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Ranjith’s rich structure and characterization

Ranjith Dharmakeerthi

No! Never ever. I could never crack up to plunge headlong in laudation. Simply because this novel Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya - moonlight in a flame - has been authored by my good old friend Ranjith Dharmakeerthi, the dramatist and writer for the simple reason that literary criticism never sanctions unwarrantable laudation or denunciation. Such is the constitution of this holy domain - olive groove? - of literary criticism, where in the shades sits the literary critic with that ‘deep sworn vow’ of honourable honesty burning live and hot in his heart.

Ranjith Dharmakeerthi who made his mark on the Sinhala stage as a noteworthy playwright, has, during the last few decades, shown his prowess in many a field such as the short story, the essay, translation, and also the novel which obviously is my present concern.

It cost him only a few investigatory peregrinations in the precincts of the art of fiction writing before he hit upon the egress proper and then on, it was smooth wheeling: from Sath Mahala of a yesteryear to Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya of yesterday. Yes, Dharmakeerthi stands big among the giants of the Sinhala novel.

Let me try to track down some attributes which would really have made Sanda Eliya shine titian red against the ‘intended’ flaming red social background if not for certain reasons. Thus this endeavour of mine will, I presume, tout-de-suit ferret out the pluses and minuses too of Dharmakeerthi’s novel.

Sanda Eliya carries in it a very charming love spreading over, may be, half of the novel, which continues to enchant the reader from the start to the finish. As both reader and critic I am compelled to own up that the story and characterization of a novel are requisite which fact is overlooked rather consciously and ‘fashionably’ too, by some callow modern day local critic in order to proudly signify a note of their allegiance to post-modernism.

Be that as it may. Dharmakeerthi’s rich story at once contributes largely to both structure and characterization of the novel so much so that the three aspects are welded together into an inseverable oneness - a distinct sign of the novelist’s expertise in handling the art of the novel.

The author’s mastery of the craft bestows on both main characters such entrancing lovabilities though different in themselves, which finally become the true catalyst force of the aforementioned fusion. the homespun rustic Nandani, the hospital nurse. Coming from an impoverished family with aristocratic leanings and Dr. Anandan, a traditional Hindu by birth and conviction too, who despite his western educational training remains, without any conscious effort, what he is.

Their love affair trudges on not without vacillations, hesitations and even repudiations with Nandani struggling with her own family problems resolutely, untiringly and even daringly. While her much more blessed counterpart seems to be poorly lit and indulging in only theorizing and that too in a field alien to him - the socio-political! Having helped her sisters in their marital problems, Nandani feels relieved but soon gets a transfer to Colombo hospital where, quite unexpectedly, she meets Anandan who by now lives in Australia and has come to Sri Lanka for a short stay.

Now their maturity acquired from age, experience and broadening of social outlook would not consent to any racial inclinations or attitudes; neither would they look forward to their parents’ advice or approval. Thus the novel ends in a happy and positive note with the emplaning of a new couple to a new country in search of a new life.

Let me go back to the ‘fusion’ I spoke of in a few earlier lines for therein lies the most gripping and perhaps the most innovative modus operandi in the work: a strategic manipulation rarely seen in a contemporary Sinhala novel. The striking contrast found in the two main characters, Nandani and Anandan glow flame-red and titanium red alternatively: when one vacillates, hesitates or repudiates the other reacts quite contrarily (for respective examples see pages 33-34, 84-85, 190-191).

These many instances of accords and discords run down deep into the three layers of the body of the novel in the plot, structure and characterization - producing a convulsive movement which in turn becomes symbolic of the long and synchronous existences of the two ethnic group.

And here it would be relevant to mention that these convulsive movements of the accords and discords running deep into the substructure of the novel hold it together like sinews to form one entity suggestive of a “nation” - the light at the end of the tunnel. It is only a flicker of the genius of Dharmakeerthi which could have brought to fruition such a brilliant depiction of the existing reality with all its complexities.

True that the glittering thread of lovability (of Nandani And Anandan) runs through the whole texture of characterization of the novel. It is also true that the ethnicity of the couple could be interchanged without causing any imbalance. This interchangeability is easily and equally applicable not only to these two individuals but also to families themselves of the two ethnic groups.” This is only plain and obvious common sense!” One could easily comment.

Yet the manner in which this delicate and seemingly simple concern has been handled by the novelist in this novel is only exceptional and it bears testimony to Dharmakeerthi’s elegant taste and subtle knowledge of the art of the novel.

The most conspicuous flow in the novel seems to be the author’s failure to have depicted the escalating terrorist activities at a closer range for it is one major thematic concern of our writer; though the Sanda-eliya (moonlight) has been remarkably handled - as I have already shown - in relation to all the important aspects of the novel like a plot, structure theme etc. the Ginisiluwa signifying the imminent threat of terrorism whose flames have already begun to lick the social web of the country has been viewed from the far end of the telescope.

This distancing of the objectively of the action packed drama may well be a postponement of the writer for I feel that Dharmakeerthi is obliged to write a sequel to his novel. His ending itself is verily suggestive of two anticipatory contemplations: the sequel and the much more symbolic and humane transformation of the Ginisiluwa to Sanda-eliya.

- Hemaratne Liyanarachchi


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