic and Suppa Devi (his queen) is quite calm and lacking any sort of drama. the end result is a totally meaningless dialogue which sounds like parts of two separate conversations cut and pasted together. director Dharmajith now asks us what we think... a question greeted by absolute silence and suppressed histerical laughter.. that told, back to the original line of conversation.

the original line of conversation. i can't really remember. so let's forget it. I've got a tonne of stuff I've promised myself to do before the end of the week, but it looks like my mothers plans for me might ruin all that, but we'll see.

and thus, after some MONTHS, i greet you (nobody) with another totally uneventful and boring post about nothing, and then take my leave... to watch some more hilarious recording and day dream about... he he...