FACE 2 FACE With Anura Hegoda
by Tilak S. Fernando in London

Anura Hegoda needs no special introduction to Sri Lankans, both in the UK and in Sri Lanka. Hailing from a family of poets, where his father, Wilson Hegoda, one of the five founder members of the Colombo Young Poet's Society and his mother Nanda Hegoda, Secretary of Sri Lanka Kavi Kantha Kala Sangamaya, and brother Lal Hegoda, renowned poet who won the Presidential State Award for his first publication, Anura was automatically dragged into Sinhala Kavi like a massive ocean wave sweeping across and engulfing the entire beach! Anura started writing Kavi at the age of ten. Since then he has always given a prominent place to Kavi in his heart, and today he has been able to put one of his dreams, to publish magazine from London - London Kavi - affording the golden opportunity to those other Sri Lankan talented poets to share his pet subject. Looking at Anura's overall life's achievements so far, it is crystal clear that he is a versatile celebrity. Starting his career as a Attorney at Law in Sri Lanka, becoming a successful solicitor in London, married to Anoma, who is also a flourishing solicitor in London, he has stretched his tentacles out to many other cultural fields including production of Sinhala stage drama and has been performing as an actor too in Sinhala Teledramas. His love for Sinhala can be taken as an inherent natural quality passed down from his parents. From the time he edited the college magazine he has shown his mettle not only in writing poetry, acting and producing teledrams but in journalism too. His column 'Theeruva'(column) in Lanka Viththi, the only Sinhala Newspaper published in London and circulated throughout the world, speaks volumes of his stance he takes in expressing his forthright views calling spade a spade, making no distinction between Sinhala or Buddhism wherever he sees any flaws in them. To me he is not only a poet, actor, producer, Lawyer but a very pleasing and humble personality but with a sharp and meaningful objectives in writing in which he follows the very old maximum " Facts are sacred and the comment is free" to the last letter. Despite his shyness and reluctance for publicity I managed to convince him with a lot of persuasion for a Face2Face interview.

Q. You are mostly known as a Solicitor in England, in London circles particularly, but there are many facets to your life and career. Let me take you through from your young days. Where were you educated in Sri Lanka?

A. I studied at Thurston College, Colombo. Studied up to 'A- Level and continued my education at the Law College in Sri Lanka subsequently.

Q. Well ! Looking at your physique one could say that you have been a sportsman in your young days, needless to say that you still cut a figure of an athlete! What were your curricular activities while in College?

A. With a shy smile, your guess is correct Tilak. In fact I played Rugby and 2nd eleven cricket for my school and I captioned the school Rugby team

Q. What were your other curricular activities in college?

A. I was the Head Prefect, President of Sinhala Society, Inter House Games Caption, Editor of the College Magazine, Secretary of the Buddhist Society etc.

Q Why did you study Law?

A. As a matter of fact, I never wanted to study Law but my wife Anoma inspired me.

Q. When did you enter the Law College?

A I start reading Law in 1980 and was sworn in as an Attorney at Law in 1983 in Sri Lanka.

Q. While on the subject of Law let me ask you a vital question. Are you really happy or do you regret having bid good bye to your Attorney's job in Sri Lanka and coming to England to become a Solicitor in the UK ?

A. No Tilak, I have no regrets at all in coming over to the UK and becoming a Solicitor in Britain. I am quite happy with the responsibilities I handle as a Solicitor in England. My wife, Anoma, who is also a Solicitor, is a tower of strength to my work. Having said that, I have not abandoned Sri Lanka at all and we have an office in Colombo also under the same name Hegoda and Hegoda. In London both my wife and I operate two different offices in legal work. So you can't say we have abandoned Sri Lanka at all and most of our time at present is spent in shuttling back and forth between London and Sri Lanka on a regular basis frequently to keep the fires burning at both ends.

Q. Any memorable incidents as a Lawyer or Law student?,

A. Yes, there is one incident that has remained indelibly in my memory. When I was in the Law College I was elected as the President of the Sinhala Section by popular vote. It was regarded as a highly competitive as well as a prestigious position to hold in the Law Faculty and I cannot forget the support I received from my fellow students during that Presidential election.

Q. During my research I found that you are more or less a 'Sinhala man', if I can use that expression. I base this claim because your parents were associated with Sinhala Kavi, your brother is also a poet and you also seem to have followed their trail from the time you attended college. Am I right in my assertion that you were influenced by your elders to fall in love with Sinhala and Sinhala Kavi ?

A. You did hit the nail on the head Tilak. Yes my father Wilson Hegoda was one of the five founder members of the Colombo Young Poets Society in 1935. He held the position of Secretary for 42 years. My mother Nanda Hegoda was the Secretary of Sri Lanka Kavi Kantha Sangamaya at the same time. So you could say that their dedication to Kavi heavily influenced me.

Q. And how about your brother Lal Hegoda, Isn't he too a well known poet?

A. Yes you are correct. Lal is also a poet and he was privileged to win the Presidential State Award for his first publication, 'Ma Minisek Oba Gangak Nisa' .

Q. How were you influenced to write Sinhala poetry (Kavi)?

A. As I said before my father being the Secretary of the Colombo Young Poets Society and mother also being the Secretary of Kantha Kavi Sangamaya almost every well-known poet at the time visited our home. I guess I was extremely privileged to meet them and listen to their conversations and poetry. I did visit many 'Kavi Maduwas' (Open platforms) and then started writing poems and short stories to Sri Lankan newspapers. May be I was influenced by all those eminent poets and the home environment which was definitely saturated with Sinhala poetry.

Q. So do you think its purely the homely 'saturated' environment that made you write Kavi , or don't you, as a Buddhist and especially being the secretary of Buddhist Society, believe in the theory of life after birth and give any credit to your good Karma or the latent talents that must have been brought forward from your previous birth?

A. (With a broad smile) you are trying to trick me here aren't you? Yes, I do believe in rebirth and bringing forward one's karmic effect from life to life. Well! now that you have broached the subject I am inclined to think that too must have had an impact on my urge and the ability to write kavi taking in to consideration that we are a family with an irresistible interest, thirst or love for Sinhala poetry.

Q. So let's get back a bit. When did you write and publish your first set of Kavi in a newspaper? And what areas or topics did you cover in your compositions?

A. It was a mixture of everything in the form of Sandas as well as Nisandas

Q. Recently you have been inviting Sinhala poets in London through the columns of Sri Lankan newspapers published in the UK to contribute to a new anthology of poetry under the name of London Kavi. Would you like to elaborate on this latest ambition and the exercise of yours?

A. As you yourself will know Tilak when you are a journalist or a poet there is an element of desire or an irresistible sensation in your blood stream so strongly that you cannot just sit like a dormant doormat! You will agree in my saying that the desire to be 'with it' is like sharpening a pencil all the time, don't you think so? The more you sharpen the point, better and smoother the writing becomes out of the pencil! Likewise, I thought there are so many other Sri Lankans who are highly talented and frustrated at the same time, without proper channels to divulge, express or 'purge' with their ideas in verse form. The first edition was out in September 2003 and it is my desire to continue this publication bi-monthly at least at the beginning.

Q. What was your first publication similar to this when you were doing your 'A' levels?

A. In 1983 I produced a book of poetry called Devo Wassathu Kalena and published a magazine by Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne, publisher of Vishwa Educational Magazine.

Q. 'Devo Vassathu Kalena' ! Sounds like a religious piece of work - something like from Loweda Sangarawa…!

A. No. Not at all, and quite contrary to that I am afraid. It was just a book full of love poems and experiences in life.

Q. You have been acting and producing Sinhala teledrama as well, and I remember seeing you on screen in Sriyani Amarasena's Ira Bata Tharuwa and Hemanthaye Wasnathak filmed in London.

A. I was the co-producer of Hemanthaye Vasanthayak directed by Sriyani Amarasena where I played the role of a Lawyer father. The film won an award and Wimal Alahakoon, who played a doctor's role in that won the Sumathi Award last year for the best performance by a Sri Lankan outside Sri Lanka. I was the executive producer of Wilbendhi Denawwa teledrama directed by Parakkrama Niriella. I also did a small role in Sriyani Amarasena's first London production, Irabata Tharuwa.

Q. Have you been associated with Stage Drama at all?

A. Yes, I was the Stage Manager of two plays in Sri Lanka, Gangawak Sapaththu Kabalak and Maranayak and Puslodang (produced by Simon Nawagaththegama). I also produced Romaya Gini Gani stage play directed by Bandula Withanage, which won seven State Awards. I have also handled Radio and TV advertising of films Sarungale, Sirlbo Aiya, Vajira and Valampuri

Q Have you any plans in the future to be involved in the Sinhala teledrama or cinema?

A. I wish I have the time for all the things I have in mind to do Tilak, the WILL is always there, what I not sure is of the time! Don't forget that I am also a father of two daughters Anomall and Anuthra and I have the responsibility to organize their future too and that means I need more than 48 hours a day if I want to do all the things I would like to do. So, as someone said, one can only have a guideline in life on what one really wants to do. Like anybody else I too have to wait and see what path of action, my fate, karmic effect or providence will take me in future years ahead of me.