Sarathchandra’s Maname is it that bad?
Posted on February 16th, 2013

by Garvin Karunaratne

Professor Ediriweera Sarathchandra’s Maname – its literary worth as a play has been reduced to smitherings by Hemanta Warnakulasuriya in his two articles in the Island. (5/12/12 &26/11/12)

He has said that Maname is a barbarous play that is of no value. He even says that It is vulgar. He has even gone to the extent of asking as to whether there is a single good line in Maname. In his words , Maname “consists merely of shallow platitudes turned into doggerel verse. He even says that there is extreme crudity of characters. He opines that “the words of Maname are sheer tinsel.”

I was a student of Professor Sarathchandra and was also associated with him when rehearsing Maname. I worked far away In Hambantota but on many weekends I happened to be with him when he rehearsed Maname.

It is my frank opinion that his plays Maname and Sinhabahu were landmark plays. I would totally agree with Professor Silva when he classifies Maname as among the masterpieces of the period as Martin Wickremasinghe’s novel Viragaya and Lester james Peris’s Rekawa.” He opines that Maname breathed new life into the folk tradition in Sinhala drama and is by far the greatest achievement in the history of the Sinhala theatre”.

To my mind the task of an author in a novel, or play, or a poem is to be able to create a catharsis-a process of releasing strong feelings in the reader in the case of a novel or poem, in the audience in the case of a play or drama. In Indian aesthetics, The aim of an artist, a playwright, an author would be to create a rasa through the novel, play , poem etc. “A rasa denotes an essential mental state and is the dominant emotional theme of a work of art or the primary feeling that is evoked in the person that views, reads or hears such a work.”

The concept of rasa is fundamental to all literary work, be it a novel, a poem or a play or dance. The nine Rasa are: Srungara(love, attractiveness), Hasya(laughter), Raudra(Fury),Karuna(compassion), Bhibatsa(disgust), Bhayanaka(horror), Vira(heroic), Adbhuta(Wonder), Santa(peace). Later Bhakti(devotion) was added.

Let me quote a section of my novel, “Mukulita Piyumo Ayi Vana Meda Me” which begins with the life we led at Peradeniya and quotes our lectures.

It ‘s translation reads:

“The Lecturer admiring the trees with flowers in bloom, glanced at times at the students that wrote down what he said, at times, through the window at the trees and bushes in full bloom and also at the waters of the Mahaweli that flowed, gleaming in the light of the morning Sun. His eyes met with a sight of sheer wonderment. That day he was teaching the theory of Rasa. He said, “Look through the window. It is a great scene. The waters of the Mahaweli flow in grandeaur. The waters gleam in the rays of the morning sun. The stretches of sand gleam forth,. The bamboo trees waft in the wind.,. It is totally calm. In many places there are flowers of varied hue in bloom. It looks as if the various colours were scattering out of the flowers. I feel that the foliage wafting in the winds speak out a divine secret. Can you imagine the pleasant feeling that is created…

A poet can think of this beautiful scene and the immense feeling it creates and express his thoughts in a manner that creates a catharsis in the reader or in an audience in the case of a play.”

The Lecturer was no other than Professor Sarathchandra addressing his first batch of Sinhala Honours students of whom I happened to be one.

What is missing in Hemanta Warnakulasuriya’s assessment is the task of a poet or a play wright or a novelist.

I have written three novels. In them my task was to narrate a story, through various characters, to interplay various episodes where the characters confront one another in such a manner that a Rasa- a feeling- a catharsis is created in the reader or the audience. At times I have used verse within the novel to enhance the feeling created in the reader. When we read a novel or see a play, at times we end in tears- the feeling created causes us to cry. In the case of Maname there are many scenes that really make the audience alive with a tremendous feeling. That is done though the use of emotional words. My book, Sinhala Kaviye Navayugaya, (Saman, 1963) is a treatise on modern Sinhala poetry and deals especially with how poets have used various methods- alliteration, similes, metaphors and emotive words to enhance the effect the poem has on an audience or reader. Any poem from Yasodaravata creates a tremendous sorrowful feeling- pathos, karuna rasa.

I can remember Professor Sarathchandra rehearsing his plays again and again. It is not only the use of emotive words- words that have dhavani in them, it is the pitch and the notes in which it is sung, the poise of the actors that brings about an effect in the audience, and in this Sarathchanda is a real master.

Going over to poetry, a translation of some of Keyes’s verses “Parinama” in his collection “Visiwunu Taru” is very appropriate to illustrate how a poet can bring about a sensational feeling in the reader.

In the grim afternoon heat, when the World was all ablaze
In a corner of our backyard, bathed in sweat, we cooked a fun-meal
How did she know that I gazed at her in all her gleam,
She did shine like a moon, shimmering in the dew.

Her eyes gave away her innocence,
Her softness lay in the petals of blossoms
Both the Sun and the Moon, first graced her humble abode
Her beaming smile was evident everywhere

Next, I saw her in her teens,
Shining- a golden star in a milky ocean,
As she strode around, on the sands she trod on
Her footsteps were embossed in colour

The bashful smile from the corner of her eyes
Made wild flowers bloom
Her mellifluous voice enlivened life
That rhythm forever doth live.

The years did pass by and I met her again
A Woman in her pristine glory, adorned with four kids,
A Sal Tree, in full bloom
Bountifully splendour. in her gait, and elegance

The day I saw her for the last time,
Her friends were all mourning around her
I wished: May you may be happy on your path, wherever,
I dedicated my heart to be her tomb

( I have found it difficult to translate the full ideas conveyed by Keyes in his poem. Keyas did know how to use words with appropriate sound effect, similes and metaphors that were vibrant, full of associated ideas that successfully creates a Rasa..

In detail, in the first verse, comparing her to the moon, bathed in the dew conveys a emotive feeling of her beauty. In the third verse she is in the full bloom of womanhood and Keyes compares her to a Sal tree in full bloom. The simile used is most appropriate to create a sensation in the listener. A Sal tree in full bloom is a very pleasant sight.

In Maname one would find the most appropriate use of emotive words, with sound effect to make the audience absorbed with immense feeling and to create a Rasa. For instance the phrase,

“premayen mana nanditave, chanditave, pushpayen vana sundara ve lankrutave

Then the pitch changes on a very high note:

Alayen veli sadi me lata, mandapayen chanditave khanditave hiru rajinduge

Kokila handa kan pinavai, ran swarayayi, rena girav dena gi sindu ama bindu

In this verse the use of appropriate emotive words, with sound effect, sung with musical notes that create a sensation enables the creation of Srungara (Love) Rasa.

Though Warnakulasuriya says that there is not a sentence in Maname that is worth talking about, to me every word in Maname has been appropriately used to create a sensation, an absorbing feeling- a Rasa in the audience.

The words of Veddah king when he realizes that Maname queen had actually sided him to kill her own husband- the Prince, is another section that is most emotive.

“Amna gati ati mevani anganam maveniyan hata kumata saranada, maveniyan hata kumata saranada, yanta yave vanaye no sita.”

One can go back to pieces of literature like Selalihini Sandesaya to illustrate the effect of using appropriate emotive words, similes, metaphors, alliteration and sound effect.

In describing the Diyavanna Oya:

“Randi rala ralati diyavanna oya namati

Andi pura angina pata salu siri rapay niti”

By the use of appropriate words the poet has successfully created a picture of the expanse of water with rolling waves.

Another verse from the Selalihini Sandesaya that comes to my mind is the description of the soldiers at the Kaikawala Check Point. The stern soldiers brandishing their weapons is appropriately described.

Aiyiravana vuvat navatana risin ena

Aira dahas dili dunu kot sipat gena

Kaikawalehi deka sebalun reka sitina

Vaiya karan mal turu gana vana hisina

Stepping on to the field of music, one is reminded of the various ragas I once studied. In Indian Classical Music,. a Raga is a melodic mode.

A raga uses a series of five or more musical notes upon which a melody is constructed. However, the way the notes are approached and rendered in musical phrases and the mood they convey are more important in defining a raga than the notes themselves. In the Indian musical tradition, rƒÆ’-¾ƒ”š‚gas are associated with different times of the day, or with seasons. Indian classical music is always set in a rƒÆ’-¾ƒ”š‚ga.
There are ragas that can convey a sad mood. Recently in Thailand, I was stunned by the effect of a religious melodic mood in a stall that sells religious products. The notes used and the sequence of the notes conveyed a vibrant magical effect, so soothing to the listener.
The mood is created by the use of particular notes. For instance in Bhairavi Raga in the octave Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa. The notes Ri Ga, Dha and Ni are Komala notes i.e. half notes. In vocal music the Komala Ma in itself conveys a sad mood. Sunil Santa’s Rama Lament is in the Bhairavi Raga and does convey the sorrowful feeling:
Sihikara Obe Ruva, Valapemi Sondure, Ve venu ba oba no bala mihire
Sarathchandra’s Kusa Jataka Drama has a verse which when sung has a tremendous effect
“Sondure, Sondure, Ayi Giye Ma hera Da,
Ayida Giye sondure Ma Hera da
Sogini Ma hada aviley ho ga,
Ma hada vevulai, preme enu ma
In the voice of Pandit Amaradeva, this verse brings a tremendous sorrowful effect on the listener.
One can go on and on quoting endless instances where the use of appropriate words, similes, metaphors, singing in particular notes- a melody can bring about a sensation- an enhanced feeling. Let me conclude with a few verses from Guttila Kavya;
Surangana Ranga Raga Haluvo,Dutu Dana Mana Net Veluvo,
Mana Yona Sera Kusumaluvo, Tana Tana Ranga Deti Naluvo
This verse when sung pictures elegant graceful dancing.
It entirely contrats another verse, in a different tala, used to show the dance of some drunkards:
Puvat Nodena Bamana Gatin
Natat Ayek Suramatin.
To conclude, I find it difficult to agree with Hemanta Warnakulasuriya in his attempt to reduce literary arts to mere dialogue. May I hope that the few details I have quoted could lead him to appreciate literary works of art. Sarathchandra’s plays are unique in the annals of drama.
Garvin Karunaratne 1/2/2013
Author of: Mukulita Piyumo Ayi Vana Me(a novel)second ed due at Godages
The Vidane’s Daughter(a novel), Vidanege Diyaniya( a novel)
Landa Liyange Sihina Atare( a novel, to be relased soon by Godage)
Sinhala Kaviye Navaugaya

One Response to “Sarathchandra’s Maname is it that bad?”

  1. aloy Says:

    Thank you Dr.Garvin for this piece. I comment not as a critque, but as some one who enjoyed watching the two plays and the beautiful scenary around the place where it was created.
    These two plays were being staged at open air theatre during the time I was sitting for my uni entrance exam and I stayed less than a kilometer from that place. It was called “Wale sellam” and I walked up to the place on two consecutive evenings. The place was full and I saw everybody thoroughly enjoying them, this was a memorable event for me. I never saw Wale sellam being staged again although I stayed two years at James Peiris hall just overlooking the open air theatre. In fact I never heard that it was used after that. The road winding down from JP hall to Arts theatre and to engineering faculty on the other side of Mahaveli was beautifully lined with trees and during a certain time of the year they are in full bloom and it is a wonderful sight, as was explained to you by master himself. I wonder whether there is any other uni like that in the world. I thank the creators of that uni (to be more open than usual) and the people who gave an opportunity for me to study there, free. I see that the younger generations also appreciate maname as my daughter heself recorded “anna balan kumariya maname” and “Rangahala etha den andure” and everytime I hear that I go down the memory lane. Perhaps the clock has turned a full circle and there will be academics to revive this Rangahala again.

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