Remembering Mahagama Sekara and his halo | Page 2 | Daily News
44th death anniversary falls today

Remembering Mahagama Sekara and his halo

My good friend Mahagama Sekara (April 7, 1929 – January 14, 1976) left a wealth of invaluable literary creations that need close scrutiny or rediscovery on the part of the present day literati. His halo of innumerable works encircles aspects such as poetry, lyrics, novels, short stories, essays, parables, paintings and cinematic works. His creations, though made an impact on the literary scene of the yesteryear, had not emerged lasting impact on the present day due to several factors.

This concept of rediscovery was taken into consideration by students of journalism and communication studies students as a creative project on a January 14 a few years ago. The venue was Thunman Handiya, Radawana, well known for his cinematic work based on his own novel of the same title, and directed by himself. The diploma students were assigned to study all the works by Mahagama Sekara to fulfil their rediscovery.

Sekara emerged into the literary scene via a translation of Conan Doyle while engaging himself as a teacher of art and literature bearing a teacher training certificate. But he gradually addressed other branches such as writing poetry for children and drawing honourary sketches for various newspapers and periodicals.

Having gone through the teaching process for a few years, Sekara was attached to the then Official Languages Department as a translator. This was a fitting place for him to acquire more knowledge on literary works. He excelled in translations, and to his credit I found one of the rare articles written by Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy translated by him into Sinhala.

This was yet another point of illumination in his career where he was drawn towards aesthetics and the study of cross-cultural nuances. Sekara had the good chance of ascending into the media field where he was a scriptwriter attached to the SLBC Sinhala Broadcasting Service.

His joint efforts with Maestro Amaradeva (who passed away four years ago) resulted in the birth of some of the best songs available today via a music programme called Madhuwanti. Sekara was the lyric writer par excellence and Amaradeva was the melody maker par excellence. This amalgamation was an epoch-making event in the media history of our country.

Then comes his period of literary works culminating in such genres as novel, short story, free verse (resembling Eliot’s Wasteland) and the cinematic works. Sekara was an indefatigable creator who knew the aspects of the changing village and the process of modernization remarkably recreated in such works as Nomiyemi and Prabuddha. There were several other poetic works as well of a different nature. One good example is Heta Irak Payai.

He was creatively influenced by the Orient as well as by the Occident. But above all the local folklore was his forte. He had carefully and sensitively captured the essence of the Sinhala ballads based on the Jataka tales. These works were popular among the masses when he was a young man. In turn they influenced him for his own creations. How very wonderful and resourceful!

Recently I received a 76-page poetic work by a contemporary Sinhala poet named Kumara Kaviraja. To my surprise the work is centred round the works of Mahagama Sekara, where the poet Kaviraja addresses Sekara in the form of an intimate letter. The work is titled as Sekarata Gamen Liyumak (A Letter to Sekara from the Village).

Kaviraja tries to capture the foresights held by Sekara before his death. It was the foresight of a poet who knew the changes that would take place in his hometown, closer to Thunman Handiya. The poet Kaviraja in his technique of presentation resembles the sensitivity of Sekara, where a layer of humanism is blended with a layer of human humour.

Kaviraja alludes several scenes, characters and events to those found in the works of Sekara. This makes the reader feel that Sekara has gone away from his hometown for a brief period and returned to see the changes one fine day. Kaviraja alludes to the glory of the nature that Sekara saw and visualizes in a mood of sorrow the plight of change, reminding us of the religious concept of transience.

I found the work of Kaviraja as a tribute to Sekara. This paves the way for our students to visualize the various nuances of the past and present.

The image of the creator Sekara is depicted as a vibrant figure, a giant icon, standing on a mount listening to what the poet today has to say. In fact the work of Kaviraja is just not a letter to Sekara, but a letter written to mankind from another standpoint. Man has changed in terms of development. His thoughts and intimacies have changed. Family patterns have changed.

The creative lessons abound on matters taught by our masters of sociology, communication and literature.

This indeed is a variant from the common type of poetic writings one comes across today. As such it deserves special attention.

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