COLOMBO: The Vethodys, a family of Malayali entrepreneurs with roots in Kerala and Sri Lanka, have brought back to life a slice of Colombo’s colonial past with the re-launch of their extensively renovated 135-year-old iconic Hotel Nippon situated in the heart of the capital’s business district.
“Nippon” as it is popularly known, occupies Manning Mansions in Slave Island, a place which the 16th Century Portuguese rulers of Colombo had used to house slaves brought from Africa. Being one of the oldest buildings in Colombo, Manning Mansions were designated as one of its “heritage” buildings by the Sri Lankan Department of Archeology with strict rules for their upkeep.
Hotel Nippon found its place in cinematic history when it was featured in David Lean’s Academy Award-winning film Bridge On The River Kwai shot in Ceylon in the mid-1950s. According to Dr.Valsan Vethody, a Director of the hotel, some of the indoor shots of the Japanese army headquarters were shot in Nippon, and its then joint proprietor, Greg Roskowski, a Polish émigré, had acted in the film as one of the British Prisoners of War.
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