"The cinema was fantastic, I loved it!" - Julie
One evening we excitedly decided to embark on a trip to Galle with another volunteer to experience the local cinema! While some of us were fans of Hindi movies already, we were hoping for a Hindi movie which would have English sub-titles. But we just went along willing to experience whatever was showing. We came across two cinemas in Galle, and decided against the one showing the Hindi film ‘A dangerous game of teenage lovers’- instead opting to go to the much more wholesome-looking cinema showing a Sri Lankan film called 'Angelika'. The cinema was, I found, surprisingly modern and nice inside. While initially slightly disappointed to be told there were no subtitles, we entered into the spirit of the experience and paid less than 50p to watch the movie- (not the cheapest ticket either!). In fact there were a few words of English interspersed with the Singhalese, which aided understanding. We recognised the odd few words of Singhalese, (lassoni - beautiful and matchung- friend). However, really it wasn't essential to understand the words in actual fact. The movie seemed to have a lot in common with the Hindi movie genre, with artistic scenes of songs, dances and exaggerated drama, although some might find it slightly cheesy. The result was so expressive that to me at least, needing to understand the words completely, was not essential, to have a pretty good idea of the story line and to feel completely compelled by it. It was extremely dramatic and I absolutely loved it! The story consisted of a plot similar to those in Hindi movies, showing the protagonists coming of age and then the development of a love triangle, with themes of class, family and betrayal. Although the film was a new release, it had taken about 6 years to make. It was also very long and even had an interval. While we probably didn't quite understand the intricacies of the plot, we felt we had a pretty good idea of the story, and if anything I think it added something and was a true cultural experience to hear the words spoken in the foreign language. It was only a shame we discovered the cinema so near the end of the trip, if we had found it earlier I think I would have gone as regularly as new films were released.
Read a film review about Angelika here: http://www.dailynews.lk/2006/10/11/art07.asp
Several shops along Galle Road in Hikkaduwa sold/ rented a variety of films, so if you have a laptop getting films to watch should be easy enough.
While staying in Hikkaduwa we went to a festival where traditional Sri Lankan music was being played as well as experiencing a small local group. Drumming features heavily in the music, especially the music of the Perahera. Some local music is well worth experiencing. According to the lonely planet guide book there is a School of Dance in Ambalangoda and foreigners can pay to join in a class.
We found that the young locals liked to listen to reggae music as well as British music, particularly older British pop music!
No visit to Sri Lanka is complete without the initiation into the local game Carrom. Carrom boards can be found in many bars and restaurants of Hikkaduwa and make a change from playing games of pool.
Carrom is similar to pool, but there are no cues. The board is a wooden square with pockets in the four corners. The pieces are like draft pieces, white and black with one red piece. The aim of the game is to flick the pieces into the pockets using another larger counter. There is a special carrom flick which we found hard to master, but really you can hit the pieces however works best for you! Games played by the locals lasted about five minutes, whereas games played by the less experienced- namely us- tended to go on at least half an hour, before the long suffering locals we were playing with would end the game! It is a fun way to interact with locals, most of whom have endless patience in showing you how to play.
For a webiste explaining the basics of Carrom see: http://www.carromassociation.com/carrom/carom.html. Go on give it a try it's great fun!
In Hikkaduwa there were several shops selling carved masks, turtles and whole shops full of carved elephants. There were also painted elephants that looked a bit like the elephants dressed up for the Perahera. These were relatively cheap- even for a large one only about £5- remember to try and bargain with the locals or compare prices so that you know that the price that you are paying is a fair one.