People experience both good and bad times. And when people face bad times, some break down and some emerge stronger. Padmakumar Mettasena, a renowned photographer in the newspaper industry talking about his life journey and achievements said that art helped him to learn how to embrace both ups and downs in his life. Releasing his new book Panas Pas Dinak Thailanthaye (Fifty five days in Thailand) which was written based on his real life experiences in Thailand, he said that negative experiences in life can become a great teacher. His debut book Hata hathara dawasak dambadiwa (64 days in India) too was based on the experiences he gained while touring India.
He pointed out that the quality of modeling as a career is losing its dignity. “We have very beautiful people in Sri Lanka. But for some reason they can’t remain in the field for a long time,” he said adding that if the young models can think wisely and give more priority to protecting their dignity they might be able to survive longer
Both books are in the form of a travelogue. Although, today, these are books people can read and enjoy while learning about the countries, he said that his life during the times he used for these travels was not smooth. He had to leave the country due to the financial issues.
When not taking photographs, Mettasena plays the roles of lyricist, poet, artist and short film director. Mettasena fell in love with photography as a teenager and developed this passion into a career. Being in the photography field for decades, now he dreams to step into the film industry to direct films and write scripts.
Mettasena is from Galle and an old boy of Richmond College, Galle. He started his career in the newspaper industry as a picture story writer at Lake House. It was the period when comic strips in local newspapers were highly admired. He first joined Sathuta as a writer. He was just a schoolboy when he started writing in 1982.
He later started writing to Sarasaviya newspaper. “My family noticed that I have a passion for photography as well, so they bought me a box camera. I was excited that I made it a habit to take pictures of the stars I interviewed. And this habit led me to become a professional in photography,” he reminisced.
His first ever cover photo was publish in August 1983. It features a beautiful young girl who was acting in a movie directed by Robin Fernando. Today, known as Rosy Senanayake, this beautiful girl’s photograph in the cover of newspaper tabloid changed the fate of Mettasena. “Since then I received the opportunity to do many covers featuring well-known artistes in the country,” he said.
When he was studying for a diploma in Mass Communication he received an opportunity to write for the Nawayugaya paper which was then considered to be highly prestigious. Later one of his colleagues introduced him to Vijitha Yapa, Editor of Sunday Times. Eventually he was recruited as a freelance photographer. He has worked for Sunday Times as a freelance photographer for more than 25 years. He said that being a freelancer didn’t tie him down to the company and it gave him freedom of mind to work at his own pace.
Mettasena is also highly appreciated for his creativity in wedding photography and the fashion industry. Over the years he has worked with many young models. He pointed out that the quality of modeling as a career is losing its dignity. “We have very beautiful people in Sri Lanka. But for some reason they can’t remain in the field for a long time,” he said adding that if the young models can think wisely and give more priority to protecting their dignity they might be able to survive longer. He mentioned that this unfortunate situation is more applicable to females. “It’s not only the outside beauty that matters. A person should be beautiful from inside and use a little brain in order to survive in the field for a longer period,” he opined.
In 2013 Mettasena made his directorial debut in directing a silent short film called Paragon. He recalled the two Indian artistes Rangana Mishra and Ovez Bakshi who came down to Sri Lanka to portray important roles in his film.
Speaking further about the experiences in penning the travelogues, he admired the priority given to arts in our neighboring country India. “India is a mysterious country. There are many things to learn in India. Although I was a tourist, the way I travelled across the country opened up many chances to gain rare experiences. This is why I decided to write these stories to a newspaper,” he said. His stories about India and Thailand were published in ‘Ada’ newspaper as a series. He mentioned that positive feedback he received encouraged him to publish the articles as a book.
Both his books are available at Surasa and Sarasavi bookshops. Further to the travelogues he also published a collection of lyrics Tharu keta dahasak in 2014 and his debut poetry collection Tharuwa nam maru in 2013. His poetry collection was a novel experience to the contemporary readers as the book included a collection of poems written in a form of SMS.
Commenting further on the field of arts in our county he said that India is way ahead of us mostly because they have a good foundation in their careers. “Artistes are honest in what they do and they won’t encourage the fake artistes to shine. This is the main reason behind their success in arts and how they are maintaining the quality of the field,” he said.