Thamasha pioneers Shadow Drama | Sunday Observer

Thamasha pioneers Shadow Drama

We have experienced various art forms in our country. Today we focus on a new form of art called Shadow Drama. The concept was introduced in Sri Lanka seven years ago by Thamasha Jayasuriya. 25-year-old Thamasha studied at Sumana Balika Vidyalaya, Ratnapura. She is a bio medical degree holder who began learning the centuries old art by scrutinising youtube clips. Her dream is to become a bio medical scientist some day. However, Shadow Drama is totally beyond the purview of bio medical science.

Q: What inspired you to enter this sphere of art?

A: I never took part in any arts related activities while at school because I studied in the bio medical stream. But I found time to learn karate and become a black belt. After my ALs while awaiting results, I was drawn towards a you tube clip which depicted a group of young foreigners performing on stage using light and music. I looked around to find out whether anyone in Sri lanka was doing this form of art but could not find any. I then contacted those foreigners and asked if they could help me publicise the art form in Sri Lanka.They said they inherited it from their ancestors and asked me to learn it myself, assuring me that I could do so if I was passionate about it. I was 18 then. I formed a team called ‘Vitalize’ with some of my talented friends. We did not have anyone to coach us.We watched videos and started practising earnestly from August 2012. We practised three to four days a week starting at 7 pm and going on till dawn. By December that year, we were confident of our capabilities. We held our maiden show at the Ananda College Hall on December 27, 2012.

Q:How does the concept work?

A: This is a novel concept to Sri Lanka which comes under the theatre tradition. The speciality here is that we perform with no dialogues. We use light and our body structures to tell a story to the audience. It’s not easy. We can recreate shadows of an elephant, eagle, deer or even a cart on stage with this technique.

Q: Were the obstacles numerous in bringing out the concept?

A: Well, the biggest challenge came from my parents whose dream was to see me excel in the bio medical stream. They insisted that arts was not the profession for a third world country. My mother is a school principal. She has since seen the results of our hardwork and is our biggest motivator today. I am a Catholic who believes in doing things the right way. I am a strong believer that God gives me the strength to overcome challenges.

Q: Who are the members of Vitalize?

A: We have eight members comprising boys and girls who are doing well in their studies also. They are very committed and punctual. Their commitment has played a big part in our success. To engage in this art form, one has to possess a flexible body. Gymnastic skills are vital as are ballet and dancing skills in addition to maintaining a good mental balance. It’s a blend of sports and art. I am proud to say that we are a complete outfit.

Q: Can you recall the shadow drama shows you have performed?

A: In 2015 we performed in a top hotel in Colombo for an awards ceremony. We blended acrobatics to the show and the feedback was amazing. Today we are the only shadow, drama and acrobatics team in Sri Lanka. I am also the youngest director in this sphere. Last year our team depicted the character of Prince Siddhartha via shadow techniques at the Light of Asia competition. We can use this technique for brand promotional work or even music videos.

I host the travel programme‘Travel Girl’ telecast Sundays on ITN at 6 pm where I take viewers on an adventurous journey to places where many have rarely been. I take the tedious route giving the audiences an experience to remember. I recently dived 21 metres in the Hikkaduwa seas where a ship is said to have sunk in 1949. The diving master on duty hailed my effort saying even a boy would not dare to take that risk.

Q: How do you find financial support to engage in this profession?

A: That is our biggest hindrance. We have performed in other countries as well and there are invitations for more shows, but it costs a lots for the special screen, lighting equipment, projectors and other items. Our parents are our only saviours just now. We can do wonders if we could find sponsors to promote this art to schools and also the villages and towns. I am proud to say that some day I will be remembered for pioneering the shadow drama art in Sri Lanka.

Q: To whom are you grateful?

A:To God, to my parents, my team, ITN’s Sandaruwan Jayawickrema, Manjula Ethugala, Ananda Padmasiri and all those who have helped me even in a small way.