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Ivan Alwis, writer and composer's :

Moments of glory

by Umangi de Mel

Ivan Alwis

He writes, composes, helps the needy and holds a vital position at an organisation. He's amiable, good natured and probably has trouble remembering the last time he was angry. Ivan Alwis has always had a knack for writing and reading.

Carefully laying the foundation to the many facets of his life, still as a child though, Ivan was hellbent on producing a work of art whenever he got his hands on things that appealed to him. Stealing a few minutes of his rather busy schedule, Ivan walks down the memory lane to talk about his moments of glory.

"My first victory was winning the first place in an all Island Poetry Competition in the 1970s organised by the 'Bakthiprabodanaya' and the prize money was Rs. 10."


That was enough encouragement for a lifetime, Ivan says, adding that he was never a sports figure in school, instead, devoted all his time for cultural events and shows. "When it came to plays, I was the director, musician and actor.

There was nothing I couldn't do in that department but after I got through the Advanced Level Examination, I joined the Ceramics Corporation as a designer as I was anyway into arts."


While working at the Ceramics Corporation, Ivan joined 'Ranga Shilpa Salika' at the Lionel Wendt as he didn't intend giving up on his first love, "I completed my diploma in drama under Dr. Sarachchandra.

Artistes like Dhamma Jagoda, Ravindra Randeniya, Buddhadasa Withanage, Suminda Sirisena and Parakrama Niriella were with me at the drama school, where I improved my dramatic skills. Although I had no desire of becoming an actor, I wanted to enjoy dramas which is why I directed a drama called Mama Mamamai which was banned due to certain political issues, later on."

Never letting the sun go down on him, Ivan then joined the OCIC - to do a course in filming and finished his diploma in filming later on, he explaining his journey to the arts field. "Before the television was brought to Sri Lanka, we had a workshop on television which was totally new to us. It was conducted by Dr. Edwin Ariyadasa who introduced the television especially to the journalists."

A few years later, Ivan took part in a script writing competition conducted by the Department of Cultural Affairs in 1985.

Winning an award for his story Ilakkaya, he took his first steps into the electronic media. Having served 21 years at the Ceramic Corporation, Ivan left it as a grade I sales officer, "I was the OIC at the Ceramic showrooms in Kandy. I wasn't into a business and wasn't satisfied as a sales person.

So I left and joined Janakalasevana in the early '90s as the assistant director but after about an year I became the director/secretary there. I was to produce a programme called Sudasuna every other month, for which I did a lot of scripts and was the presenter as well."


In addition, Ivan had other responsibilities as well. He was the director for all the Christian programmes on SLBC being is the mentor of the advisory committee of the SLBC and Rupavahini Corporation, he claims to have written a lot of TV and radio scripts.

"During the time I was at the National Christian Council, I started a magazine called Pavana. That's how I got involved in the print media. But I left NCC, in 2001 and came back to Kandy to serve at the WDC (Women's Development Centre) where I'm in charge of all the media work."

In 2002, Ivan won an award for being the composer that he is... Having taken it as a positive sign, he started composing songs for artistes like Victor Ratnayake, Dayaratne Ranatunge, Amara Ranatunge, Asanga Priyamantha, Chandrani Gunawardane and Indrani Perera.

Writing books for children, Ivan seems to have another side to him, "I used to read the books that I bought my daughters before I gave those to them.

And found out that I could do better. That's how I wrote my first book called Punchi Thilini Thilinayak. Later on, the Colombo Book Association organised a competition and Punchi Thilini Thilinayak' won an award. That egged me on to start writing books for children."

Speaking of which, Ivan says he doesn't write for the sake of writing but also believes in getting across a vital message to the children.


His 'Crow and the Cuckoo' bagged the first place in the English section while his Kohokoho won the best story in the Sinhalese section in a competition held in 1992.

His best book though, he says is called Okkoma Rajavaru for which he won an award in a competition organised by the Ruhunu Kala Association. He believes in giving children a place and a hand to their hidden talents.

"A child may not be able to write for another child as writing for children requires a different style and an approach. But they can always contribute for their peers by doing the illustrations for a book. That's how a child can talk to another.

I always get them to do the illustrations for my books. My latest book is called 'The Majesty of the trees'." He was able to get an award for one of his books in 2005 in a competition held on national peace.

Compassionate to the core Ivan translated two of his books into brail after having come across a blind child sometime back.

During his 35 years of service, Ivan claims to have done about 10 video documentaries on street children and the YMCA, "I'm the new chairman of the Childrens' committee of the YMCA and also a member of the board of directors," he reveals modestly.

Having won myriads of competitions, travelled to countries like India, Singapore, Thailand for communication workshops, written nine books, Ivan continues his deeds with great gusto, "At the WDC, I conduct a course on creative writing for rural women. That way they can at least fulfil minor requirements like filling a simple form or relate their problems to the police or other institutions.

I also conducted a workshop on creative writing in Galle especially for its youth."

He reveals that he goes to the grassroots level villages often to discuss their difficulties.

"Mothers must be educated on good upbringing of children. I've been to more than 25 villages in Kandy. And the response is very good."

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