Updated April 25, 2019​ 

Sri Lanka Express

Books, Arts, Entertainment

Journey into the clouds along Sri Lanka’s tea trails

USA Today features Sri Lanka's "tea trails" travel
From one single camellia sinesis plant evolved a $1.5 billion export business — now, Sri Lanka fluctuates in status as the second to fourth leading tea producer globally. If you’ve ever steeped a Lipton’s bag in
your hot water with lemon, you’ve likely drank Sri Lankan tea. Visitors to this region can tour factories, taste a range of brews and reside amidst the lush beauty of Sri Lanka’s fields. 
Read the report

Outrage over mag cover  showing Tamil bride in a saree with revealing slit

Jodi Bridal Show, is a bridal magazine that caters particularly to Indians who live in Canada.  The cover of the latest issue  which shows a model “Tamil Bride” wearing a saree with a revealing slit that exposes her leg has sparked a ruckus on social media.

Sri to shining Sri: South Asia’s rising style superstar

Sri Lanka conjures images of heavenly sunsets, fisherman gracefully balancing on stilts and feel-good moments of Buddhist Zen. Yet for many, the devastation of the 25-year civil war and the 2004 tsunami kept the Indian Ocean island off itineraries.
Now, new resorts and tourists are bringing the island (formerly Ceylon) back into focus.

Documentary on Buddhist nuns set for Ashland film fest

"A Thousand Mothers" is produced by award-winning filmmaker Kim Shelton, a former Ashland resident and director of the Ashland Independent Film Festival 2011 Audience Award winner "The Welcome." Joanne Feinberg, former director of programming at the AIFF, is an associate producer. She is currently a producer and editor at FeinFilm, based in Ashland.

" 'A Thousand Mothers' is a poetic glimpse into a little-known world, where women in community tenderly care for one another while practicing Buddhism with unshakeable faith," Shelton said in a release. "I was deeply moved and inspired by their generosity and dedication despite the challenges of living with extreme hardship due to poverty and discrimination. I look forward to sharing the film with audiences around the world with the hope that they are as inspired by the nuns as I am. (Source:
Buddhist Economics: An Enlightened Approach to the Dismal Science” by Clair Brown, Ph.D. (Bloomsbury, $25, 224 pages)
Is our economic system in need of an upgrade? In her new book, author Clair Brown, who lives in Richmond and is a professor of economics and director of the Center for Work, Technology and Society at UC Berkeley, suggests that changes should be made. A practicing Buddhist, Brown explains how contemporary society could benefit by shifting away from traditional free market economics in favor of a system that values equity, sustainability and quality of life. She’ll read from the book June 4 at the Bay Area Book Festival. (Source:

Australian comedian's book tells how to survive break-ups with Buddhist wisdom

Meshel Laurie is an Australian comedian and radio and television personality turned to the principles of Buddhism to learn true lessons from her marriage breakup.

"Let's embrace aloneness, people! Let's see it for what it is: an opportunity to practise some mad Buddhist skills. As a consequence of a breakup, we have a chance to influence our own arising," the 43-year old said in an interview following her separation from her husband.

 Laurie’s new book Buddhism for Break-ups offers sage but humourous advice on how to survive a broken relationship.
She writes in the book:

“It took me a long time to fully embrace Buddhism as a solution when my marriage was floundering. I resisted it because I knew the first thing Buddhism would require me to do was to let go of Adrian – and that was the last thing in the world I wanted to do!”

Meet the retro road warriors battling for glory on the streets of Sri Lanka

No gears, no teams, no prizes

For the amateur street racers of south Sri Lanka, competing on antiquated bikes is the ultimate test of endurance. Only cool heads and sheer determination will prevail.
More ...

"Dr Strange" cast inspired by teaching from Buddhist monk on set

SLE News - A Buddhist monk helped British actor Benedict Cumberbatch with his starring role in “Doctor Strange”, the latest film from Marvel Cinematic Universe, according to Reuters.

Cumberbatch stars as “Stephen Strange”, an arrogant surgeon who draws on powers of mysticism and spirituality when his glamorous life is taken away from him after damaging his hands in a car accident.

“That’s a great practice to have in your life – full stop,” Cumberbatch was quoted as saying, referring to the mindfulness training the monk provided on set.

“As an actor it’s great because it brings you into that moment of stillness and presence. You’ve got a lot of people demanding your attention in film making.”

The Tibetan monk was invited on set by British actress Tilda Swinton, who plays mystical character “The Ancient One”, who transforms “Strange” from incompetent student to a magic-wielding sorcerer.

Telugu film on LTTE supremo

  Poster from Okkadu Migiladu
A new Telugu film, Okkadu Migiladu, with actor Manchu Manoj playing the role of LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran is in the works.

The movie is based on “true incidents happened in 1990 during Sri Lankan Civil war leaving the lives of 15 Lakh refugees at peril. Manoj is very co-operative and worked very hard to resemble his looks as Prabhakaran by gaining weight,” according to director Ajay Andrews Nuthakki.

New book on Rajiv's assassination reveals dirty secrets of RAW

On 21 May 1991, journalist Neena Gopal had finished just one part of an interview with Rajiv Gandhi—the last of his life—when his car reached the election rally at Sriperumbudur. Moments later, Rajiv Gandhi was dead, blown up by suicide bomber Dhanu, irrevocably changing the course of Indian politics, as Neena Gopal, just yards behind him, watched in horror.

In The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi (Penguin) released this week,  Gopal reconstructs the chain of events in India and at the LTTE’s headquarters in Sri Lanka where the assassination plot was hatched, and follows the trail of investigation that led to the assassins being brought to justice.

According to Gopal,  LTTE supremo Prabhakaran's trusted deputy Gopalaswamy Mahendrarajah alias Mahattaya was a Research and Analysis Wing mole.

“The man was cultivated and positioned by RAW as their mole inside Prabharkaran’s hitherto impenetrable ranks as early as 1989,” she says.  

Mahattaya was later  seized by the LTTE and taken to a camp where he was “tortured over a period of several weeks and months until he could barely speak, sit or stand.

“He was finally executed in December 1994, 19 months (later). Some 257 of his men were executed and their bodies dumped, LTTE style, in a pit and set on fire.” (SLE 8/17/16)

California Buddhist's Environmental Pilgrimage Across the US

California resident and Buddhist practitioner Melissa McCarthy is making a pilgrimage on foot across the United States along historic Route 6, once the country’s longest highway  pulling a 75-pound cart of supplies that includes camping gear, food, water, toiletries, and a change of clothes.  McCarthy who lived in a Zen Buddhist community in California from 1992–2003 and ordained as a priest in 1998, says she has undertaken the task with the parallel intentions of “paying respect to the earth, engaging in conversation about climate concerns with people . . . along the way, and as a healing meditation for . . . my intermittently misanthropic heart.”
The Mogao Grottoes, a vast network of 492 caves in China, are covered with Buddhist murals. Exact replicas of three of the painted caves are now at the Getty Center in a 2016 show that also will include artifacts from the caves.  The exhibition runs through Sept.

Dublin couple leads idyllic life in Sri Lanka

When THE RECESSION BEGAN, this Dublin couple left Ireland and built a new home – and a new life – in SRI LANKA. Seven years later, their idyll continues, as TOM SYKES finds out.

A tempting tea trail through stunning estates and plantations

A glimpse at Britain's colonial past offered to tourists.  "At Tea Trails you can stay in revamped tea planter's bungalows, explore the verdant terraced landscape and enjoy countless brews and luxurious afternoon cream teas."

"Dheepan" Action Thriller about LTTE Refugee Showing in US Theaters

“Dheepan” the Jacques Audiard crime action thriller  about an LTTE militant who gets asylum in France  opened in theaters in the US May 6.  The highly-acclaimed movie which received  the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year focuses on three Sri Lankan refugees (Jesuthasan Antonythasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby) who pretend to be a family as they try to make better lives for themselves in a Parisian housing project.

Critic Reviews

Almost entirely Tamil-language immigrant drama unfolds in solidly involving, carefully observed fashion for much of its running time, until it takes a sharp and heavy-handed turn into genre territory.

Jacques Audiard’s confident Palme d’Or-winner has a rare and keen interest in its characters – a trio of Tamil refugees in Paris – and an exhilarating mastery of style.

It's simply that Dheepan's cultural clashes are richer than its man-vs-thug ones.

Jesuthasan plays Dheepan
Image via UGC Distribution
Death of DB Nihalsinghe
Renowned film director, editor, cinematographer and producer D.B. Nihalsinghe passed  away April 21  at the age of 77. 

He will be remembered for numerous accomplishments in the field of Sri Lankan film, cinematography, and television.  He  introduced professional television production to Sri Lanka in 1979 with the color teledrama Dimuthu Muthu. He was the founding Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of the Sri Lanka's National Film Corporation. He is the only Sri Lankan who has been conferred Life Fellowship of the Society of Motion picture and Television Engineers USA.

More on Nihalsinghe - "Loss of a Cultural Icon ...."
Early Chinese Encyclopedia includes account of the "Kingdom of the Sons of Lions"
Ma Duanlin, AKA Ma Tuan-lin (born 1254 in Leping [now in Jiangxi province], China—died 1323)  was a Chinese historian who wrote the Wenxian tongkao (“General Study of the Literary Remains”), a huge encyclopedia of general knowledge, which includes  an account of  Sze-tsze-kwo,‘Kingdom of the Sons of Lions,’or Ceylon.

This little gem -- translation of Ma Duanlin's short account (An Early Chinese Account of Sri Lanka) -- may be found on Amazon -- Kindle version downloadable for just 99 cents!
Following is an excerpt:
"The  kingdom of the Sons of Lions was known from the time of the eastern Tsins (AD 317-420); it is not far from Teen-choo (India), and is situated in the midst of the western sea.  Its extent. from north to south, is about 2,000 le. It produces a vast number of rare and precioius articles, which yield great profits to its inhabitants. ... This kingdom was not in former times inhabited by human beings ... The merchants of other kingdomes carried on a barter with them without seeing their forms... The people of the other kingdoms heard of the luxuries of this land; hence they resolved to attack it. Some broke off all intercourse with the island, and, joining in the plans of the great kingdoms, they were able to expel thence the spirits or genii and the lions; it was from this it obtained the name of Island of Lions."

Personal memoir by Lakshman Ratnapala
Academy CEO apologizes to members of Asian descent
AR Rahman Cancels Sri Lanka Concert
Flickering Fortunes, a personal memoir with a delightful blend of adventure, tragedy,  culture, politics, love and romance is by San Francisco resident Lakshman Ratnapala who had a distinguished career as a journalist in Sri Lanka.  The book takes the reader along the backroads of politics and intrigue of which he had a ringside view. Flickering Fortunes is also full of  vignettes from the life of a young man growing up in an easy going era, a time of innocence now long past.  
Read Review


Dawn Hudson, the CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has apologized to 25 Academy members of Asian-American descent — including Ang Lee, George Takei and Sandra Oh — who sent a letter to her and the Academy's Board of Governors to protest racially insensitive jokes in the recent  Oscars ceremony. The brief response, acknowledged the members' criticisms — which centered on a skit in which host Chris Rock introduced three Asian children as Academy accountants and comments ad-libbed by presenter Sacha Baron Cohen that insinuated that Asians have small genitalia — are "valid."  Read More
Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman has postponed his Sri Lanka concert, which was scheduled to take place on April 23.  There were some reports that the concert was postponed due to protests by anti-Sri Lanka groups but the concert organisers have cited the upcoming elections in Tamil Nadu as the reason for delay. The organisers added they will reschedule the event as soon as possible.   "Please do not worry about the event, we will definitely organize this event as soon as we obtain the confirmation of our performing artistes," the organizers said in a statement.
Cumberbatch to narrate Thich Nhat Hanh movie
Jacqueline building houses in Tamil Nadu
Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch will narrate Walk With Me, a new feature documentary about Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Marc J Francis (Black Gold) and Max Pugh (The Road to Freedom Peak) produce and direct the Speakit Films project, which is now completed and expected to launch later this year. Walk With Me goes deep inside a Zen Buddhist community which practices the art of mindfulness with renowned Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.The film was shot at the Plum Village monastery in the Dordogne region of France and in the US. The footage of the monastic life is paired with Cumberbatch reading from insights from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals.   Read More
Former Miss Sri Lanka & actress building homes in Tamil Nadu with Bollywood help. Fernandez has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to launch a unique campaign called 'Jacqueline Builds' in aid of Tamil Nadu flood victims. 'Jacqueline Builds' is a one of its kind build led by Bollywood celebrity Jacqueline Fernandez. On 9th April, 2016 Jacqueline will personally visit Chennai (Tamil Nadu) and build homes on a Habitat site with 200 volunteers drawn from corporates, schools and colleges across India, according to Habitat’s Facebook.