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K.S.Sivakumaran's columns!

Mallikai Annual (2003) documents 
Lankan Thamil literature! 

by K.S. Sivakumaran 

K.S.SivakumaranRight now, apart from the four dailies in Thamil (Thinakutal, Virakesari, Sudar Oli and Thinakaran from Colombo and Uthayan from Yaalpanam. They all have their Sunday editions ), there are a number of tabloids like Thinamurasu, Senthanal, and others, there are also regional papers and tabloids and magazines published in the north, east, hill country and Colombo in Thamil. There are also some literary journals published in Vavuniya, Yalpanam, Thirukoanamalai, Kalmunai and Mattakalappu.

From Colombo and Mahanuwara a few literary magazines are being published: Mallikai, Gnanam,Yatra, Kolunthu, Oalai are among such magazines that I have glanced and gleaned.

For this week column, may I spotlight on on one of the articles in Dominic Jeeva's ( 78 ) magazine Mallikai's Annual 2003. Mallikai is entering its 40th year of publication with its forthcoming Annual in January 2005

This little magazine began its publication in Yaalpanam in mid 1970s and is now being printed in Colombo. 

Although the editor is a long standing Marxist writer and editor, even other progressive writers who may not subscribe to his stance of an earlier Soviet Communism, continues to patronise this journal. I preasume that most of our readers would know that Dominic Jeeva is of a proletarian origin owning then a barber saloon in Yaalpanam has now grown into a major writer in Thamil. 
He is an award winning writer with several publications to his credit.

He is also a major publisher of books. Dominic Jeeva, though lacking an academic background is a humanist, lover of the humankind and a concerned writer for the pitiable human condition. He is very concerned in promoting healthier, saner relationship with the majority of writers in this country, who write in Sinhala. 

He publishes translations of Sinhala writing, and adorn the cover picture of his magazine Mallikai with photographs of wrtiters and artistes in the Sinhala language. 

In fact, one of the publications of his establishment - Mallikai Pandal - is a collection of short stories translated from Sinhala. 

Despite its shortcomings as an academic journal ( even though it includes articles of academic interest ), Dominc Jeeva could be called an ' unacknowledged professor ' for the simple reason that he reads and thinks and writes with a clear mind and the result is very profound thoughts.

But his style reflects his childlike and not childish makeup. When he speaks, he sounds arrogant, but within him lies the gentle heart of an innocent child. 
Contemporary theatre in Thamil there are some very informative aricles in the 2003 Annual of Mallikai. In this isssue, the article by P. Iraghuvaran gives a brief historical account of theatrical activities in Thamil in this country, even though it is not an exhaustive piece. Some excerpts: 

Paavalar Thuraiappa Pillai may be considered a pioneer in writing a prose like play titled Gunasambannan. This was written in 1905. 

The late Kalai Arasu Sornalingam formed a dramatic society known as Lanka Subotha Vilasa Sabai and produced Thamilnadu plays by Bammal Sambandha Mudaliyar in various parts of Sri Lanka. 

He had a middle class audience. His adaptations to suit the Lankan audiences paid attention to the structure of the plays in presentation.

From historical and mythical themes, and translations, particularly of Shakespeare's plays, the plays produced by Sornalingam then began to evolve in direction of realism. But he didn't pay any attention to Lankan experience nor did he write any original plays. To him theatre was only a means to be entertained and a form of recreation. 

The period 1930-1950 saw the emergence of naturalistic and realistic plays in Thamil with the local idiom and accent with the arrival of Kanapathipillai. He was professor in Thamil in the Univeristy of Ceylon. His plays used local Yalpanam dialect in a refined manner. 

They were not mere entertainers but also thought provoking depiction of social issue. A popular play of this don was Udayar Middukku, which portrayed the deceipt of the naive by unscrupulus politicians. The playwright's Duroh, and Sundaram Enge have not been published in book form. His Sankiliyan, which was used as a text for university students,is a protest play against colonialism. 
The Lankan Thamil theatre began to experiment with western stagecraft and themes from the late 1960s and the 1970s. In the same strain, the late S.Vithiananathan revived folk plays in modernistic garb. This stylized and modern trends were utilized by Maunaguru, Tarcisius, N.Suntharalingam and others. 

Zuhair Hameed adapted western playwrights and brought in a new dimension to the stagecraft of Thamil theatre in the country. The traditional folk theatrical devices were incorporated in plays like Apasuram and Vilippu by N. Suntharalingam and Sankaram by Maunaguru. 

Another trend was using the poetic elements in social plays. R.Murugaiyan's Kadooliyam (directed by N.Suntharalingam ) and Kodai and Puthiyathore Veedu (directed by Tarsicius were such plays. 

The racial assaults on the Thamils in Colombo in 1977 and 1983 compelled the artistes to run away to Yaalpanam. The theatrical activities of the Thamils in the cosmopolitan city of Clombo came to naught. However, drama and theatre came to be studied in the university in Yaalpanam. Also Kulanthai M.Shanmugalingam esatablished a school for theatre and drama in 1978 and K.Balendra formed his The Performing Art Society in 1979. 

The latter presented to the Thamil audience some of the best western plays. Besause of the intervention of the armed forces this society couldn't function after the horrendous 1983. 

Shanmugalingam's school came into the orbit of the armed forces in 1985. So he had to function from the outside. 

He wrote a play called Mun Sumantha Meaniyar and K.Sithamparanathan directed this play. It has been staged over 60 times in the Yaalpanam peninsula. The advent of the IPKF in 1987 retarded the progress of any cultural activities in the north. Problems in the field of education and gender themes came to be the main subjects of the plays by Kulanthai Shanmugalingam. His plays were directed by Sithamparanathan and Francis Jenam.

In the East, Maunaguru used dancing and songs for his experimental plays mainly meant for the children. His Malai and Nammai Pidditha Pisasukal were such plays. It is said that Koodi Vilayadu Paapa (1979) by Shanmugalingam was the first children's play writen in Sri Lankan Yaalpanam dialect and idiom. 
Children's theatre in Thamil came to flourish with the plays by Maunaguru which included Thappi Vantha Thaadi Aadu,Vedarai Uchchiya Vellai Purakkal. 
In 1978, Tarcisius used to visit Yaalpanam and train youngsters in pursuit of their theatrical career. His production of Poruthathu Poathum grabbed many prizes including for best acting by Francis Jenam,at the national level.

The 1980s was essentially an era of Kulanthai Shanmugalingan's plays in Yaalpanam. In the 1990s more realistic plays were produced. C.Jeyashankar, K.Rathidharan, Johnson, P.Iraghuvaran came to be noticed. Rathidharan's plays Cycle, Andaveli, Mala Neekam were notable plays. Kulanthai Shanmugalingam formed his Nataka Veedu and began to write realistic plays and staged them. 
His Enthaiyum Thaayum was one such play. His psychological play based on the cruelty of war was titled Annai Idda Thee. His play Vealvi Thee depicts the conflict in the aftermath of sexual assault on a woman by the armed forces. 
Thirumalai Kala Mantram produced plays depicting the problems the Thamil people face and staged them in Colombo, and in European countrie
Similarly Tarcisius directed Enthaiyum Thaayum in London. This was also staged in a tour by Lankan Thamil dramatists in India. C.Jeyasankar has directed Nilanthan's Ahathikalin Kathai, Yuthathin Naatkal, Naveena Paspa Maa Sooran. Jeyashankar's plays Canteen, DhammaDuvieepathin Kathai

Thee Sumanthore came to be reckoned and the last mentioned play had been staged in Yaalpanam for more than 15 times. Theatrical activities continue in Yaalpanam with T. Devanand. The street theatre that began in the 1980s continued through the 1990s. 

The above is a summary of what Iraghuvaran has writtren in Mallikai annual 2003. The writer has left out the theatrical activities of theatre enthusiasts like Anthony Jeeva, Robert, Matale Karthigesu, Kalai Chelvan ,Maana Mackeen and many others in Colombo who did not have the backing of the ' academic critics'. 

I don't balme him because he may not have been born when these plays were produced. In the same way, having lived in Colombo, I didn't have the opportunity to see plays produced in Yaalpanam and Mattakalppu and other Thamil speaking areas. 

A medley of useful read 

Some of the other articles in this annual are also of interest : Lankan Contemporary Poetry as Protest Literature by S. Yogarasa, Lost Lyrical Melodies should be Revived by Raja Sri Kanthan, Women's liberation and Today's literary trends by Chandrakantha Muruganandan, Pioneer Artistes and writers in Nawalapitiya by B.Abdeen, Islamic and Muslim Literature by Dickwella Kamal, Lankan Pioneer Novelists in Thamil ( 1856-1940 ) by Sengai Aaliyan K.Gunarasa, On Lnkan Tamil Short Stories by Sitpi Siva Sravana Bhavan, On Post Modernism by M. Anatharatchakan, The Socila perspective of Alagu Subramaniam by A.Kandiah, Lankan Teleplays in Thamil by Turai Manoharan, Whither Thamil by N. Somakanthan, A note on Ladis Weramani by Anthony Jeeva. Besides these there are some fine short stories, poems and columns by reputed writers in this annual. 

Contact: kssivan316@hotmail.com 

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