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Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka wins Booker Prize

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The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Sri Lankan author – Shehan Karunatilaka, has won the Booker Prize.
The Sri Lankan writer’s novel is about a photographer who wakes up dead, with a week to ask his friends to find his photos and expose the brutality of the Sri Lankan civil war.

Camilla, the Queen Consort, presented the prize, and the author said it had been “an honour and a privilege” to be on the shortlist. Pop singer Dua Lipa was the star guest.

The prestigious £50,000 prize, for a single work of fiction published in the UK in English, also gives the other five writers on the shortlist £2,500 each.

The writer said he decided in 2009 to write “a ghost story where the dead could offer their perspective” after the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, “when there was a raging debate over how many civilians died and whose fault it was”.

Karunatilaka said as he accepted his prize: “My hope is that in the not too distant future… Sri Lanka has understood that these ideas of corruption and race-baiting and cronyism have not worked and will never work. “I hope it’s in print in 10 years… if it is, I hope it’s written in a Sri Lanka that learns from its stories, and that Seven Moons will be in the fantasy section of the bookshop, next to the dragons, the unicorns and will not be mistaken for realism or political satire.”

The opening of the book sets the slightly absurd tone. It starts in the afterlife, which turns out to be bureaucratic and banal. It then flips back and forth between the underworld and the real world during the Sri Lankan civil war in 1990 as Maali Almeida tries to work out who killed him – and why.

Shehan Karunatilaka says the book has been in his head for 10 years and goodness his brain must have been busy. But he struggled to find an international publisher.

The Seven Moons of Maali is Karunatilaka’s second novel, having previously won awards including the Commonwealth Book Prize for his debut book Chinaman, which was called the “second best cricket book of all time” by cricketers’ almanac Wisden.

Born in 1975, the writer has also worked as an advertising copywriter, and his songs, scripts and stories have been published in Rolling Stone, GQ and National Geographic.

He is the second Sri Lankan-born author to win the prize, following Michael Ondaatje for The English Patient (1992).

(Excerpts : BBC)

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Big Bang Theory’s Professor Proton bids adieu

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American stand-up comedy legend Bob Newhart, whose deadpan delivery style earned him numerous awards, has died at the age of 94.

The star of TV series The Bob Newhart Show, Newhart passed away at home after a series of short illnesses, his publicist said in a statement provided to the BBC on Thursday.

Newhart became a stand-up comic after starting his career as an accountant in Chicago. He went on to guest-host Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show 87 times.

More recently, he starred in classic Christmas film Elf and The Big Bang Theory.

The son of a plumber in a suburb of Chicago, Newhart graduated with a business degree from Loyola University in 1952.

He served in the Army for two years during the Korean War then enrolled in a graduate law school before dropping out.

He and a friend began recording improvised comedy routines shortly after. In 1959, he was discovered by a local DJ who recommended him to the newly formed Warner Bros Records.

His live recording from a Houston comedy club, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, went on to become the first comedy album to top the charts.

Seven more albums were released after that, with millions of copies sold.

His longtime publicist, Jerry Digney, wrote in a statement announcing his death that Newhart began his career “toiling in Chicago as an accountant by day and moonlighting at night as a comedy performer and writer”.

Newhart was known as a pioneer of stand-up routines involving long stories, with a series of funny statements throughout, rather than one single punchline joke at the end.

“There was a (comedy) sea change taking place,” he said, according to his publicist.

Newhart separated himself from other comedians of his generation with his modern outlook and observational delivery, never raising his voice and almost stammering at times.

When he took to the stage for stand-up, his only prop was a telephone, which he used to pretend to hold a conversation with someone on the other end of the line.

Newhart, who loved an audience, never really retired, and was still a fixture on Hollywood sets and stages through his 80s.

Comedy film director Judd Apatow was among those paying tribute on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Bob Newhart was the kindest most hilarious man,” he posted, adding: “His brilliant comedy and gentle spirit made everyone he encountered so happy.”

Actress Kaley Cuoco, who worked with Newhart on The Big Bang Theory, posted on Instagram: “What a dream it was to witness the genius that was Bob Newhart.

“He was classy, kind, generous and absolutely hilarious.”

Director and actor Paul Feig posted on X: “A brilliant standup & comedic actor, he was truly one of a kind.”

“God, he was funny! Bob Newhart. You will be missed!” actress Jamie Lee Curtis posted on Instagram.

Newhart is survived by his four children and numerous grandchildren.

His wife of 60 years, Virginia “Ginnie” Newhart, passed away in 2023.

(BBC News)

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2024 Bon Odori festival held in Colombo

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The National Youth Services Council (NYSC), in collaboration with the Japanese Solidarity Association (JSA) and the Embassy of Japan, successfully hosted the Bon Odori Festival 2024 at the NYSC premises in Maharagama. Despite the rainy weather, a significant crowd of both Sri Lankan and Japanese nationals attended the festival, highlighting the strong cultural ties between the two nations.

A customary Japanese festival, the Bon Odori Festival honours and says adieu to ancestor spirits. The event this year included a diverse array of acts and events that highlighted the lively customs of Sri Lanka and Japan.

The festival featured a Bon Odori dance to popular songs “Tokyo Ondo” and “Tanko Bushi,” which were performed by students from the Japanese School in Colombo and the Lanka Nippon BizTech Institute (LNBTI). In addition to the Bon Dance, the following performances have given the cultural event a captivating touch:
• Traditional Japanese drum performances (Wadaiko) by students from the Japanese School in Colombo and NYSC
• The Japanese dance “Nanchu Soran,” performed by students from the Japanese School in Colombo
• Karate performances by NYSC students
• J-Pop dance routines by LNBTI students
• Japanese and Sinhala songs performed by JICA Volunteers and
• A blend of traditional Japanese and Sri Lankan dances by NYSC students.

With her live performance, a renowned Japanese singer and long-time supporter of JICA, Ms. Mayo Shono, who was in Sri Lanka for the third time, brought this year’s Bon Odori event a splash of colour and vibrancy with her dulcet voice.
Distinguished participants graced the occasion, including Hon. Harin Fernando, Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, H.E. Mr. MIZUKOSHI Hideaki, Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka, Mr. Pasindu Gunaratne, Chairman of NYSC, and Mr. HOTTA Mikinaga, President of JSA.

Numerous food vendors from well-known Japanese eateries, such as Nihonbashi, Sushi Bar Samurai, Yamato, Ginza Hohsen, Kuuraku, Minori, Shikisen, and Sakura Coffee Farm, were present in the festival grounds. In addition, the NYSC cooking class also had its stall, offering a diverse range of Japanese cuisine and popular Sri Lankan dishes. The event also featured stalls from the Origami Folders Association of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Bonsai Association, JICA volunteers, Japanese Solidarity Association Bazaar, and the Japanese local government promotion by the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR).

The Bon Odori Festival 2024 was a resounding success, where even the heavy rain not just could not douse the enthusiasm but rather turned out to be stoking log for further strengthening the cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and Sri Lanka. The organizers extend their heartfelt thanks to all participants, sponsors, and attendees for their support and participation, which made the event a memorable celebration of friendship and cultural heritage.

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Stars to return for first Shrek film for 16 years

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Shrek’s long-awaited return has been confirmed, with Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz all set to return for the lovable green ogre’s first film for 16 years.

A plotline for the movie is yet to be revealed, but Myers will play the title character, Diaz will voice Shrek’s wife Princess Fiona and Murphy will return as sidekick Donkey.

Announcing the news, DreamWorks Animation said on X: “Not too Far, Far Away… Shrek 5 is coming to theatres on July 1 2026 with Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz.”

The first film was released back in 2001, and won the first Oscar for best animated feature film.

It was a huge hit for DreamWorks, making $487m worldwide at the box office.

Shrek 2 was released in 2004, Shrek The Third came out in 2007, and Shrek Forever After hit cinemas in 2010.

Shrek 5 will in fact be the seventh film in the wider franchise, after Antonio Banderas’ character had two spin-off films – Puss In Boots and Puss In Boots: The Last Wish.

It is unknown whether Bandreas will be back for Shrek 5.

Murphy hinted in an interview with Collider last month that Donkey could also be getting his own spin-off movie.

He also said work on Shrek 5 started “months ago”.

“I recorded the first act, and we’ll be doing it this year, we’ll finish it up,” he said.

“Shrek is coming out and Donkey’s gonna have his own movie.”

(BBC News)

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