Giraya | Sunday Observer


The teledrama series of Punyakante Wijenayake’s novel Giraya is directed by Dr. Lester James Peries. It features a good cast with Trelicia Gunawardena as Lucyhami, Grace Ariyawimal as Adeline, Peter de Almeida as Lal, Chandani Seneviratne as Manel and Vasanthi Chathurani as Kamini in the main roles.

It begins with the search for a bride for Lal, a young man from an upper class Sinhalese family. Lal’s father Edward died under mysterious circumstances several years ago, and his controlling mother Adeline and the terrifying servant Lucyhami are now in charge of the walauwa. Lal’s marriage proposals are rejected by many upper class Sinhalese families because they know about the scandals in Lal’s family and there is something very strange about Lucyhami who walks around the walauwa with a giraya (areca nut cutter) and a bunch of keys and people believe that the walauwa is haunted.

After Lal is rejected as a suitor by many upper class Sinhalese families, Adeline decides to approach a widowed, poor relative named Kusuma who has a pretty, young daughter Kamini. Adeline deceives the naïve and gullible Kusuma with outrageous lies about Lal’s eligibility as a husband and the prestige of the walauwa. Lal is weak minded and submissive to both Adeline and Lucyhami who have a strong hold on him. Lal is plagued by a strange illness and suddenly loses consciousness and collapses and he is a homosexual with a male partner.

But Adeline does not know that Kamini is a strong minded, spirited, independent, educated girl with a mind of her own and that she cannot be manipulated and controlled and she will not be a meek, submissive daughter-in-law. Kamini is sceptical about Lal’s marriage proposal and she is reluctant to marry him. After her marriage to Lal, Kamini finds that they have been deceived and there is something very strange about the walauwa and the way Lucyhami suddenly disappears on Poya days. At night, Kamini hears frightening sounds from Lucyhami’s room where Edward died on a Poya day, which suggests that Edward was having an affair with Lucyhami and also that he was murdered by Lucyhami or Adeline or by both of them and his ghost haunts the walauwa.

On Vesak Poya day, Lucyhami disappears again and the Vesak lanterns that are put up in the garden suddenly catch fire. Kamini finds that they have also been deceived about Lal’s illness of which they were not informed when she was married off to him. Kamini is ill treated by Adeline and Lucyhami but she holds her own even though Lal does not come to her defence.

In contrast to Lal, his elder sister Manel is a strong minded, independent, educated girl who defies Adeline and Lucyhami and asserts her right to live her own life the way she wants to. Manel is in a romantic relationship with the superintendent of her father’s estate which she keeps a secret and is the reason why she is unmarried in her early thirties. Kamini finds a friend in Manel who treats her with kindness. Manel tells Kamini that her parents were unhappily married and her father stayed away from home very often but she does not immediately reveal the reason why. Manel tells Kamini that her father loved her very much and she was close to him but her father kept his distance from Lal who was close to Adeline. Towards the end of the story it is revealed that although Adeline is Lal’s biological mother, Lal is not Edward’s biological son. After Adeline falls ill, Lucyhami causes more problems because she desperately wants control of the walauwa. Adeline gives control of the walauwe to Manel and Lucyhami is enraged and becomes violent and destructive. Adeline plans to send Lucyhami to an old people’s home but Lucyhami refuses to leave and murders Adeline on the night before she is supposed to be sent away. The teledrama is infused with a few comic scenes which provide relief from the tension that builds up. For example, a male domestic Loku tries to impress people with broken English, and one night a female domestic Noihami is frightened by what she believes is a ghost which is in fact the shadow of Cyril, the boyfriend of Seelavathi, a young female domestic.

Giraya is about family secrets and Dr. Lester James Peries was brilliant at creating an atmosphere through visuals in his films, and he creates an atmosphere of intrigue in the teledrama where the walauwa and its inhabitants are shrouded in mystery. Trelicia Gunawardena gives a compelling performance as the terrifying Lucyhami. Vasanthi Chathurani speaks beautiful Sinhala and carries herself with poise and gives an excellent performance. Peter de Almeida, Chandani Seneviratne and Grace Ariyawimal also give very good performances.