An adult is sad but a child smiles -A tribute to Titus Thotawatte
Posted on October 17th, 2011

Written by Malinda Seneviratne

When Steve Jobs of Apple died a few weeks ago there was an over-pouring of grief. The newspapers were full of the man, his work, his vision and his humanity. A young friend of mine was perturbed by the fact that Sri Lanka had, going by the amount of coverage, lamented the passing of this man but seemed to have been less upset by the death around the same time of veteran actor Joe Abeywickrema. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”I am worried about my generation,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ she said.

Around the same time I attended the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Sinhala DayƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ celebrations of Ladies College, Colombo. The students had put together a programme showcasing the evolution of Sinhala songs using the history of the Sinhala cinema, with children re-playing well known cinematic moments, to the accompaniment of song, music and relevant clips. It was a school-version of the popular year-end production by popular and accomplished artists, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Ridee ReyakƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ (A Night of Silver). Some performances were very well executed, some not. Overall, it was a satisfying experience.

Towards the end of the programme, the children put together a mix of Joe AbeywickremaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s most memorable performances on the silver screen by way of tribute to the great man. It moved me to tears. My friendƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s generation is not ill-informed and is not unappreciative.

That day, at Ladies College, among the popular songs the melodies of which I found myself humming softly was ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Kawruda kawruda dan lokko!ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ The girls had come up with a neat skit to give life or letƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s say renewed life to a perennial favourite among children. That song from arguably the most successful Sinhala childrenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s film, Handaya, was part of my growing up. It is part of my childrenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s growing up too. I remember remembering Titus Thotawatte. I remember smiling and being grateful.

Titus, who was part of the team that made the first film to have a truly Lankan identity, Lester James PeriesƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”RekavaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, produced many films since his first, Chandiya (1965), but he will be remembered most of all for giving us Handaya. In a cinematic milieu that seemed not to notice children or one where children were nothing more than add-ons and indeed where films with the tag ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”for childrenƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ are mostly the exploration of adult themes using child actors, Titus showed that things can be done differently and in ways that are meaningful for children.

Renton De Alwis wrote a note of remembrance that captures must of what I am sure many would feel: Ty Mama (Titus Thotawatte) is no moreƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦The father of Sri Lankan cartoon art for TV and creator of Dr. Honda Hitha. I shall always remember ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Bai kiyala bai kiyala baaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚¦May you find eternal peace. Bye Bye Ty Mama.

He was not Steve Jobs. He was not Joe Abeywickrema. He need not have been. He was Titus Thotawatte. He told some stories. He played some songs. We listened. We clapped. We sang along. Our children still do. He turned us all into children and when we forget and slip into ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”adulthoodƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, all it takes is a melody and lines from a song to arrest that decline.

He made innocence possible. More importantly he made it a worthwhile proposition. There is an adult within me that is sad right now. There is a child within who cannot stop smiling. ThatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s what he gave and thatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s a lot to give the world.

One Response to “An adult is sad but a child smiles -A tribute to Titus Thotawatte”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    We shall sorely miss Joe & Ty Mama … irreplaceable personalities, never forgotten. May they attain Nibbana.

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