Sri Lankans in Canada enjoy rare treat of Sarachchandra stage gems Maname and Sinhabahu
Posted on May 20th, 2014

By Rajendra Alwis

Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra’s iconic twin drams Maname and Sinhabahu were staged recently in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. This marked the first time the celebrated Sri Lankan playwright’s work was shown in Canada, much to the delight of Canadians of Sri Lankan origin.

“It required meticulous planning and a lot of hard work by a lot of people, but the end result is worth all the trouble,” said President of the Peradeniya Alumni Ottawa Chapter Dr. Sange De Silva, one of the event’s organizers, at the inaugural ceremony. Speaking further he said: “This is a watershed moment for all of us and we’re very happy that Maname and Sinhabahu are finally being staged in Canada”.

The Alumni Association of the University of Peradeniya, Canada ” Ottawa Chapter organized the twin shows to commemorate Prof. Sarachchandra’s birth centenary, which were staged back-to-back in a suburban Ottawa auditorium, and attended by several hundred Sri Lankan and non Sri Lankan Canadians from Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.

Accompanying the troupe was Lalitha Sarachchandra, the wife of the late Prof. Sarachchandra, whose painstaking efforts over the years have helped keep Prof. Sarachchandra’s work alive and secure for new generations to appreciate and enjoy.

“Prof. Sarachchandra left us with a legacy. His work is timeless. They reshaped Sinhala drama and hold a very special place in Sri Lankan literature. It is our duty to keep the flame alive and to promote these unique works of art not only in Sri Lanka but around the world,” said Lalitha Sarachchandra, who addressed the audience before and after each drama. “We are delighted that after so many years, we were able to bring Maname and Sinhabahu to Canada,” said Mrs. Sarachchandra.

Maname and Sinhabahu were the best twin drams ever produced by Sarachchandra. Maname was first staged in 1956. Building on Maname’s success he continued further research in the field of classical drama encompassing various forms of international drama and after gaining a wealth of experience on the subject he staged his next finest work, Sinhabahu in 1961. Due to Sarachchandra’s gifted skills and unfailing determination he was able to bring about revolutionary changes into the Sinhalese drama. University of Peradeniya, a magnificent seat for learning along with its promising young talents served as a springboard for Sarachchandra to achieve his excellence in creative work paving the way for him to become the greatest dramatist in the country.

Maname was transposed from a popular Jataka story, Danudhdhara. Sarachchandra followed the original story only up to a credible point, and after taking a hint from the Japanese film “Rashomon” of Akira Kurosawa, he added an element of moral ambiguity. In the drama Maname, the young wife does not actually give the sword to the Veddah King. She merely hesitates in giving the sword to her husband and pleads for Veddah’s life since he did not try to kill them, although he could have done so easily with the help his followers. Her hesitation permits the Veddah king to grab the sword from her hands and kill Maname. Afterwards, she tells the Veddah king that she acted in this manner because she had fallen in love with him. Upon reflection, he banishes her due to her matrimonial disloyalty and fickle disregard for husband’s life her. Although the audience is left satisfied, for a moment, since the princess received the punishment she deserved, but at the same time the audience is kept in doubt whether her behaviour is really wrong. The uniqueness of the drama is that no moral choice is absolutely clear in this dramatic context which creates different shades of acceptable meanings. This train of thoughts shaded with ethical ambiguity is the best ‘take home part’ of the drama.

Similarly, Sinhabahu too creates range of ambiguities about the morality of the decisions taken by the characters in the drama. Should the princess have abandoned the lion to follow her son? Should Sinhabahu have pursued his princely destiny and have killed his father? The Drama Sinhabahu does not resolve any of these issues. Sarachchandra simply confronts his audience with these issues, keeping them in doubt and forcing them to think what should have been the moral decision. This is the best part of the drama Sinhabahu too that is still going through in our minds endlessly, as in Maname.

At the curtain call, in each drama, Lalitha Sarachchandra introduced the team of actors with a deep sense of appreciation and affection. Among them were Sanath Wimalasiri (Maname Kumaru / Sinhabahu), Taranga Karunanayake (Maname Kumari) Nihari Wickramarachchi (Suppa Devi) Jayantha Bandara (Sinhaya / Vedi Raju). Their performances were par excellence and suggestive of the skills of the original players of these twin dramas. The entire audience responded enthusiastically to the dramatic performances of all these actors and it truly turned out to be a memorable evening to all those who were present at the event.

5 Responses to “Sri Lankans in Canada enjoy rare treat of Sarachchandra stage gems Maname and Sinhabahu”

  1. Charles Says:

    I loved Maname for its lyrics, and for the VediRaju in its original performance Late Edmond Wijesinghe who was my dear friend.

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    Here you go Charles, a few stanzas from Maname’ … Enjoy!

    Premayen mana ranjitha we’
    Nanditha we’
    Pushpayen vanasundara we’
    Lankrutha we’
    Aalayen weli saadi me’ latha
    Mandapayen chandathapa
    Banditha we’ hiru rajuduge’

    Kokila handa kan pinawai
    Ran swarayayi
    Rana giraw dena gee sindu
    Ama bindu
    Saama dese’ sangeetha asay
    Pipi thambarin nada bambarin
    Piya ravi dena liya kindurana

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    VERY popular among SLs of ALL ethnic groups who value CLASSICAL drama. Maname and Sinhabahu should be translated to Tamil language too for a far wider audience.

  4. Nanda Says:

    Good news. Our beloved Maname Kumaraya showing the “balls” this time , has reprimanded the Maname Kumari of Canada who has offered the sward to LTTE chief.

    “The External Affairs Ministry has summoned Canadian High Commissioner, Shelley Whiting over her recent public call to do away with the annual Victory Day parade as it was inimical to post-war reconciliation efforts.”

  5. Charles Says:

    Thank you very much Ananda-USA. Those are well constructed well written stanzas that will never loose their lilting melodies.

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