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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

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New waves in Sinhala teledrama

The first ever complete television set was invented in 1925 by an American, Vladimir Svorikan. It was the British Broadcasting Corporation which telecast the first ever television program in 1936 and the year 1981 marks the introduction of television to Sri Lanka.

Television in Sri Lanka, at the beginning, had to depend on the wide screen productions to attract and retain the newly won television viewership. Thus popular Sinhala films were often telecast with the cinema halls beginning to experience a gradual drop in viewership. In the aftermath of 1983 riots, this process was accelerated with many cinema halls being closed down or burnt down. Finally, cinema found itself a very victim of the very medium which it helped to grow. Eventually television became the most popular medium of entertainment overtaking both cinema and drama.


Geetha Kanthi Jayakody and Lucky Dias in Yashorawaya

In the mid-eighties, a tele series popularly known as teledrama was introduced. It was initially inspired by universally known soap-opera or tele-play and they instantly captivated the hearts of the viewers so much that it became indispensable for television.

At the commencement, teledramas such as Dimuthu Muthu, Yashoravaya and Palingu Menike generated a tremendous appeal among the viewership for whom the following day began with comments on the episode in the previous night ending with a prediction on what would happen next. These episodes brought the entire family with the neighbours joining for an evening entertainment. Undoubtedly it was a magic box for them.

With the television thus becoming a slave of teledrama, we notice such teledramas as Kadavara, Giraya, Kadulla, Doo Daruwo, Dandubasnamanaya, Ekagei Kurullo, Isivara Asapuwa, Bogala Saundaris, Theth Saha Viyali, Rala Bindena Thena etc., came on the small screen arresting the viewer interest leading them to prolonged discussions. Over 1600 teledramas series, serials and single episodes telecast in the past, not only gave a new dimension to the audio-visual medium, but also it created a new culture that had the potential to transform the day to day life of the people at home and in office.

Cinema, drama and folk theatre lost their prominence to the onslaught of teledrama culture which was flowing through every television channel. Every home is open for teledrama. However during the last decade focus on teledrama at social level has declined with dozens of teledramas springing from all channels which simultaneously reflected, a drop in quality. The viewers switch on to different channels to avoid a long line of commercials interrupting the flow of an interesting episode.

Apart from satisfying the taste of the average viewer, there are also a few productions capable of meeting intellectual and aesthetic demand of the elite class of viewers. For instance, Avindu Andura, Kadawara, Sanda Amawakai, Dandubasnamanaya, Theth Saha Viyali are a few teledramas which spurred both artistic joy and a social impact among them. Such teledramas such as Kadulla, Ella Langa Walawwa, Ramya Suramya and Kaluwara Gedara came in for wider study among many social and intellectual layers. So since teledrama or telefilm turned out to be the most popular programs, commercials came in to interrupt its flow.

Teledrama...
* Initially inspired by soap-opera
* The medium brought the entire family together
* It re-interprets the audio-visual medium.
* The quantity increased with the advent of new channels
* It paved the way for mega-teldrama trend
* The new trend questions the taste of viewer.

Although in the eighties the viewers had no alternative other than to watch the commercials too, were added, since today there is a big haul of teledramas in every channel, they could switch on to alternate channels to escape the stale repeat commercials.

As there is a continuous flow of teledramas in every single channel today, the viewers are free to select what they consider to be most entertaining and enticing. In the eighties and early nineties, they did not have that choice. Most of today’s productions, however, fail to take a firm grip of the viewership. On the other hand, since the television audience is general, it becomes a challenge to present more serious works to sustain them from instalment to instalment.

Generality of the viewership does not demand an in-depth study of socio-psychological issues as instant pleasure is their forte. However, a serial like Doo Daruwo and a series like Kopi Kade succeeded in taking the viewers into grip. Unlike the teledrama characters today, those which the viewers experienced, then, such names as Bas Unnehe (Daya Alwis), Deepthi (Nilmini Tennekoon), I know the law (Hemasiri Liyanage) etc., still lingering the memory of the viewer. They were so true to life of the ordinary people.

Impact of teledrama on the viewer is evident from the increase in the number of thefts, robberies and losses during the time popular teledramas are being telecast. Whatever the ethical content it carries, they tend to drop out of reckoning.

The impact they carry is short-lived. If that is the truth in respect of moral lessons it pronounces, it is the contrary that reflects if anti-social acts are portrayed.

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