Colombo in the 1970s on Video Courtesy of Asela Atukorala

Looking Back at 1970s Colombo

Last year, a nearly three minute video shot on 16 millimetre film featuring aerial videography of 1970s Colombo, Sri Lanka was released on the Kinolibrary YouTube channel. The video is called “1970s Colombo Aerials, HD from 16mm”. I’m embedding the video below which you can watch if you wish. Following that, I will give my thoughts on this footage. ,,,,

The video actually begins in Kandy lifting off from the Police Grounds. It then flies over the Kandy Market and the Kandy Railway Station. Many of the buildings seen at the start are thin and long which seems to be an older style, dating back much further than the 1970s. Quite a few of them are later seen in Colombo. These types of buildings still exist in Sri Lanka, but they are not present to the same extent as before. It’s interesting to see steam trains as those type of trains are no longer in use.The train featured is likely going from Kandy to Matale. It’s good to see that there is a lot of green areas, as I see a large amount of trees and paddy fields. I see many palm trees both here and later on in Colombo which is a good and common sight in Sri Lanka. Following that it goes to Kadugannawa, a town near Kandy. In this town there is a tall monument known as Dawson’s Column. 

We finally reach Colombo, going right into the centre of the city. Colombo in the 1970s looks very different to Colombo in the 2010s, with a small part of the footage shown not looking familiar. The most prominent difference between the two periods is the buildings that no longer exist and the lack of ones that do now. I notice that evn then there were some modern buildings in the Colombo City alongside the old ones.

Following the main area of Colombo, we then go to the Colombo Port. After our brief look at the Colombo Port, we go to a suburban area of Colombo that I’m not familiar with. This suburban area is very crowded, unlike the main part of Colombo that was seen earlier. We then see two familiar landmarks that being Town Hall and Beira Lake. I’m pleased to see that the Beira Lake is in a very clean condition.

When it comes to traffic featured in this video, the second instance of traffic is more crowded making it somewhat reminiscent of current traffic in Colombo. However, the first instance of traffic is calm and peaceful totally unlike today. I wish Colombo could have traffic like this again. On the reverse, I think there is an achievement Colombo has made since then. Though the city has more improvements needed when it comes to cleanliness, it is my perception that the city is cleaner now than it was than.

It’s good that the Internet allows us to find out this information about the past which would have been very difficult to see two to three decades back. Despite the differences, Colombo of the 1970s still has the uniquely Colombo look and feel we see now in the 2010s, which will no doubt remain in 40 years time in the 2050s. If you have lived in Colombo in the 1970s, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this video and/or your memories of this time.

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