Stage dramas begin to flourish | Sunday Observer

Stage dramas begin to flourish

5 December, 2021

There has dawned a vibrant era for Sri Lankan stage dramas which had been crippled due to the Covid-19 spectre.

The 42nd National Youth Awards organised by the Youth and Sports Ministry and the National Youth Services Council was held on November 26 under the patronage of Minister Namal Rajapaksa at the Nelum Pokuna Indoor Theatre.

In this event, young talented artistes who had performed successfully in short and long dramas,singing, acting, dancing, prose and verse won awards. The Youth Observer caught up with the artistes who won awards to discuss their work.

Asha Hansini’s ‘Punaragamanaya’

Asha Hansini who directed her long play ‘Punaragamanaya’ won the award for the Best Actress for her scenting performance at the event. Significantly, this drama also went on to win the award for the Best drama. As noted by Asha, the Norwegian playwright known as Henrik Ibsen’s drama titled ‘Ghost’ went on the stage in Sinhala as ‘Punaragamanaya’. The translation was by Dr. Sunil Wijesiriwardana.

“I was really interested in the plot. Therefore, I had to rewrite the script in accordance with the characters,” she said.

Speaking of the challenges that she had to take up, we cannot forget the pandemic situation. “It was challenging for me to work with a team due to Covid. But we all could win the goal. Especially, when we were doing rehearsal it was very difficult even to find a proper hall to practice. So, I should say that the National Youth Services Council rendered a remarkable service to uphold the Sri Lankan drama field which had collapsed due to Covid,” said Asha.

Asha Hansini Perera, born on May 15, 1986 had her education at U.B. Wanninayaka National School and completed her Master’s degree in Drama and Theatre at the university of Kelaniya. Currently, she works as a drama teacher at a state school.

When asked about the students’ curiosity of the drama and theatre as a subject, she said that most students tend to choose Drama and Theatre to get an ‘A’ pass. “There are many students who choose this subject to get an A pass. But as the time passes, they begin to think in a broad manner. Some students have a great understanding of drama as a subject. However, all students are interested in the subject because they can study this vast subject while enjoying songs, dialogues, dancing and acting, unlike other subjects which confine students to a text book.

“For instance, among students the drama teacher is popular. It is because the drama teacher can interact with others successfully,” she said.

Asha had taken part in many dramas such as ‘Api Naraka lamay’, ‘Swarga Rajjaya’, ‘Sanwara’ and ‘Sinha Seya’.

Her message

“The most important factor is commitment. If you have a goal in your life, you have to achieve it with confidence. Another thing is that artistes gain satisfaction through their creations and performances and others should be able to value their creativity and talents with a pure intention. No doubt that such people’s future becomes better,” said Asha in a happy tone.

Finally, she did not forget to remember each and everyone who helped her to achieve her goal.

“I have to thank my parents because they allowed me to do what I love. And I have a faithful friend named Thilini. She motivated me. And I have to remember my team. We all worked together and won together,” she said.

Ishan Kulathilaka:

Ishan Kulathilaka won the award for the Best Actor for his brilliant performance in the long play ‘Missing’.

“This long play ‘Missing’ directed by Nilanka Namal Udumulla has been woven around a boarding place. This drama conveys social and political issues. Ishan had his education at St. Luke’s College, Ratnapura and studied drama and theatre as a subject for his O/L and A/S. Ishan’s curiosity of acting and drama had enabled him to explore the drama and acting under many Gurus. He awakened his exciting childhood memories with us.

“When I was studying at Pallebedda College I contributed to school dramas. We did not have drama as a subject at the school. One of our teachers, Jagath Weragama encouraged me to continue studying drama. He asked me to attend St. Luke’s College in Ratnapura. Kaluarachchi sir was my guru deva.

“Later, I went to Colombo and met Mohomed Safeer sir. And I joined one of his institutes called ‘Inter-Act Art-Black Box Theatre’ which paved the way to broaden my horizons.

“Safeer sir organizes drama festivals in collaboration with 13 countries annually. He helped me to join those drama festivals. As a result, I got to know many western dramatists and their styles. I was exposed to the outside world, thanks to Safeer sir,” he said.

To my question about the opportunities available for the young artistes, he said, “There are talented artistes who won awards at the Festival but regrettably, they are not given any opportunity to exhibit shows. Promises are made to give opportunities for them to showcase their talent but the promises are not kept. There are talented youth in far flung villages. But do they have opportunities? That is the saddest story,” Ishan said in a sad tone.

Speaking of his achievements, Ishan won awards at school drama competitions. Later, he won awards for the best actor at many drama festivals. Ishan Kulathilaka, who has proven his Thespian skills intends to release a YouTube series titled ‘Ladies Only’ which has been woven around a burning issue in the country. With the dawn of the new year 2022, our youtube fans can watch this interesting youtube series.

His message:

“That is the harsh truth we face,” Ishan lamented.Actually, it is clear that some of our artistes are not updated and don’t like to come out of the shell. They have been confined to traditional themes and styles. I don’t mean that we have to forget them. It is a must to have a great understanding of our early dramas. But we should be able to think out of the box. “Regrettably, those who come up with new themes and new concepts are rejected.

Ishan remembered his parents at the end of the discussion. “My parents gave me life and let me do the right things.” We all have good friends who stay with us in need. Ishan remembered his best friend Janaka Jayangana who helps him in every possible way.

Prarthana Samadhi - Best Actress

Prarthana Samadhi won the Best Actress award for her mind - blowing performance in the short play ‘The Agreement’ directed by Harshani. The script for the drama was written by Kokila.

Samadhi had her education at Gothami Kanishta Vidyalaya in Gampaha and Galahitiyawa Central College in Ganemulla where she studied drama and theatre as a subject, under Chintha Priyadarshani and Ranepura.

Her maiden performance came through a school drama titled ‘Haya Denek Tarahin’ which won All Island Awards in 2011. Later she joined the National Youth Services Council to pursue the Diploma in Drama and Theatre. The final student production ‘The Agreement’ went on to win awards at the Festival.

She had joined the Play House conducted by Somalatha Subasinghe in order to improve her skills and knowledge.

Samadhi was fortunate to start her journey by performing in many stage plays titled ‘Tharawo Igilethi’ and ‘Rathu Hettakari’ by veteran dramatist Lucien Bulathsinhala.

Later, she played roles in dramas by Priyankara Perera such as ‘Premawanta Kumarayo’ and ‘Wisekariyo’. Not only in long plays but also in short plays she has played many characters.

For instance, ‘Pashchaththapa’, ‘Amal Biso’, ‘Awasan Wisaduma’ and ‘The Agreement’. As the time passed, Samadhi could play the role of ‘Yamuna Miss’ in the teledrama ‘Chalo’. Except for ‘Chalo’, we could witness her performances in many teledramas like Sudath Rohana’s ‘Giri Kula’ and Somarathna Dissanayake’s ‘Siri Perakum’.

When I asked about the great pillars in her life, she said, “I have to remember my parents. I don’t hail from an artistic family. My parents believed me and allowed me to do what I like. They never forced me to make money. And I should remember my school drama teachers Chintha Priyadarshani and Ranepura who motivated me. It was my teacher who encouraged me to act in dramas,” she said. Currently, she is following a degree programme at the open university.

Her message:

“If we have a will, we can achieve anything. But drama and theater is a vast subject that we should study. I can remember Mahendra Perera sir told that if we love the subject, the subject protects us. Indeed that is true,” Samadhi said. As noted by her, some directors cast actors and actresses based on their appearance and beauty. As a result, talented people do not get opportunities. Therefore, directors and producers should be responsible to give the first place to talent, she said.

Tharindu Devathanthri:

Tharindu Devathanthri won the Best actor award for his performance in the short play ‘The Agreement’. He had his education at S. De. S Jayasinghe Central College.

At present, he is following a degree program at the open university. He studied drama and theatre at the school for his O/L’s under teachers such as Asanka Edirisinghe and Sujani Wijekoon. They had chosen Tharindu for miming art after discerning his skills. Later, he continued studying drama even for his A/Ls under Chamika Hathlahawatta.

Then, Tharindu got an opportunity to work as a stage manager for Chamika’s two stage dramas titled ‘Makarata’ and ‘Raja Man Wahala’.

“At that time when I worked as a stage manager I could learn many things and I got to know many artistes involved in Dramas. It was a brilliant opportunity for me,” he said.

He had played roles in different short plays and teledramas such as ‘Pashchaththapa’ and ‘Sihina Rele Operawa.’

Speaking of his performance in teledramas, his maiden performance came through ‘Hadaya.’ Currently, he plays a role in ‘Chalo.’ As noted by Tharindu, some directors, though not all,choose actors and actresses for teledramas and films without focusing on their skills and talents.

“Some directors choose actors based on their complexion and appearance. As a result, there are no be opportunities for the talented ones. If they choose actors and actresses based on their appearance, they should give them proper training. But that is not happening,” Tharindu said.

To my question about those who helped him to be a winner, he awakened his memories about his parents and teachers.

“First, I have to thank my parents because they gave me the freedom. There are many teachers who paved the way for me to achieve this goal. Chandana Dabare, Sujani Wijekoon, Asanka Edirisinghe, Chamika Hathlahawatta, Sarath Karunarathna. It was Sarath Karunarathna who gave me opportunities to enter the field of teledramas. Dhanushka Dias introduced me to the director of Chalo teledrama named Hasun Sameera. I have to thank everyone who created me,” he said. No doubt that in our country there are talented artistes who can uphold the Sri Lankan stage drama culture. But leaders should take steps to create a suitable atmosphere for them.

Images: Sudath Malaweera