Picking my brains & bookshelf – An Interview with the Sunday Leader

The Life’s Library Of Natalie Soysa

By Tia Goonaratna

Natalie Soysa is a known face among almost everyone who has ever been around anything art-related. Whether it’s a photo exhibition, a metal concert, a gallery opening or even the odd poetry reading, you are surely to find her nestled in a corner. If you haven’t seen her, that’s probably because her face was covered with her camera as she tends to document everything. Don’t be fooled by her brilliant photography though; she is also a writer, producer, curator, creative consultant, vocalist and actress – the list could probably go on a bit more if we had space. After retiring from a 13-year career in advertising, she has been taking photographs for the past four years and has exhibited in Sri Lanka and in India.

Natalie, along with Sachini Perera, was awarded a grant to capture photography and audio based documentary for GROUNDVIEWS and that was published in PIX, Colombo Art Biennale, Bangalore and will be published in Munich later this year. Natalie also appeared in TEDx in Sri Lanka to share the stories of the numerous post-war artistes. Currently she’s the Head of Arts at British Council in Sri Lanka. Her spare time is spent pouring over Star Wars, learning about mythology, travelling to find adventures and being a mother to a son named after Luke Skywalker from Star Wars.

Photo credits: Malaka Mp

Q:  One book you wish had been written?
A: The Secret Life Of William Shakespeare. And I would have loved to have written it myself in fact. You have to wonder how a man had such fine insight into the human condition spread throughout his entire canon and it’s always intrigued me as to how we know so little about his personal life.

Q: One book you wish had never been written?
A: That’s a debatable question. A few years ago I would have named most indoctrinated or dogmatic religious literature or anything that tries to force someone else’s propaganda down your throat. These days I am more of the opinion that anyone should be allowed to express themselves, whether it’s a book or a photograph or any other form of creative expression – it’s the best way to discover that you are not alone, that someone else feels what you have felt. Creative expression is the world’s best outlet for connectivity. It’s why we connect with the lyrics of a song, isn’t it?

Q: Favourite book turned into a movie?
A: Lots of great books have turned into great movies. Lord of the Rings, Gone with the Wind, Schindler’s List, To Kill a Mockingbird, The English Patient, and so on. But I think the point is to appreciate each expression of a story in the medium it’s been created. Take Lord of the Rings for instance, the entire book never made it to the movie and I think that works well for it – Tom Bombadill’s character was entirely sliced out of the movie and while I think his character is important to the narrative of the book, the movie didn’t require it.
On another note, sometimes the movie gets made first; Arthur C. Clarke’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey was first a screenplay written by both Clarke and Stanley Kubrick and was later published as a book and I don’t think anything was diminished in the process, simply because the film and the book are stand-alone pieces.

Q: The most surprising plot twist or ending?
A: This one is easy. I like narratives that blur the lines between good and evil; take the ending of the Harry Potter series for instance – Snape is the real hero of the story and not its title character. For me that’s a little like Darth Vader ending up at the real hero of the Star Wars series.

Q: Favourite title?
A: Two by the same author actually. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and So Long & Thanks for All the Fish. I love Doug Adams, I love his humour and his ability to use science fiction to make us take a good look at ourselves make us question the things we take for granted. I think all good sci-fi writers use space as their platform to help mankind take a step out of their comfort zone and look within ourselves.


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