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Dilani’s styling journey

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By Zanita Careem

When you walk into Elan Salon on Thalawathugoda Road, Kotte, the sleek and simplistic design of it tells that Dilani Pereira is serious about hair and beauty. The stylist is passionate about her hair journey and, before booking any appointment, you’re asked to come along to the salon for a consultation, where she will help shape your ‘dream style’, giving you the chance to consider it first. Once you meet Dilani however, you know you’re in good hands with her professional understanding and realistic advice on your new style.

Regular clients of Elan Salon will know that one of the best things about it is the hair washing station, where you can lay right back and relax as you enjoy an incredible head massage. It is not the price at the end of the scale that matters but it’s definitely worth it for the complete salon experience.

They do a range of other beauty treatments. Whether it’s a bouncy blow dry, beachy blonde highlights, a total revamp or just a chic cut, this young hair stylist knows her art well. This is your one-stop shop for hair and beauty, from a simple cut and colour to nails, makeup or skin care. Dilani will make you feel at home. Her team is all trained and there’s a distinct family feel at Elan Salon.

Following are the excerpts from an interview with Dilani:

Tell us about yourself and your professional background

I studied at Bishop’s College, I have four siblings and none of them are hairdressers. I never dreamt of being a hairdresser. I tried different professions before becoming a hairdresser 15 years ago.

What do you like best about your job and what is your inspiration?

This is an industry involving people, it’s an industry that is always evolving and it is about making people feel and look good. I love being able to build relationships with clients and celebrate all their life’s milestones with them.

What are your greatest strengths and who is your greatest strength?

I’m a good listener. Many of my clients love sharing ups and downs of their lives with me when they visit the salon. It’s important to clarify exactly what they want from their service to avoid miscommunication. Before you pick up the shears or mix the colour, it is imperative that you and your clients are on the same page. My God, my family and friends are my greatest strength. I thank God for blessings and I’m ever grateful to my brother and sister-in-law and my uncles as well for always standing by my side.

Describe a work situation and how you handle it?

There have been many times where clients comes up with unreasonable complaints where I would just listen to them, apologize and make them calm down.

What inspired the name of your salon?

‘Elan’ means style/energy and enthusiasm in French. This inspired me as I’m known for it.

How do you see yourself in five years?

I would like to open up two or three salons in Colombo suburbs and one in a popular mall in five years.

Tell us about your staff and how you train them

I admire and respect my team for commitment and dedication towards work and give them best training which I got from the previous salons that I have worked for.

How do you ensure optimum client satisfaction?

By offering a pleasant experience, a comfortable and a clean environment, personal treatment, knowing my clients and being confident and knowledgeable.

How do you respond to client dissatisfaction?

Hear them out, understand the issue, use initiatives, find a solution, apologize to the client, will not give excuses and make sure that it will not repeat in future.

How do you build relationships with your clients?

When clients arrive, I make sure to acknowledge and greet them with a smile. Every client that visits my salon is made to feel special.

As a stylist I also believe in establishing free flowing lines of communication with them. In order to establish a successful customer relationship, it is also important to be able to take any criticism on board, act on it and turn it around to find a solution. So I make sure that I don’t take criticism personally, instead, I use it to my advantage and leave these channels of communication wide open.

In the new normalcy how have you adapted your work adhering to strict health guidelines?

I make sure to keep myself updated about ever changing health guidelines and encourage clients to call and make appointments, so that I can issue time slots accordingly without overcrowding the salon. As for ‘walk-in customers’, if the salon is not occupied, I will take them in. If not, we have to turn them away with a heavy heart and encourage them to call and make an appointment.

What is your message to a potential new client who is yet to experience your salon and what are the advantages of the location of your salon?

I would be humbled by their presence and be proud to provide them with best service by the Elan team. It has a homely atmosphere and there is ample parking space as well.



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Life style

The poem Neruda never wrote

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In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Island, film maker Asoka Handagama shares the story behind his latest film- Alborada (The Dawning of the Day) inspired by the celebrated poet Pablo Neruda’s stay here as the Chilean Consul. The film is to be internationally premiered at the 34th edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival opening on October 30.

by Randima Attygalle

It is the year 1929. Young Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda whose fame preceded him arrives in the British-occupied Ceylon as the Chilean Consul. By then Neruda, had already become an international literary celebrity. His work, Twenty Love Poems and Song of Despair was among the bestselling books of poetry in the 20th century. He was called ‘the poet of the people, the oppressed and the forgotten.’

The activist-Consul arrives in Ceylon, barely 25 and empty-handed except for his memory of the disengaged relationship with his former Burmese lover, Josie Bliss. She was obsessively devoted to Neruda and possessed by an overwhelming jealousy. Neruda who called Josie ‘a love terrorist’ and ‘a species of Burmese Panther’ would document in his memoir: (completed shortly before his death in 1973) ‘Sometimes a light would wake me, a ghost moving on the other side of the mosquito net. It was Josie, flimsily dressed in white, brandishing her long, sharp knife. It was she, walking round and round my bed, for hours at a time, without quite making up her mind to kill me. When you die, she used to say to me, my fears will end.’

While his ‘Bliss’ was turning into a taunting jealousy, Neruda receives a cable from Santiago informing him of his immediate transfer to Ceylon. Welcoming his emancipation from his lover, Neruda settles in a beach-front cottage in Wellawatte and is taken care of by a man servant.

He attempts to bury his memories in the vast tropical shores and takes refuge in an atmosphere of solitude he creates for himself. In his memoir is a chapter dedicated to his stay in Ceylon titled Luminous Solitude where he writes: ‘each morning I was overpowered by the miracle of newly cleansed nature.’

Neruda was soon found in the artistic inner circles of Colombo. He was acquainted with Lionel Wendt and George Keyt. The young Chilean poet had a bevy of female admirers whom he called ‘dusky and golden girls of Boer, English and Dravidian blood.’ They bedded him ‘sportingly, asking for nothing in return,’ as he documents.

The young diplomat was infatuated with a Tamil woman of a low caste who came every day at dawn to clean his outdoor latrine. He found her to be the most beautiful woman he had seen in Ceylon. To win her attention, Neruda left her gifts of fruit or silk on the path leading to the latrine, but she took no notice of them. One day he gripped her by the wrist and stared into her eyes. ‘Unsmiling, she let herself be led away and soon was naked in my bed. Her waist, so very slim, her full hips, the brimming cups of her breasts made her like one of the thousand-year-old sculptures from the south of India. … She kept her eyes wide open all the while, completely unresponsive. She was right to despise me. The experience was never repeated.’

The act became a subject of international scrutiny in later years, even prompting a reassessment of the Nobel Laureate’s merit. Neruda who was celebrated as ‘the greatest poet in the 20th century in any language’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was even labeled a ‘rapist’. Activists challenged his documentation of ‘she let herself be led away’ as a blatant lie. The decision to rename Chile’s busiest Santiago International Airport after Neruda was met with outrage from human rights activists who argued that the honour was inappropriate for a man who admitted to rape in his own memoirs.

“Although there are many accounts of Neruda’s life portrayed in fiction and film, this part of the story is often carefully left out. Though his poems about love outwardly sound romantic, they hide within them the eroticization and objectification of women and particularly, women of colour,” reflects the film-maker Asoka Handagama whose latest film Alborada (The Dawning of the Day) is an elaboration of Neruda’s controversial sexual assault.

The film which is to hold its world premiere in Tokyo (Oct. 30 – Nov. 8) is a fictionalized account of Neruda’s stay in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) from 1929 to 1931 as the Chilean Consul. The film explores the psychological and the emotional factors behind Neruda’s attraction to a woman bound by her caste: a woman considered to be ‘untouchable’, unknown to her playing a part in a bizarre fantasy that ended in a sexual assault.

A fan of Neruda’s poetry, Handagama found the poet’s mixed element of art and controversy a tempting subject for a film script. The script which was inspired by Neruda’s Memoirs is a fruit of 10 years of research on the poet. Handagama left his position as a Deputy Governor of the Central Bank three years before his formal retirement age to complete what he calls his ‘dream film.’

A rebel himself with his cinematic expression, Handagama intrepidly unearths the famed poet’s often interred infamous chapter in what he calls an ‘ironic act.’ “It is ironic that an Asian film-maker, coming from a so called restrained cultural landscape is throwing light on Neruda’s sexual antics when all the while Western cinema makers and fiction writers chose to leave them out in the exposition of him,” smiles Handagama.

Reference to Neruda’s Burmese lover Josie Bliss in his poetry is plenty although she is widely regarded as a figment of the poet’s imagination, notes the film maker. “The depiction of her as a perceived threat, a desire and barbarity in his poem Widower’s Tango, combined with his confession show Neruda’s complicated relationship with women and race.” However, no poem of Neruda’s alludes to the ‘untouchable woman’ by whom he was smitten, despite being described as the ‘most beautiful Ceylonese woman’ or one resembling a ‘thousand-year-old sculpture’ from South India. Handagama’s tagline for his film, The poem Neruda never wrote validates this exclusion. It is also an allegorical reminder of the poet’s element which many tended to discount.

Alborada reinvents the rustic west coast of the island Neruda saw in the 1930s. This was no easy task says its creator. “We had to recreate Wellawatta of his time and this was not possible within Colombo due to the changing skyline. We set it up in Nonagama and in Ranminithenna Tele-Cinema Village.”

Lending a cinematic interpretation to an isolated incident at home which is unfamiliar to the authentic Sri Lankan film print, Alborada is to be a refreshing new experience for the local audience. The film also hopes to spur a public discourse, says its director. Starring Spanish actor Luis J Romero as Neruda and French actress Anne Solene Hatte as Josie, the dialogues are in English with Sinhala and Tamil subtitles. The film also debuts several artistes. The main cast comprises Rithika Kodithuwakku (Tamil woman), Malcolm Machado (Neruda’s man servant), Dominic Keller (Lionel Wendt), Nimaya Harris (Patsy), Thusitha Laknath, Kaushalya Mendis, Samantha Balasuriya, Kasun Perera and Kanchana Nandani. Edited by Ravindra Guruge, the film is produced by H.D. Premasiri.

The Tokyo International Film Festival (TokyoIFF) which will feature Alborada is among the invited films for its ‘international competition’ which is the highlight of the festival. Multi-award winning French screen and stage actress Isabelle Huppert will chair the competition jury. This year’s theme of TokyoIFF is ‘Crossing Borders’. “There are plenty of international film festivals today. But only 14 of them are regarded as ‘A-Grade film festivals. TokyoIFF is one of them and the only Asian festival to get this recognition so far,” remarks Handagama. This year’s festival will be opened with the world premiere of Clint Eastwood’s latest film Cry Macho.

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Fashion’s new order

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From fashion weeks without shows to brands abandoning the traditional schedules, Covid-19 has thrown the industry into a state of flux.

by Zanita Careem

As the pandemic spread and its impacts grew, business world-wide shifted their priorities. The virus has crept almost into every industry including the fashion industry.

It was a hard toll on the industry; fashion weeks got cancelled and major retail departmental stores closed for weeks and months.

The fashion industry is likely to see a shift from consumer spending in large department stores and choosing independent shops. The reason is because social distancing is a necessity. The pandemic slowdown affected the industry, the new normal made consumers to show down their purchases. The designers saw a huge shift in consumer behaviour, affecting the fashion designers and retailers alike.

To evaluate the impact of Covid-19 on the industry we caught up with some of the reputed designers whose names are synonymous with fashion. Senake de Silva said the future is bleak and until things go back to normal, (but how long) it will it take months or perhaps years. Even if we recover it will never be the same again. “We might get back to 70 per cent of what the industry was by next may be,” Senake said.

The Sri Lankan apparel industry was one of the most significant contributors to the country’s economy. “We even had the first ever Sri Lankan apparel fashion show at the then Hotel Oberoi. It was possibly the very first time that a top French Couturier was in Colombo,” recollected Senake.

Sri Lankan apparel categories include sportswear, lingerie bridal wear and swimwear. These were of high quality and were exported to many countries. Recently the industry was affected by regular disturbances of the Covid-19. Fashion shows were cancelled, designers had no work. Fashion industry is one of the primary employers too. With supply chain broken and sales down and unsold stock in retail outlets we had to face major crises. This was all against a backdrop of consumer habits changing and attitudes shifting to consumptions said Lou Ching Wong. We cant compare ourselves to the west said Lou Ching .

Despite the lock-down, major cities in Europe had their fashion shows. The luxury brands like Gucci, Prada, YSL, Armani and Chanel to name a few. But here at home with complete closure, there were no shows or glamour events.

Sri Lankans have now started to reassess and re-prioritize what they spend money on. This resulted in fashion trends slowing down with designers left with nothing. Major fashion brands and retailers have been cancelling orders, including products made and waiting to be sent to stores. The reality is that we are forced to stay at our homes and many of us are financially burdened by lay-offs and the desire to buy new clothes is a distant dream. How long can you think the domestic fashion industry can sustain without sales? “We work in a very high circle and the fact is there are no demands so, I am not sure this will be sustainable. And unfortunately we are not like a Western economy that can afford to payout salaries.”

The industry is going to take a long recovery time. The only positive, if at all is hopefully to be able to use it to recalibrate the lifestyles that suit our people said Lou Ching Wong.

“The virus has left me vulnerable confronting an obliteration of sales, wage loss and employee lay-offs,” Ramani Fernando, a fashion icon and beautician said. “However, we are slowly but steadily working towards providing services to our customers under strict health guidelines. Now things are changing and I find many brides advancing their dates and calendars are filling up. However, I feel this crisis could present an opportunity to rethink of the industry.”

For Dinesh Chandrasena, an internationally recognized designer and a leading creative educator, the future seems bright!

“The fashion design and apparel manufacturing industries like all other businesses have been continuously evolving despite the Covid-19 pandemic. We, like the other industries, have been finding methods and systems to not just survive but actually maintain a positive business movement. I have worked in the fashion industry in Los Angeles since the mid-1990s and I have many colleagues who speak about their plans and strategies. I notice that the long term systematic outcomes that they work towards, are based on utilizing these uncertain times to re-evaluate and re-structure their immediate sphere in order to maximize efficiency while still underlining creative excellence”.

“As a creative practitioner and educator, I look at everything with a ‘glass half full’ mentality and believe it is up to us to find, create, and enhance methodologies that would bring a successful turn to these times” Dinesh said.

The designers expect fashion to come back in a big way, after the pandemic. They believe that people will return to the world in glamorous, trendy outfits once more. ‘Fashion is a pendulum’ goes an adage. It goes from one extreme to another and that will happen again here too.

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Yohani has attracted many Bollywood singers

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Yohani de Silva popularly known as Yohani is as Sri Lankan singer, songwriter and rapper. Her song “Menike Mage Hithe” has completely exploded on the internet and had gone crazy visual. From social media to celebrities, everyone is obsessed with the peppy number. For the universal ‘Menike Mage Hithe’ is a 20-20 Sinhala by Satheeshan Ratnayake. The tract went viral after Sri Lankan singer’s version released in May. This song has created such a buzz, that it can be heard everywhere now.

Popularly known as Yohani,she was born on July 30, 1993 in Colombo.

She is extremely popular on Tick Tok and is also the first Sri Lankan female singer to have 2.46 million subscribers on You Tube Even celebs like Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Tiger Shroff and Maduri Dixit among others, couldn’t stop themselves from grooving to the addictive to the beat of the song. Many reels are also been made on this song of Yohani, and Amitabh Bachchan also shared one of his reels on his song on Instagram.

She did her schooling at Visakha Vidyalaya and graduated from Sir John Kotelawela Defence University. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Logistics Management.

Following the first Drive-in-Concert was produced by Show Town Entertainment and this concert created history as it was the first of its kind in Asia and the tenth worldwide. She shared the stage with great artists such as Bathiya and Santosh, Umariya and some others.

Yohani was now accepted as a Cultural Ambassador to India. Several TV channels in India interviewed her and said she is one of the latest Cultural Ambassador to appear in India’s National TV channel. Her song ‘Menike Mage Hithe” won the hearts of millions of people in India from celebrities to the public.

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