A path-definer of the new era
He contributes to the progressive cause with
value-based works of Art
The dynamic young artist Ranga Bandaranayake
Pix by Ranga Chandrarathne
Scenes from Sitha Nivana Katha (Pana Rekuma)
With a slim figure, the young actor, television director Ranga
Bandaranayake seems to be quite an ordinary television producer who
works for Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and also seems to be
contended with his chosen profession. Ranga sports a character of a very
calm and settled young man though he is not very much religious as he
However, as I started to carry on a candid conversation with him, I
discovered a totally different person with a critical view on the
application of contemporary Sri Lankan Arts and Culture and the
direction in which it is set out. Among other things, he critically
assesses the ethos, objectives and the curtailments of artistic freedom
in Sri Lanka, especially at a time when radical Islamic regimes such as
Iran is opening up its culture to the outer world.
Fiercely independent, Ranga had never liked to be told what is to be
done. His famous father, veteran dramatist and film director, Dharmasiri
Bandaranayake has had a profound influence on the shaping of Ranga's
character at a formative stage of his life as it invariably coincided
with his entry into the medium of film at the age of seven when he acted
for a film directed by Dharmasiri Bandaranayake. Ranga acted for his
second film at the age of nine.
Following the footsteps of his father, Ranga joined the field as an
Assistant Producer of the SLRC where he currently works. As he believes
in hard work and updating himself with new arrivals and knowledge in the
field, he has also chosen the sturdy way to walk along the beaten track
and proved his metal by securing the award for the best director in
single-episode teledrama at the State Tele Awards for one of his
creations, Sitha Nivana Katha.
Receiving the award for the best director of the best single episode
teledrama at a State Teledrama Awards ceremony
Reminiscing vibrantly of his early school days which actually laid
the foundation for an excellent actor in Ranga, he admits that he was
introduced to the theatre at St.John's College Panadura and
subsequentltly at Kalutara Vidyalaya and D.S Senanayake College where
young Ranga acted , for the first time, on stage. In addition, Ranga
also acted in plays produced at Sunday Dhamma school prior to his debut
on the Silver screen in 'Hansa Vilak' in 1980, at the age of seven. He
also acted in 'Thunweniyamaya' in 1982. His entry into theatre marked
with 'Ekadipathi'. This was significant on two counts; for his long
standing love affair with the stage and a decision to make a career in
theatre. While he was studying for the Ordinary Level Examination, Ranga
joined 'Dhavalabheeshana' as a stage manager. Afterwards he acted in 'Yakshagamanaya'
and later stage managed the play.
From the stage, Ranga stepped into the yet unknown area of art, at
the time, with Sudath Mahadivulwewa's teledrama 'Dande Leu Gini' marking
his debut in the small screen and also acted in the film Chitty directed
by Sarath Gunaratne. Soon, he became a much sought-after actor in the
small screen and played the lead role in Sunil Chandasiri's play 'Gini
Dandu Hevana' in 1997. Ranga Bandaranayake is proud of being associated
with 'Trojan women', a monumental production in Sinhala theatre in the
capacity of an assistant director and also managing the sounds and stage
for the play as well as his contribution to the teledrama 'Sudu Kapuru
When it comes to awards and accolades that Ranga won on numerous
occasions for his outstanding performance on the stage as an actor and
behind it as an assistant director and stage and sound manager, he
maintains a rather lukewarm attitude attributing many of the awards that
he won for 'Trojan Women' to his father's credit (including the award
for the best stage manager of the year).
Commenting on his impressions on his father, Ranga's feelings towards
him were awe-inspiring at the start as he saw his father's image on
newspapers and TV and later it develops into an admiration. As he grew
up, Ranga started to work with him (Dharmasiri Bandaranayake) and to
educate himself by observing his father at work.
However, Ranga admits that working with his father was not always
smooth as anyone might think. At times he admonished Ranga, especially
when they were working in 'Hansa Vilak' and 'Thunveniyamaya'. He was
severely reprimanded as he worked in 'Ekadipathi'. The relationship
between father and son gradually evolved into a kind of friendship
With a witty smile, Ranga recalls how actress Meena Kumari crossed
path leading to their happy marriage. It was a divine prospect for Ranga
when he was asked to speak to Meena on behalf of Sunil Chandrasiri who
was eager to get Meena to act for his stage play , Gini Dandu Hevana, a
translation of an Irish play , Shadow of a Gunman . Soon, Ranga took up
the trouble of accompanying Meena home after rehearsals. Intimate
conversations and long-bus rides culminated in their happy marriage and
now Ranga is the father of a daughter. As a father, Ranga is of the view
that he will assist their daughter to persue a career she chooses.
Shortlisted, in 2004, in the Sumathi Tele-Awards for best direction
of a single episode tele-drama, the State Tele award for the tele-drama
Sitha Nivana Katha, a special poya programme produced by Rupavahini are
some of the achievements in his career. He also directed 33,000 Volts
and Theatra (Theatre Magazine Programme ) and also hoped to work on a
teledrama based on Prof. Nimal Senanayake's translation of Dostoevsky's
Crime and Punishment.
One of Ranga's cherished dreams is to enter the field of cinema as a
director. Ranga evokes how his father used to show classical Soviet and
Czechoslovakian black and white films on a screen erected in the front
yard with a 16 mm projector.
Making observations on various forms of curtailments of artistic
freedom, Ranga is of the opinion that an artist is essentially a free
thinker who is entitled to his views, political, religious or otherwise
and should be allowed to be free to articulate his or her ideology since
an artist will never impose his or her ideas or views on the public.
Accordingly, freedom for an artist is similar to the right to life in a
democracy and it is, undoubtedly, within this freedom that creativity
and thinking flourishes.
It is his conviction that there is no association with art and
morale, a fact that had been restated and patently squabbled by the
Russian literary giant, Leo Tolstoy. The superseding discourse demands
more and more works of art embodying ideals and beliefs of the
protection of a non-existing puritan culture and unmoved religion or
even a particular race.
However, it is controversial that art which is a medium of expressing
the innermost feelings and emotions of the human mind should be used to
protect or propagate the dominant dialogue which is more or less the end
result of the collective effort of the political, cultural and religious
leaders of the country at a particular period of time.
Ranga stands for discovering his own identity in art which is not
necessary to be in conformity with the popular trend and their
commercialised applications. In the popular trend focus is on exploiting
markets and to gain a competitive advantage over other works of art and
not to explore the complex human nature or convey a profound personal
experience to the audience. The prime motive of those works of art or
imposters of medium is money and therefore tends to lure more armature,
adventurous new entrants to the fields to earn quick money often at the
expense of the media and in the long run, their talents.
Leo Tolstoy, Dostoyesvesky, Akira Kurasawa, Satyajith Ray, Bergmann,
Ernest Hemingway, Bertolt Brecht, William Shakespeare, Henrick Ibson
etc. belong to the genre of artists and writers who strived to define
their own paths in their media of Art and thereby truly identified
themselves with their countries and their cultures. Subsequently they
became part and parcel of the collective identity of their particular
countries becoming cultural icons with which those countries are being
identified. Redolent of the happy moments spent with the artists and the
interactive discussions, he maintains that Dharmasena
Pathiraja,Prof.Sucharitha Gamlath , Sugathapala de Silva etc. are the
people's artists with Marxist-orientation who always served the
progressive cause and moulds his philosophy of life besides his parents.
It is an extreme folly if someone believes in imposing a criteria on
Fine Arts and demands the artists to comply with certain features; they
are similar to tyrants since this will severely curtail the creativity
of the artist contributing to the degradation of the Fine Arts which is
evident in the contribution made in the latter part of the life of Maxim
Gorky. This also leads to a conflict of duty versus personal freedom.
Only better ideas, not better rules and regulations can alter a society
because it is the ideas and not power that rules the society. There has
been a general decline in ideology with pragmatism jettisoning the
principles. History bears ample testimony that cupidity has only
short-term gains and in the long run, is self-defeating. According to
the old adage "those who forget history are condemned to repeat it."
Needless to say, the values are the ones which include the total
preoccupation of a society with the wellbeing of the people, a general
code of conduct and protocol for its members and a sentinel belief of 'vox
populi and vox Dei'. A healthy atmosphere does not only construct a true
society but also influence the alien societies by setting ideals. The
right kind of creations surely appeals to the pulse of the nation.
Value-based works of Art defines a millieu and reflects the quality of
public life and the general taste of a nation. It is basically
philanthropic in nature. This beyond doubt increases productivity and
improves social conscience. Honest values prove the elixir of ideas and
lend credibility to it.
A value-based creation is the impelling power for the progressive
cause, sagely advising, rejecting extreme ideological temptation. Also,
its representatives have no conceptual confusion or ambiguity about
loyalty, duty, honour, patriotism, sacrifice, self-respect and dignity.
It may seem a pipe-dream but a committed adherence to these personas
will give them confidence to tell the policy makers what they may not
always like to hear.
This will bring hope for the future and embedded self-respect,
discipline and a gentle attitude in the minds of the people who are the
sole constituents of the social infrastructure and raise the status of
the nation in the world community at large.