Felicitations to a cinema virtuoso | Daily News
Jaffna International Cinema Festival honours KS Sivakumaran

Felicitations to a cinema virtuoso

In Sri Lanka, always known to be in the ‘developing’ region, the Sri Lankanness is still a privileged status to attain. Sri Lankan citizens still cling to their respective ethnic groups without much consideration of a collective feeling. In such a backdrop, it is significant to assess the exposure given to Tamil cultural works and its authors in the national media. Of course, the media pays scant attention to the cultural edifice of a mainstream language in the country.

This is probably because Tamil cultural activities are conducted in that language and the fact that Tamil scholars are scarce in the country. The cultural elite of the country is mostly bilingual, versed in Sinhala and English, but not trilingual enough to master Tamil.

Critics in the calibre of KS Sivakumaran, therefore, needs more limelight discussion as they are trilingual, versed in Sinhala, English and Tamil. Octogenarian Sivakumaran has played an active role in national media as a journalist, broadcaster, translator and literary and film critic. Siva, as he is fondly known in the journalist fraternity, has succeeded in filling a void. He took us to the unfamiliar territory of Tamil literary scene and brought interesting facets of his native culture to the English reader. Siva’s role was not confined to that territory. A dedicated cinephile, Siva expanded his scholastic focus into South Asian cinema drawing insights from the Hollywood. A serious study of cinema is a requirement, and critics like Sivakumaran take the reins.

This aspect of the Sivakumaran corpus drew attention as he was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award at the sixth Jaffna International Cinema Festival (JICF) recently.

Over the past five years, the JICF has recognised and felicitated great personalities who had made invaluable and long-lasting contributions to Sri Lankan cinema. KS Sivakumaran was the chosen virtuoso at the sixth edition of the JICF on the grounds that he stands a pioneering figure in the world of arts and letters, a person who helped to introduce the Tamil-speaking literati to the Sinhala-speaking world and contributed on cinema as a journalist and a critic who enriched the understanding of the Tamil world thus helping build bridges.

Sivakumaran had every reason to be elated to gain this recognition. He considers it a double honour especially since he received it in Jaffna, the northern peninsular.

“This cultural bridge between the north and the South and communities must be made stronger. We may belong to different ethnic groups. But there should be a unity in this diversity. That is what the country needs right now,” Sivakumaran said.

Born on October 1, 1936, KS Sivakumaran hails from and had his education in Puleeyantheevu in Batticaloa. Moving to Colombo, he studied at Colombo Hindu College and St Joseph’s College, Colombo. He graduated with a BA in English, Tamil and Western Classical Culture from the University of Peradeniya. He received his Master’s Degree from the University of Chennai along with numerous diplomas in the arts and film studies.

Siva has been engaged in the arts for more than 65 years authoring more than 45 books in Tamil and English. As a journalist, he worked in both English and Tamil newspapers such as The Island, Daily News and Virakesari. He held the position of the Senior Editor at Navamani newspaper. He was a relief announcer in English and Tamil, and Duty Editor (Tamil) attached to the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. He has worked as a translator in various capacities, advertising and other places of the private sector.

He has also been a visiting lecturer in journalism at the University of Colombo, Aquinas College. He has also lectured on Translation Studies at the Universities of Kelaniya and Jaffna. Since a tender age, Sivakumaran demonstrated a keen interest in cinema. He was a member of the ‘Cinema 16 Society’, ‘Film Critics and Journalist Association’ and OCIC. He was a radio film critic in the 1950s and 1960s in Tamil and English.

The OCIC too has honoured him with a lifetime award, recognizing his contribution. He has written several articles for English and Tamil newspapers following visits made to international film festivals in India. The Goa International Film Festival and the International Film Festival of Kerala stand significant. Among his books, ‘On Films Seen’, ‘Padimangal, Cinema’, ‘Ugalavalm’ and ‘Thirapada Thurayil’ are noteworthy. Sivakumaran also writes short stories and poems in both English and Tamil. Irumai and Ulaviyat Sirukathaikal are two of his collections of short stories in Tamil.

Holistically, KS Sivakumaran’s work seems to explain the literary frame in terms of Sri Lanka’s prevalent ideological phenomenon. He grasps the literary form on a formal structure. According to Hungarian Marxist critic, George Lukacs, the truly social element in any literature is form. The Sivakumaran corpus of literary and cinema criticism, therefore, deserves an interpretative study.