A beacon to feature journalism - BEN
A senior journalist, author of many books and a renowned film critic -Benedict Dodampegama passed away on the 19th of February, at the age of 75,after a brief illness. Mr Dodampegama, fondly known as ' Ben' in Srilanka's journalistic and literary field, first joined Lake House in 1954 April, after being introduced to Observer's then editor Denzil Peiris by the film maestro Lester James Peiris. He started feature- writing to Srilanka's renowned Sinhala journal 'Silumina' and his contributions helped make Silumina the most popular Sunday newspaper in the whole Far East with the highest circulation. Later Benedict became its feature editor and remained in Lake House for many years until he joined the American Press Service attached to the American Embassy in Colombo as a team member. He edited a monthly magazine titled - 'Dharshana' for them.
Born on October 8, 1928 at Avariyawatta in Wattala, Benedict Dodampegama had his studies at St Anthonys, Wattala and St. Benedicts, Kotahena and later entered Sri Lanka University of Peradeniya. When he left the university, unlike most of his university contemporaries, fresh faced Ben chose journalism and films to administrative service. He wanted very much to join a newspaper which he fulfilled at the Sri Lanka's leading newspaper publishing company. His enthusiasm in films and drama made him the most lovable man among his journalist colleagues not only in Lake House but also other newspaper groups as well.
His first book on films was 'Chitrapata Aswadanaya' published in 1957 for the Sinhala film enthusiasts giving the yardsticks that could be impartially used to appreciate movies. When Lester James Pieris worked on his epic film production ' Sandeshaya',
Ben joined with Lester in writing its script. Many years later, he introduced writer G.B.Senanayaka to Lester who was looking for a good film story and persuaded Lester to select G.B's short story named 'Nidhanaya' as his next production. Lester did agree and made the film which later won many awards including best actor, best direction and the best film. Even to this day Nidhanaya remains as one of the best films made in Sri Lanka.
As a feature writer, Benedict showed an unrelenting ardour. He was ready to travel length and breadth of the island in search of novel features. As a well-read man, he knew before hand how to tackle difficult situations as a journalist and presented mediocre topics to a highly appealing news material. What ever he wrote kindled interest in Sinhala readers of all ages.
Ben wrote the film stories - 'Kulageya' and 'Mandakini'- both directed by H.D.Premaratna. As a writer, he joined with late Reggie Ranasinghe in short story translation and published a short story collection titled- 'Rashamon'.
He has written numerous articles and critical essays on cinema and co-translated with Edwin Ariyadasa a book by John F. Kennedy. Right through out his life Ben firmly believed that reading made a complete and useful man. He encouraged those who were around him - especially the young budding journalists - to have a book handy at all times. He advised them to read more and more and expand their horizons if they wanted to be better journalists in years to come. He assuredly became a beacon to the young blood of writers in our country. He was a good friend to all associates, a man of fine sense of humour plus a family man and a loving father to his children. Though he is gone now, the void made by his departure will never be substituted, but his inspiration will linger in the world of Srilankan journalism. Ben will be remembered for all those things above but mostly as an excellent human being.
Written by Daya Ananda Ranasinghe - Editor Lanka Viththi published in London