“Primitives, Pioneers and Places of Cinema in Colonial Ceylon (Sri Lanka)” by V. Tampoe-Hautin

We would like to warmly thanks Dr Vilasnee TAMPOE-HAUTIN, Senior Lecturer in British and Commonwealth Civilisations at université de La Réunion (France) and member of Centre des Recherches Littéraires et Historiques de l’Océan Indien (CRLHOI), to publish in our website her article intitled  “Primitives, Pioneers and Places of Cinema in Colonial Ceylon (1890-1940)”.


About the author

Vilasnee Tampoe-Hautin is Senior Lecturer at the University of La Réunion, where she obtained her PhD, Cinéma, Colonialisme et Identité: naissance et développement du cinéma au Sri Lanka (1896-1966), in 2009, under the supervision of Jacques Tual. Her research focuses primarily on the history of Sri Lankan cinema, its genesis and evolution during British colonization. She also investigates into the socio-cultural and political movements of 19th century Ceylon, including the colonial press, in relation to nascent cinema. Her interest in cinema derives from her father Robin Tampoe, and her grandfather, W.M.S. Tampoe who were pioneers of Sinhala cinema during its formative period (1947-1967). She is the author of a number of books in English and in French, published between 2008 and 2013. These include two biographies, Robin Tampoe: Last of the Big Ones, (2008), Sumitra Peries, Sri Lankan Filmmaker: poetess of Sinhala cinema (2011), and a two-volume study of Sri Lankan cinema, published by L’Harmattan in 2011, Cinéma et Colonialisme: la genèse du cinéma au Sri Lanka (de 1896 à 1928), and Cinéma et Conflits ethniques au Sri Lanka: vers un cinéma cinghalais “indigène” (de l’indépendance en 1948 à nos jours).Her forthcoming book, Ethnicity, Politics and Cinema in Sri Lanka (1900-1967). From global to gama, casting a celluloid mould from Sinhala cinema, focuses on the structuring of Sinhala-language cinema in colonial and post-independent Sri Lanka.


As in most parts of the world, film exhibition in Sri Lanka began during the late 19th century, though pre-cinematographic forms and experiences have been recorded from 1896 onwards. In fact, cinema came to round off an array of technological inventions that characterized the early and mid-19th century, including the printing press, the telegraph, photography, the electric bulb, the revolver and the phonograph to name a few innovations. Beyond inventiveness lay an acute flair for business displayed by French and Anglo Saxon inventors, whose ranks were soon joined by Indian businessmen during the first quarter of the 20th century. So great was their enthusiasm to spread the new technology that a number countries became familiar with the moving image within the first few years of its invention. Newspaper advertisements indicate that urban-dwelling Ceylonese were already accustomed to all manner of entertainment such as folk dramas, circuses, puppet and ventriloquist shows, choruses and operas. These were held in the Colombo Fort, the financial heart of the city. The Fort, also called Malvatta or Flower Garden in Sinhalese, was under military command, and the local name derived from a species of trees, the Suriya, that grew in the vicinity, and whose flowers provided the raw material for a cottage industry.  Before cinema, the Fort had courted a diversity of shows, performed under tents and pavilions. To these would soon be added the moving image. Members of both the expatriate and local English-speaking bourgeoisie patronized these spectacles, as they lived in close proximity.

On the 8th of January 1898, the Daily News in Ceylon reported that the Lumière operators would organize a film show in Colombo, using the cinématographe[1]. The same year, viewers were treated to the two-reelers entitled Greek-Turkish War[2] and English Cricket Players.[3] Edison’s kinetoscope, was also known to have entertained the Ceylonese, and for the price of five cents, the public could watch pictures of Buckingham Palace or the revered places of Buddhist worship[4]. From 1874 to 1895, night shows were possible through the use of gaslights, until they were replaced by electric-powered lighting in urban areas.  Electricity represented a major asset for the commercial exploitation of cinema. These occasional screenings were at first merely accompaniments to existing shows, but as the animated image took its place in this arena of leisure time activities, it would soon overtake them in popularity. Sometime between 1901 and 1904, the first official presentation of the moving image in Ceylon was held. Newsreels were shown featuring Queen Victoria’s funeral, and the ascension of Edward VII to the English throne.[5] The event was organized under the aegis of the Governor of the colony, Sir Joseph West Ridgeway, and came a few years after the discovery of the Lumière Brothers’ short films, by a Parisian public on 28th December 1895.[6] A striking feature of the Colombo screening was the projection of a multiple-episode newsreel on the British victory of the Boer War to an audience comprising South African prisoners who had been deported to Ceylon, at the turn of the 20th century.[7]  The Public Hall, situated at Hyde Park Corner in Colombo was another early venue of cinema[8]. Dating from the mid-19th century, the auditorium had been used for a various functions. The Ceylon Examiner of 29th September 1899 carries an advertisement for a film screened at the Public Hall, The Convict’s Escape, comprising “120 Living Pictures”. Tickets cost between one and three rupees and the show began at 9 p.m. The Public Hall would later become the Empire Picture Palace, and Ceylon’s first fully-fledged cinema hall[9].

PIX 00 Madan - Public Hall

PHOTO 1: : An advertisement for early bioscope, organized by Madan Theatres at the Public Hall, Colombo

In August 1907, animated photographs called Leonard’s Beautiful Pictures were projected; this collection of moving images was described as “both educational and entertaining, a real discovery in the art of cinema…” The announcement moreover vaunted viewing comfort obtained by electric fans.[10]

PIX 1 Ad for Leonards  copy

PHOTO 2::  An advertisement for Leonard’s Beautiful Pictures, Ceylon Examiner, 24th August 1907

Regular bioscope sessions for the general public were organized at the Bristol Hotel, in the heart of the city of Colombo, where currently the restaurant Pagoda stands. [11] In 1907, The Bristol Hotel presented Living London to Colombo residents[12]. The curtains rose at 9.30pm, and for a price of between one and three rupees, patrons were treated to a film as well as to other forms of entertainment. Another early venue of cinema was the Grand Oriental Hotel, also located in the Fort area, facing the Colombo harbour. At the time, The Grand Oriental was considered as one of the most luxurious hotels in the East. In Bombay, the historic beginnings of cinema took place in a similar hotel, the celebrated Watson Hotel, which Mark Twain described as a “bird’s cage”. This was followed by regular bioscope projections at the Novelty Theatre.[13]



PHOTO 3:  The Pagoda (today) at Chatham Street Colombo Fort

PIX 2 bis Ad for Liv

PHOTO 3 bis: An Advertisement for Living London, shown at the Pagoda in 1907


PIX 3 bis GOH 1920ss copy

PHOTO 4:  The Grand Oriental Hotel, facing the Colombo Harbour, in the Fort area

In the vanguard of early cinema was A.W.A. Andree, who had also been requested by the British colonial administration to organize the first official presentation of the moving image. Andree was born in Jaffna, in the northern part of Sri Lanka, to a Part-European father, and a mother belonging to the Jaffna middle class. This local photographer of repute was moreover the first Ceylonese to have formed a local film company, Coric Bioscope[14] in 1903.[15] In addition to his talents with the still camera, Andree had a flair for business, getting down a projector from overseas and acquiring an auditorium to show silent films from Europe.[16]  The motion picture had begun to woo crowds, including those from the lower rungs of colonial society who were already adept followers of Parsi plays and popular Sinhala and Tamil dramas. The monopoly of early film exhibition and importation was in the hands of Andree, a dynamic entrepreneur who used the Fort area as his base until his death in 1910.[17]  Warwick Majors, an Englishman, planted another flag in the name of cinema, again in the Colombo Fort. This is where the Regal cinema would later rise in the mid 1930s. Majors was a known figure of early colonial cinema, having already refurbished the Electric Theatre in Madras, and established a film business in the Tamil Nadu capital in 1913.[18] Majors’ too drew crowds to his makeshift cinema shelter, the Belek Hall erected near the Maradana railway station.[19] J. F Madan, a Parsi film magnate, and former stage actor, would later demolish this structure and build the elegant Elphinstone Hall in its place. Madan’s network of cinema auditoriums spread across northern India and the colonies, a number of them carrying the name Elphinstone. With Madan’s 1920 quasi-total take over of the cinema business in Ceylon, Colombo was offered well equipped halls, including the Empire and the Elphinstone which today bear testimony to the glittering splendour of a bygone age[20].


2 001 copy

PHOTO 5: The Empire Theatre in Colombo


PIX 4 Elphinstone

PHOTO 5 bis: The Elphinstone Theatre, Colombo built by J.F. Madan in 1926


PIX 4bis

PHOTO 5 ter : Madan’s bust is displayed on the façade.


PHOTO 6: The Regal Colombo, another cinema hall dating back to the 1930s, refurbished under Sir Abraham Gardiner

Ambulant cinema was developed by resourceful pioneers who aimed at exposing rural inhabitants of Ceylon to bioscope. Reels on wheels were thus set in motion in Ceylon around December 1909. This was when the Noorbhai-owned London Bioscope Company screened films outdoors, using tents supplied by a German resident of Ceylon, C. Wagner.[21] Nevertheless, the most illustrious example of roving cinema entrepreneurship in Ceylon comes from Andreas Van Starrex[22]. Hailing from a family of mixed Dutch-Sinhala origins, Andreas Van Starrex is in fact emblematic of diligent and imaginative entrepreneurship in both sedentary and nomadic cinema.[23] Van Starrex’s mobile cinema shows were veritable excursions into the unknown. Hunters accompanied the Imperial Talkies team, recruited for their shooting skills. Their ability to bring back enough game to feed the members was as important as their capacity to operate the projectors and survive the rigours of nature. Imperial Talkies, the company he founded in the mid 1920s reached out to villages in the remote areas of the island, often surrounded by jungle, their itineraries subjected to the vagaries of the tropical climate, especially the monsoon rains. While continuing his ambulant cinema, Andreas Van Starrex built a number of cinema halls of which the elegant Imperial at Balangoda. This enabled him to cater to an expanding market of colonial and middle-class audiences. His fixed cinema abodes would continue to function long after roving cinema ceased to exist from the mid 1970s.


PIX 6 Imperial Balangoda

PHOTO 7: Imperial Theatre, at Balangoda. Andreas Van Starrex and theatre staff and other associates (circa 1930s ?)

The first film companies in Ceylon date back to the first decade of the 20th century, as the Ceylon Morning Leader of February 1908 reports that the number of such companies had risen, even prompting rivalry and competition. The growing popularity of cinema as a new mode of entertainment signified that tents, show booths and cinema sheds would soon cede to buildings specifically designed for cinema usage. C. Wagner, a German resident of Colombo, established the Olympia Bioscope Company, and later acquired Coric Bioscope[24]. Wagner imported films from India in association with T. Noorbhai, a Ceylonese of Indian origin. With Coric Bioscope came Wagner’s appointment as the manager of the celebrated Tower Hall, soon to be converted into a cinema hall. The move from theatre to film gave more momentum to the growth of cinema in Ceylon and widened the perspectives of Tower Hall, though it would deal a temporary blow to Sinhala drama.  During the initial decades of the 20th century, T.A.G. Noorbhai extended his activities to the production and distribution of films, through his Fort-based company London Bioscope Co. Noorbhai bought cinemas, including the Criterion Hall in Colombo which he renamed The Olympia. Destined exclusively for cinema use, the Olympia opened its doors on the 15th July 1918. Until 1924, it screened Indian and British films at the rate of three shows a day. Another more significant milestone was the presentation in 1922 of a 10-minute religious film at Noorbhai’s Plaza. The main focus of the film was Anagarika Dharmapala patriot, philosopher and adulated hero of the Sinhala nationalist cause. The film also featured Buddhist prelates attending a ceremony at the Dharmaraja temple in India where the sacred relics of the Buddha were exposed[25].

The exclusively Euro-Ceylonese domination of cinema came to an end with the ascension of the Calcutta-based film magnate J. F. Madan. From 1902, his company Madan Theatres Ltd. grew unhindered and by the mid 1930s, an impressive network of cinemas and distribution circuits came under its wing, extending from the major Indian cities to the colonial capitals in the region[26]. This dynamism would soon spill over to the island colony of Ceylon where subsequent to his first visit in 1903, and with the help of local Parsis, J.F. Madan set up a Colombo branch, Madan Film Enterprises. Ceylon would thus come under Madan’s influence in the area of distribution and exhibition as he renovated or erected a number of cinema halls in the island. Having used the Public Hall to exhibit what were some of the first films to be imported into the island. Madan gave it a new name –the Empire Theatre. [27] Madan’s influence radiated from the capital city to Nuwara Eliya, a balmy hill resort in the central highlands of Ceylon, and home to what was considered as the world’s finest tea. This is where the Parsi businessman built the Clifford Pavillion and the Palace Hall. Nuwara Eliya, endowed with a cool, clement climate had become a small, but important, hub of commercial activity. The presence of affluent planter families as well as the Kandyan aristocracy no doubt encouraged the establishment of cinema halls in this high altitude town[28].

Until 1925, there was no local production of film, nor any that focussed on Ceylon. Two exceptions to this barrenness are A Ramble Through Ceylon, shot in 1907 by Charles Urban’s operators, and a few scenes devoted to Ceylon in Thomas Edison’s Curious Scenes from India (1903). It would a few more decades for filmmakers to evince any durable interest in the island colony, beginning with Basil Wright of the British Documentary Movement and Robert Flaherty whose offer to make a documentary on Ceylon was turned down by the Ceylonese during the 1940s. As evidenced by advertisements appearing in the local newspapers, the 1920s and 1930s were characterized by a growing interest for US films.[29] As cinema entrepreneurs imported films, they likewise kept abreast of the technological advances made in the West, especially the invention of sound. In India, as sound entered the hitherto silent world of the moving image, a number of avenues opened up for film producers, such as the inclusion of dialogue, song and music in Hindi movies[30]. In Ceylon however, due to technical problems, compounded by geographical distance, the impact of “talkies” did not resonate as quickly as it did in India. The first film with a sound track, Jazz Singer (1928), directed by Alan Crossland, was shown in India but opinions differ on the question of its release in Ceylon. But we do know that the audiences in Colombo were presented with Melody of Love in 1929, the second production to have marked the era of sound.[31] This musical comedy without dialogue was imported by Madan Theaters Ltd and shown at the Empire Theatre in July 1929[32]. The popularity of motion pictures from Europe and the US continued well into the 1930s : according to the Ceylon Observer of 3rd May 1928, Colombo audiences were shown Moon of Israel, (1919), through Madan’s Indian circuit. The film was based on Sir H. Rider Haggard’s novel, released two years previously, and then screened at the Empire Theatre Colombo, exclusively during the Holy Week.[33]


PHOTO 8: Advertisement for Moon of Israel, released through Madan Theatres Ltd circuit.

In the absence of a local production, Indian and American films were occasionally presented simultaneously to audiences: Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra accompanied Charlie Chaplin’s two-reeler, Gold Rush (1925). The Ceylon Observer of June 1928 carries advertisements for Fantomas (1913), F. Richard Jones’ Gaucho (1927), starring Douglas Fairbanks and United Artists’ The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926), directed by Henry King.[34]  American idol’s visit to Ceylon during this period increased enthusiasm for American films. Madan Theatres released these films at the Elphinstone Picture Palace and Empire Theatre in Colombo.

On the 11th of January 1931, Chaplin’s silent movie, Good Night Charlie or A Night Out (1915) was shown at the Elphinstone, Colombo. The same year, local audiences were treated to Wonderful Night (1922) by Stuart Paton and James Flood’s Man without a Conscience (1925). Indian cinema likewise gained in popularity, as evidenced by the remarkable and unexpected success of Chinthamani, released at the Elphinstone in 1936. Newspapers of January of that year relate the outstanding performance at the box office of this South Indian film, with a twenty-four consecutive week run.[35] The previous year attested to the release of Ceylon’s first film in Tamil, Nalla Thangai, though it failed to attract audiences, prefiguring the destiny of Sri Lankan Tamil films.  It was amidst this influx of foreign imports that attempts were made to shoot ‘local’ films in Ceylon. T.A.G. Noorbhai’s Royal Adventure/Rajakeeya Wickrama (1925) is Ceylon’s first silent movie, an important landmark in the history of Sri Lankan cinema. Indeed, Royal Adventure was the first film to cumulate Indian know-how and Ceylonese talent. In the absence of cinema infrastructure in colonial Ceylon, post-production for Royal Adventure was carried out in Bombay. Due to high costs, only one copy of Royal Adventure was ordered. A number of sources agree today that although the film was shown in India, it perished in a fire in Singapore before its arrival in Ceylon, a criminal act allegedly perpetrated by Noorbhai’s detractors[36].

Moreover, Ceylon became the focus of European documentary filmmakers, with Basil Wright’s Song of Ceylon (1934). Presented in London in 1935, the documentary is considered to be a jewel in the crown of the British Documentary Movement. After Song of Ceylon came W. J. Edward’s twenty-five minute silent film, Revenge/Palli Ganeema. Falling under the category of early Ceylonese films, Revenge was released on the 19th of May 1936 at the now defunct Gaiety Theatre in Colombo.[37] During the 1930s, Madan’s cinema halls were gradually equipped with sound. Madan pursued the policy of exhibiting imported American films to Ceylonese audiences. In April 1934, Colombo boasted four major cinemas: the Regal, Majestic Talkies, the Empire and the Elphinstone. The Capitol Theatre showed American films, of which Son of Tarzan (1920) as well as the D.W. Griffith’s second sound film, Abraham Lincoln (1930). An earlier production, Fighting Blood (1911) was released at the Olympia Theatre[38]. From thesthe was destined to become a release centre for British or US films. In  it showed and by as well as ’s  The Capitol of Colombo on the other hand scheduled Hindi talkies: Sati Son contained 18 songs, and its popularity in Ceylon provoked some anxiety amongst Buddhist ecclesiastics.

A new chapter opened in the history of Sri Lankan cinema when Noorbhai attempts to rehoist his business following the tragic loss of Royal Adventure. He approached three other Ceylonese, Alfred Leo Thambaiah, Manuel Saverimuththu and Chittampalam Gardiner with the offer of floating a new company to import films (serials) from India. But again, Noorbhai’s death in 1938 brought this partnership to an end[39].  The 1930s witnessed the ascension of Sir Gardiner and the establishment of Ceylon Theaters Ltd, the first local film production and distribution company. Sir Chittampalam Abraham Gardiner bought, built or acquired existing cinema halls, notably those belonging to Madan. Gardiner later rebuilt the Regal cinema and in the subsequent years, his company took over the Olympia, the Plaza and the Chitra cinemas in Negombo. With its façade reminiscent of the 1930s, the Regal Colombo constitutes a rare testimony to an era of elegance and refinement. The names attributed to the major cinema halls in pre-independent Ceylon – Elphinstone, Majestic, Olympia, Plaza, Regal, Empire – reveal the way cinema carried forward imperial ideology, even when the cinema owners were Indian or Ceylonese….

PIX 8 Sir Gardiner 1939

PHOTO 9:  Sir Gardiner(1899-1960), pioneer of Sri Lankan cinema (Ceylon Observer, 1939)

 Photos and other illustrations courtesy of ANCL(Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.)



Arjuna, T.A. Shaping the Future of the Motion Picture in Sri Lanka, 2004, p. 5.

Bose, M., Bollywood, a History,: Lotus Books, 2006.

Dissanayake, W and Ratnavibhushana, A., (ed.), Profiling Sri Lankan Cinema,  Asian Film Centre, .

Farges, Joël, « Le Cinéma en Inde : Rasa Cinematographica », ch. XXIV, pp. 545-568, in L’Inde Contemporaine : de 1950 à nos jours, (dir.), C. Jaffrelot, Paris : Fayard, 1996

Farges, Joël, « Le cinéma hindi, pratique culturelle national: ses chansons, l’âme des films? » http://www.indereunion.net/IREV/karthika/feetAii.htm

Kumara, N.N. Sri Lankan Film Chronicle, Colombo : Sarasavi Publishers/Samayawardana, 2005, p. 185.

Mendis, M.R. Genesis of Sinhala Cinema, ,(Eng trans: Somachandra Wijesuriya), Colombo, Godage Books, 2007

Perera C.B. « Four Decades of Sinhala Language Cinema: An Overview», Cinesith, 1986

Savarimuththu, R., Development of Sinhala Cinema, Colombo, OCIC, 1977

Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Film Industry in Ceylon », Sessional Papers II, 1965, Government Publications Bureau, Colombo,  1965, p. 20.

S. Muthiah, «Cinema at Round Tana», website, 2003, http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/mp/2003/06/25/stories/2003062500120300.htm

Seneviratne, D.V. Chitrapata Kalava (Film Art), Maradana:Anula, 1958

Tampoe-Hautin V., « Reels on Wheels: Mobile Cinema in Rural Colonial Ceylon (1910-1974)» Asian Cinema, (eds.) I. Conrich et N. Gillet, (éds), Vol 19, n°2, Fall/Winter, Asian Cinema Studies Society, Temple University, Philadelphia, 2008, p. 77-83, op cit., p. 77.

Tampoe-Hautin, V. Cinéma et Colonialisme et la genèse du cinéma au Sri Lanka (de 1896 à 1928), Paris, L’Harmattan, collection Champs Visuels, 2011,

Ceylon Examiner, 29th  September,  1899.

Ceylon Observer, 24th August 1907.

Ceylon Observer, 3 May 1928.

Daily News, August 1898

« 75th anniversary of Ceylon Theatres Ltd » Daily News 29 September 2003

20th Anniversary (1948)

Interview with H. Van Starrex (18 June 2006 at the Hilton Colombo);


[1]  Nuwan Nayanajith Kumara, Sri Lankan Film Chronicle, Colombo : Sarasavi Publishers/Samayawardana, 2005, p. 185.

[2] The conflict broke out in 1897.

[3] Daily News, August 1898, op.cit., 2005, p. 184.

[4] The area was also referred to as Malwatta, or Flower Garden, at the time.

[5] C. B. Perera  «Four Decades of Sinhala Language Cinema: An Overview», Cinesith, 1986, p. 35.

[6] W. Dissanayake, A. Ratnavibhushana, Profiling Sri Lankan Cinema,  Asian Film Centre, .

[7] D.V. Seneviratne, Chitrapata Kalava (Film Art), Maradana:Anula, 1958, p 16.

op.cit., p. 16 ; «Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Film Industry in Ceylon», op.cit., p. 14.

[8] Ceylon Examiner, 29th  September,  1899.

[9] The Empire was operational until the late 1990s when its owners razed it to the ground to build luxury appartments its place. The tragedy of Ceylon’s first cinema hall reveals the perilous situation in which most of the remaining venues of cinema in Sri Lanka are to be found today, running the risk of being destroyed and replaced with multiplexes. Unfortunately, authorities in charge of conservation seem barely to be conscious of the importance of this cultural legacy, no doubt because of cinema’s own status as an art and industry which was imported into the island during colonial times.

[10] Ceylon Observer, 24th August 1907.

[11] T. Kariyawasam in Nuwan Nayanajith Kumara, Sri Lankan Film Chronicle, Sarasavi Publishers/Samayawardana, Colombo, 2005, p. 38.

[12] A copy of Living London was recently discovered in Sydney Australia, thought to be one of the very few which have survived the passage of time.

[13] At the time of writing, Hotel Watson is in an extremely dilapidated state, waiting for some munificent sponsor to refurbish its walls and interior.

[14] Also referred to as The Coric Bioscope Cinema Screening Company.

[15] N. N. Kumara, op.cit., ch. 14, p. 37.

[16] W. Dissanayake and A. Ratnavibushana, Profiling Sri Lankan Cinema, op.cit., p. 4. See report by T. A. Arjuna, Shaping the Future of the Motion Picture in Sri Lanka, 2004, p. 5.

[17] On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the Times of Ceylon, A.W. Andree’s son, Lawrence Andrée, paid tribute to his father who had organized early « bioscope» which were held on the first floor of the Bristol Hotel in Colombo : M.R.Mendis, Genesis of Sinhala Cinema, ,(Eng trans: Somachandra Wijesuriya), Colombo, Godage Books, 2007, p. 14.

[18] The Electric was one of the rudimentary venues of primitive cinema, destined to show silent films. It was built by W. Majors and Reginald Eyre; at the time of writing, the building still exists near Round Tana, Chennai: S. Muthiah, «Cinema at Round Tana», website, 2003, http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/mp/2003/06/25/stories/2003062500120300.htm

[19] Belek is the Sinhala word for «tin».

[20] V. Tampoe-Hautin, Cinéma et Colonialisme et. la genèse du cinéma au Sri Lanka (de 1896 à 1928), Paris, L’Harmattan, collection Champs Visuels, 2011, p 57.

[21] D. V. Seneviratne, op.cit, p. 16.

[22] While Warwick Majors is a well-known figure in cinema scholarship, the work of Van Starrex remained largely unknown and unrecognized until his son, Hans Van Starrex, who inherited his father’s film business, unravelled it recently to the author

[23] Interview with H. Van Starrex (18 June 2006 at the Hilton Colombo); also see V. Tampoe-Hautin, « Reels on Wheels: Mobile Cinema in Rural Colonial Ceylon (1910-1974)» , Asian Cinema, (eds.) I. Conrich et N. Gillet, (éds), Vol 19, n°2, Fall/Winter, Asian Cinema Studies Society, Temple University, Philadelphia, 2008, p. 77-83, op cit., p. 77.

[24] D. V. Seneviratna Chitrapati Kalava, in M.R Mendis,op.cit, p.15.

[25] R. Savarimuththu, Development of Sinhala Cinema, Colombo, OCIC, 1977, p.17.

[26] For more on J.F. Madan, see the illuminating study by Bose, M., Bollywood, a History,: Lotus Books, 2006. Also Farges, Joël, « Le Cinéma en Inde : Rasa Cinematographica », ch. XXIV, pp. 545-568, in L’Inde Contemporaine : de 1950 à nos jours, (dir.), C. Jaffrelot, Paris : Fayard, 1996; Farges, Joël, « Le cinéma hindi, pratique culturelle national: ses chansons, l’âme des films? » http://www.indereunion.net/IREV/karthika/feetAii.htm

[27] Daily News 29 September 2005, « 75th anniversary of Ceylon Theatres Ltd » relates the story of Public Hall, which became the Empire until its demolition during the 1990s.

[28] V. Tampoe-Hautin, Cinéma et Colonialisme: la genèse du cinéma au Sri Lanka (de 1896 à 1928), Paris, L’Harmattan, collection Champs Visuels, 2011, p 50.

[29] M. R. Mendis notes the increase in the size of advertisements from one column to a quarter of a page in 1928. op.cit., p. 15.

[30] For more on Indian cinema, see Joël, « Le cinéma hindi, pratique culturelle national: ses chansons, l’âme des films? »

[31] N. N. Kumara, op.cit., p. 40.

[32] C. B. Perera, art.cit., p. 34.

[33] Ceylon Observer, 3 May 1928.

[34] Ceylon Daily News, 1928.

[35] M. R. Mendis, op.cit, p. 24.

[36] Idem.

[37] The film stars N. R. Dias, Sriya Kantha, C. A. Sangapala, H. W. Sugathadasa.

[38] Idem.

[39] R. Savarimutthu, op cit, p.17.



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Their accounts cast fresh doubt on the Sri Lankan government’s claim that the rebels were killed by their own supporters and add to a growing body of evidence of war crimes allegedly committed by the Sri Lankan military during the conflict.

Via http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/witnesses-support-claim-that-sri-lanka-army-shot-prisoners-8508617.html

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Muslims must take note that based on the time tested relationship with the Buddhists in the past, the future can be chalked out together to build this nation free of extremism on all sides. In this time Muslim must extend support to the mainstream society to fight extremism in all its forms and manifestations and work with the patriotic forces in society to build this nation and to get rid of the scoundrels masquerading as patriots.

Via http://groundviews.org/2013/02/23/why-do-sri-lankan-patriots-love-social-polarisation/

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22nd February 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka: In the lead up to the 22nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) from February 25th to March 22nd 2013 there is significant reference in the media and public spaces to the Resolution on Sri Lanka which was passed at the UN HRC in March 2012. Nonetheless, there is limited awareness as to the actual content of this Resolution. CPA has put out this guide in order to provide an explanation on the Resolution and developments related to it.
Download the succinct guide here.
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This bibliography is designed to assist students and scholars who wish to explore India’s rich and varied Jewish heritage. It is also
intended for the more casual reader, especially Indian Jews themselves whether at home in India or relocated in Israel, the United States, England or Australia. It begins with Menasseh ben Israel’s 1665 book, and 2005 was selected as a point of closure.

During the early 21st century, the study of Indian Jewish communities has become mainstream as scholars of religions have become fascinated by the persistence and cultural adaptations of India’s tiniest community, and as Jewish studies scholars have sought more inclusive paradigms for understanding the Jewish Diaspora. A similar surge of interest among scholars of South Asia is just beginning, but knowledge about Judaism and Indian Jewish communities remains undeveloped, although Indian scholars have begun to contribute in significant ways to Indo-Judaic Studies.

reference: Nathan Katz, 2013, “Indian Jews : an annotated bibliography, 1665-2005”, . New Delhi : Manohar Publishers & Distributors, 154 p.

Source: H-Asia

“India: Still at the Center of the Indian Ocean” by Nilanthi Samaranayake (YaleGlobal)

Despite speculation to the contrary, India is far from losing strategic influence in the Indian Ocean region. Its security cooperation and relations with states like Sri Lanka, Maldives and Seychelles remain strong, maintains Nilanthi Samaranayake, an analyst in the Strategic Studies division at CNA, a research institute in Alexandria, Virginia. The recent cancellation of an Indian airport contract in Maldives is not of great significance in the context of longstanding ethnic and historical regional ties, India’s rising naval power, and its steady role in maritime surveillance and assistance. India cannot fund all infrastructure projects throughout the region, much of which is underdeveloped, and fully expects small nations with limited resources to accept Chinese investment funds. “Still, New Delhi should not take for granted its dominant position in the Indian Ocean,” Samaranayake advises. The best partnerships among countries are consistent, seeking the best long-term interests for the region as a whole. – YaleGlobal

to read the article click the link: http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/india-still-center-indian-ocean

source: Yaleglobal.yale.edu

“Australia is playing a dangerous game with Sri Lanka” by Stewart Motha (the Guardian)

The politics of people smuggling is hardly ever only about the people being trafficked and those exploiting their desperation. Because of its hysterical attitude to those seeking asylum, Australia has potentially walked into the trap of being held hostage by any authoritarian regime that colludes in people smuggling. The currency they will demand is a blind-eye to human rights violations, favourable diplomatic attention and security partnerships.

Via http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/21/australia-playing-dangerous-game-sri-lanka

Conference “Ethical Futures: Dialogues on state, society and ethical existence” on 15th, 16th and 17th May 2013, at ICES

Three years since the end of the war and Sri Lanka still struggles to respond to some of its long standing challenges. While there is an absence of armed conflict, there has been little progress in a realizing a just and equal society where dissent is accepted and diversity celebrated. Civil society and academia on the other hand, continue to imagine and advocate for alternative visions for the country based on an equitable distribution of resources, a respect for diverse identities, and a tolerance of dissent.

The International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) has a long commitment to the values of plurality, inclusivity, dissent and critical scholarship. Building on this legacy, the ICES will host a conference that seeks to intellectually seize the current historical juncture and to make it a site for fresh insights into the emerging socio-political and cultural configurations of post-war Sri Lankan society. Regional and international perspectives will be integrated into the discussions, enabling the Sri Lankan experience to be contextualized within larger regional and global trends.

 The conference will bring together local and internationally based scholars and artistes working on Sri Lanka and other post-war societies to create a space for dialogue and engagement. We hope that it will result in a rich body of critical literature and artwork that will contribute to the conceptualization of a more ‘just and equitable future’.

 I am writing to find out if you would be willing to present an academic paper; present an innovative narrative, performance or documentary; or be part of a panel, on any of the following broad thematic areas:

 ·         Aesthetics of dominance and resistance

·         Media, discourse and the construction of reality(ies)

·         Politics of recognition and difference

·         Political economy and distributive justice

·         Narratives of belonging and exclusion

·         Governmentality, welfare and the discourses of development

·         Faith, ideology and secularism

·         Law, legitimacy/ illegitimacy and justice/ injustice

·         Memory, memorialisation, remembering and forgetting

·         Social movements and micro politics

 The ICES is happy to consider contributions outside of these themes so long as they are within the overall framework of the conference. Attached to this mail is a more detailed note that provides the background to the meeting and the conference objectives. I do hope you will consider being part of this initiative and make a strong contribution. 

Please find attached the concept for the conference : ICES – ETHICAL FUTURES CONCEPT NOTE(1)

Source: ICES

Journée d’étude: “Îles, patrimoines et ethnicité dans l’aire indianocéanique”, le 22 mars 2013 à Amphithéâtre du campus Périgord de Périgueux


Cette journée d’étude, propose, à partir de cas détaillés, une lecture des reformulations historiques et des processus de patrimonialisation ; la constitution d’un patrimoine agissant tantôt comme un élément concourant à l’ethnicisation des rapports sociaux, tantôt à une sorte de « réconciliation nationale ». Les intervenants, géographes, cinéastes, anthropologues et ethnologues montreront que les préoccupations intellectuelles des acteurs de la patrimonialisation ne sont pas nécessairement celles de la population générale et viseront à déconstruire les éléments de rationalisations et de légitimations en référence aux notions fourre-tout de « tradition » et d’ «identité » liée à cette politique de patrimonialisation – la préoccupation identitaire s’inscrivant dans le contexte de la globalisation des cultures et du pluralisme culturel, géré plus ou moins différemment par les sociétés insulaires de l’aire indianocéanique.



Par delà leur très grande hétérogénéité, les sociétés insulaires de l’aire indianocéanique ont tout de même pour caractéristiques communes d’être des sociétés postcoloniales, composées de personnes originaires de différentes régions du monde (Europe, Afrique, Inde et Chine particulièrement), porteuses à divers degrés de spécificités qui coexistent dans un espace social marqué par l’occidentalisation (via la colonisation principalement mais pas de manière exclusive). De ce fait, elles constituent un laboratoire d’observation privilégié pour la compréhension des représentations, discours et pratiques d’une population hétérogène aux prises avec des modèles qu’elles cherchent ailleurs (ou qui lui viennent d’ailleurs) et qu’elles reformulent dans un contexte local. La dialectique entre faits multiculturels et politiques multiculturalistes est particulièrement complexe dans les sociétés insulaires de l’aire indianocéanique où les références et (re)définitions identitaires sont multiples et mouvantes.

Cette journée d’étude, propose, à partir de cas détaillés (Timor Leste, Maurice, Sri Lanka, et Singapour), une lecture des reformulations historiques et des processus de patrimonialisation, la constitution d’un patrimoine agissant tantôt comme un élément concourant à l’ethnicisation des rapports sociaux, tantôt à une sorte de « réconciliation nationale ». Les intervenants, géographes, cinéastes, anthropologues et ethnologues montreront que les préoccupations intellectuelles des acteurs de la patrimonialisation ne sont pas nécessairement celles de la population générale et viseront à déconstruire les éléments de rationalisations et de légitimations en référence aux notions fourre-tout de « tradition » et d’ «identité » liée à cette politique de patrimonialisation – la préoccupation identitaire s’inscrivant dans le contexte de la globalisation des cultures et du pluralisme culturel, géré plus ou moins différemment par les sociétés insulaires de l’aire indianocéanique.

Cette journée d’étude est co-organisée avec l’association de développement internationale InMaLanka et les étudiants de l’IUT de Périgueux-Bordeaux IV.


8h30 : accueil des participants

9h00 : ouverture de la journée d’étude par la présentation officielle de l’exposition « Timor oriental, un nouvel Etat à découvrir ».

  • 9h40 : « Les jeux d’argent au Timor Leste : entre patrimoine et construction nationale ». Par Marie Redon, maîtresse de conférences en géographie, Université Paris 13-Nord, membre de l’UMR Prodig.
  • 10h10 : « Entrepreneurs identitaires et patrimonialisation à l’Île Maurice. Tendances in, tendances out ». Par Catherine Servan-Schreiber, anthropologue, chargée de recherches au CNRS, membre du Centre d’Etude de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud (CEIAS), Paris.

10h50-11h00 : Pause café

  • 11h05 : « La patrimonialisation de l’identité ‘indienne’ à Singapour ». Par Delon Madavan, doctorant, université de Paris IV, membre de l’UMR ENeC.

11h40-12h00 : Discussion

  • 13h30-13h45 : « Le cinéma en diaspora : un élément de racinement ? ». Par Anthony Goreau-Ponceaud, Maître de conférences en géographie, Université de Bordeaux IV, membre de l’UMR ADES.
  • 14h00-15h00 : Diffusion et discussion autour des courts métrages du réalisateur Pradeepan Raveendran en sa présence.
    • A mango tree in the front yard. 11min / 2009 / France – Sri Lanka / Tamil with English subtitles / DVC Pro 50. Sélection officielle du festival international du film de Berlin 2009.
    • Shadows of silence. 11min / 2010 / France – Sri Lanka / Tamil with English subtitles / RED ONE 4K. Primé lors de la « Quinzaine des réalisateurs » du festival international du film de Cannes de 2010.
  • 15h00 : Diffusion du film « Demain est un secret. Le Timor entre en lice », 2013, 52 minutes. En la présence du réalisateur Emmanuel Cano

16h30 : Conclusions et perspectives


  • Anthony Goreau-Ponceaud, maître de conférences à l’université Bordeaux IV, membre de l’UMR ADES
  • et Zoe Douet, Anne Estoup, Laurène Monie, Sanz-Roméo Chloé et Eugénie Rivière, étudiantes à l’IUT de Périgueux-Bordeaux IV
 source: « Îles, patrimoines et ethnicité dans l’aire indianocéanique », Journée d’étude ,Calenda, Publié le jeudi 14 février 2013, http://calenda.org/239180

“Handed a snack, and then executed: the last hours of the 12-year-old son of a Tamil Tiger” (The Independent)

Nous partageons ici un lien vers un article de l’Independent évoquant l’existence d’images prouvant que le fils de l’ancien leader séparatiste du LTTE, Villupillai Prabhakaran, aurait été exécuté par les soldats de l’armée sri lankaise à l’issue de la bataille finale de 2009. Alors que les autorités sri lankaises avaient jusque-là affirmées que le jeune Balachandran Prabhakaran, âgé de 12 ans, serait mort sur le front, cette version est sérieusement mise en doute par le documentaire “No Fire Zone” projeté au festival des droits de l’Homme de Genève. L’équipe de production du documentaire s’est procurée des photographies prouvant que l’armée détenait l’enfant bien vivant. Cela viendrait à prouver que cet enfant a été exécuté alors qu’il se trouvait aux mains des forces sri lankaises. Ce crime de guerre s’ajouterait à d’autres exactions commises par l’armée sri lankaise à l’encontre des militants séparatistes faits prisonniers ou qui tentaient de se rendre.

Pour lire l’article en anglais: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/handed-a-snack-and-then-executed-the-last-hours-of-the-12yearold-son-of-a-tamil-tiger-8500295.html

source: Independent

“Stratfor and Sri Lanka: An initial study of ‘The Global Intelligence Files’” (Groundviews)

The following article flags just a few of the emails dealing with Sri Lanka from the Global Intelligence Files. The dissident website Colombo Telegraph has been at the forefront of publishing US cables sourced from Wikileaks pertaining to Sri Lanka. Likewise, it is our hope that other media, activists and anyone interested in how organisations like Stratfor operate will go through in finer detail the tranche of Stratfor emails on Wikileaks, and dig up content that is vital for the public record.
Given what may yet be discovered from the tranche of Stratfor emails (and Wikileaks is, at the time of writing this, still releasing new material), the content above could pale into insignificance as more details emerge about how the organisation and its staff, informants and consultants acted on Sri Lanka and interacted with key actors, before, during and after the war in particular.
Stratfor’s world is different to the one we inhabit. In it, routine and overtly robust analysis as a high value commodity requires information to be acquired first, and preferably, exclusively. The resulting network of relationships and patronage across sectors, countries, groups and governments is revealed through these emails.
Who in Sri Lanka worked with Stratfor? Which organisations, including government agencies, ministries and departments, knowingly or unknowingly employed its consultants and staff? Why are journalists who have written on Sri Lanka so closely known to, and working with, Stratfor staff? Is there a money trail connecting those who gave information on Sri Lanka to Stratfor, and will this be revealed in future releases on Wikileaks? As importantly, who in Sri Lanka’s mainstream media can and will take up an investigation into the complex networks and relationships between Stratfor and key actors in Sri Lanka’s politico-military apparatus, already strongly hinted at in emails released? Given Stratfor’s reach, and the Sri Lankan government’s proclivities towards the freedom of expression, will such a piece make it to print?
Ask the questions. Demand the answers.
Click here for full article.

source: Groundviews

“Déségrégation socio-religieuse d’une ville dans l’immédiat après guerre : Jaffna, Sri Lanka” par Delon Madavan (Carnets de géographes)

Le cessez-le-feu de 2002, entre l’Etat sri lankais et le mouvement séparatiste des Tigres de la Libération du Tamoul Eelam (LTTE), a été l’occasion d’analyser le rôle de la guerre et de l’arrêt des combats comme éventuel processus de transformation de la ségrégation à Jaffna dans le contexte d’immédiat après-guerre. En effet, le conflit armé (1987-2001), avec l’abolition du système de castes par le LTTE et les déplacements répétés des habitants, a constitué une rupture dans le mode de fonctionnement de la société jaffnaise. Le poids du système hiérarchique des castes et celui des communautés religieuses, qui conditionnent partiellement dans la ville d’avant-guerre la répartition de la population, le choix du conjoint, les réseaux sociaux des individus, les valeurs et les interdits de société, ont été remis en cause suite au conflit.

En effet, la ville de l’immédiat après-guerre a un modèle de structuration et de fonctionnalité différente de celle d’avant-guerre. La ségrégation identitaire, liée à l’appartenance à une caste, est ainsi en phase de disparition. Toutefois, la fin du système de caste (discriminations, interdépendance socio-économique) n’empêche pas la persistance de la réalité de castes (endogamie, liens de solidarité par caste). Dans le même temps, l’existence d’une importante diaspora est à l’origine d’un nouveau facteur de segmentation au sein de la société. Leur soutien jouant un rôle moteur dans la reconstruction, dans le développement économique de la ville et dans l’ascension sociale des habitants. Enfin, si les habitants vivent dans la grande majorité dans les quartiers occupés traditionnellement par leur caste, le processus de déségrégation spatiale semble engagé. .

Mots-clefs : Ségrégation urbaine, Caste, religion, Tamoul, Jaffna, Sri Lanka.

Pour lire l’article cliquez sur le lien: http://www.carnetsdegeographes.org/carnets_recherches/rech_02_04_Madavan.php

Pour citer cet article :

MADAVAN D., (2011), «Déségrégation socio-religieuse d’une ville dans l’immédiat après guerre : Jaffna, Sri Lanka» in Carnets de géographes, n°2, mars 2011, Rubrique Carnets de recherches http://www.carnetsdegeographes.org/carnets_recherches/rech_02_04_Madavan.php

“Socio-Religious Desegregation in an Immediate Postwar Town Jaffna, Sri Lanka” by Delon Madavan (Carnets de géographes)

The cease-fire agreement of 2002 between the Sri Lankan state and the separatist movement of Liberalisation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was an opportunity to analyze the role of war and then of the cessation of fighting as a potential process of transformation of the segregation at Jaffna in the context of immediate post-war period. Indeed, the armed conflict (1987-2001), with the abolition of the caste system by the LTTE and repeated displacements of people, has been a breakdown for Jaffnese society. The weight of the hierarchical castes system and the one of religious communities, which partially determine the town’s prewar population distribution, the choice of spouse, social networks of individuals, values and taboos of society, have been questioned as a result of the conflict. Indeed, the town of the immediate post-war has a different structuring and functionality model from that of before the war. Identity-based segregation, associated to belonging to a caste, is thus in phase of disappearance. However, the end of the caste system (discriminations, socio-economic interdependence) does not prevent the persistence of the caste reality (endogamy, the bonds of solidarity by caste). At the same time, the existence of a large diaspora is the source of a new factor of segmentation in the society. Their support plays a leading role in the reconstruction, economic development of the town and the upward mobility of people. Finally, if inhabitants live in large majorities in neighborhoods traditionally occupied by their caste, the process of space desegregation seems to be engaged.

Keywords : Urban segregation, Territory, Identity, Caste, Religion, Jaffna, Tamil, Sri Lanka

To read the article please click the link: http://www.carnetsdegeographes.org/carnets_recherches/rech_02_04_Madavan_eng.php 

 To quote this article:
MADAVAN D., (2011), «Socio-Religious Desegregation in an Immediate Postwar Town Jaffna, Sri Lanka» in Carnets de géographes, n°2, mars 2011, Rubrique Carnets de recherches http://www.carnetsdegeographes.org/carnets_recherches/rech_02_04_Madavan_eng.php