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A Critique on the State Sinhala Drama Festival of 1966

'An actor is one who is made and not one who is born' should be the motto of Sinhala theatre

Subject matter of realistic conversational original Plays in 1960's

Prof. Ariya Rajakaruna

(This is a translation of a critique by Prof. Ariya Rajakaruna. He served as the Head of the Department of Sinhala of the University of Peradeniya. He is currently a visiting lecturer attached to the Department of Fine Arts and Sinhala. This is the only comprehensive review written on any State Sinhala Drama Festival held during the last five decades. This review was first published in 1967.This critique has been translated for the first time)

Continued from October 31

Aandi Tikai Ambalamai
Picture by Chandrasena Dassanayake

S. Karunaratne's "Erabadu Mal Pottu Pipila" is based on a folk tale. Pancha (Nimal Dayaratne) is a village boy. He lives with his mother (Malani Fonseka) and grandma (Chandra Kaluarachchi).

He enjoys nature. He is subjected to bullying at the hands of other children because he is a fatherless child. Mudalali became furious as Pancha hits children who bully him. The family could no longer live in the village because of the innocent child.

At this moment, Pancha seeks help from Manik Hami (Sathischandra Edirisinghe) who lives on a nearby hillock. Manik Hami rescues the family from Mudalali. Pancha requests Manik Hami to be his father. Manik Hami joins Pancha's mother and thus protects an innocent family.

The drama is based on an extremely natural plot. However, it is not clear what the dramatis expects from using a child as a lead role? If his intention was to portray a mental status of a lonely child, who is fatherless and enjoys nature, it has not been fruitful.

The ending of the drama has been an obstacle to reach that goal. The heated arguments between the child and Mudalali, Mudalali and Manik Hami and Manik Hami's union with child's mother have not been meaningfully integrated into the drama in a manner suited for a children's play.

Nimal Dayaratne's acting as a child actor is commendable. Malani Fonseka as Sudumanika portrayed complex character in the village with a certain degree of talent. There are few instances which showed that S. Karunaratna has considerable knowledge of drama.

Not enacting the argument between Mudalali and Manik Hami, some characters speaking out of the stage can be considered as such instances. Drama has not been profited from using group of singer. Production has become weak owing to the weak script.

"Erabudu Mal" showed the need for a tradition of children's drama with only child actors and actresses.

Another three dramas which have been presented for the festival, have followed the same path. These dramas are Ameradasa Jayatunga's "Viduru Diva", Piyasena Costa's "Ekman Kotai" and Chandrasena Dassanayaka's "Andi Tikai Ambalamai".

In Amerdasa Jayatunga's "Viduru Diva", the story of Vijaya and Kuveni has been presented with a novel outlook. Rendering a novel outlook to an old story can be considered as an important work.

Ediriweera Saraschandra's Maname and Singhabahu did the same task. He uses an old story to portray innermost feeling of human beings. Jayatunga took a different approach.

He renders the story of Vijaya and Kuveni with an emphasis on economic aspects. Dramatists ask the audience to consider Kuveni as the person who introduced textile industry, for the first time, to the world. The story has been woven in a manner highlighting this.

The actors and actresses behaviour on the stage is estrange. The cast talk and gesticulate in a stylist manner. Especially gesticulation on the part of actresses should be looked into.

This reminds of the actresses in Peking Opera. In Peking Opera, actresses perform acrobats and different gesticulations of fighting on the stage. Their gesticulations are always being done as an added feature.

The main reason for this is that it is the tradition of the actresses of the Peking Opera to behave in a manner not harming the aesthetic quality and the female features. Kuveni's (Malika Jayatunga) performance with stretching hands and foot is ugly.

It has not been pleasant scene. Producer failed to deploy talented cast for a weak drama "Viduru Diva". "Viduru Diva" is an important example to show that stylist drama can be used not only to generate humour but also other zests.

Piyasena' Costa's "Ekman Kotai" is based on a folk tale. Dramatist's intention was to create humour. A plot for a drama should be appropriate to create zest.

In this drama, plot has not been properly dramatised. When drama is of no zest, it fails to attract the audience even if it creates a taste of music. If the cast is talented than those in the drama, they could have presented it in a more attractive manner.

Chandrasena Dasanayake's "Aandi Tikai Ambalamai" is a drama that ridicules the United Nations. He compares the UN with an Aandi-gathered Ambalama. Different countries were given names (according to dramatist) to highlight their inherent characteristics.

Satirical names such as Danavadi American Appu, Prajathanthrige Brithania, Adamana Anduge Pansia, Maksvadi Rusia, Alihul Allannage Chinis, Samajavadi Chinavardana, Katath Hum Kiyannange India Agaberana, Topiya Herena Atata Nananage Arabivansa, Nikan Innange Ceylonis, Japanis and Samadanage Burumaya, have been used for the drama.

Dasanayaka successfully produced the drama "Aandi Tikai Ambalamai" as a satirical drama. However, his satire has only a transient value. Further more, it seems as superficial satire.

Therefore, it cannot be considered as a great production, creating great zest. "Aandi Tikai Ambalamai" shows that stylist drama can be used as an effective medium to create humour.



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