Radical approach to art and culture
Suranga Lakmal Senevirathne
Academic acclaimed for 'Nodanith Daruwan Akayen Vatuna'
conceptualized, directed and produced by Suranga Lakmal Senevirathne,
comes in the form of the programme being prescribed by the Rajarata
University as teaching material for the students who follow the internal
Degree in Health Promotion, the degree which has been introduced for the
first time, at the Faculty of Applied Sciences.
Deviating from the traditional path of formula-programming, a young
and dynamic producer, script-writer has taken up a radical approach
defining the very ethos of the Sri Lankan television production.
His series on child psychology titled 'Nodanith Daruwan Ekayen Vatuna',
literary meaning falling children from the lap, discussed issues
pertaining to rearing children in a household environment.
Though the title of the programme was taken from Sinhalese classic
Guttila Kavya, Suranga rendered it a new connotation that parents should
always keep an eye on children irrespective of their busy schedules and
Panel of experts on child psychology and related fields was used for
the programme which was moderated by television personality Medha
Jayaratne. She was selected for the programme on account of her
experience. It is pity that the channel did not understand the value of
quality productions though they were highly appreciated by the audience.
According to Suranga, in Sri Lankan television visual properties are
not being exploited full while sticking to the radio talk-show formula.
However, the format for the programme was different in many aspects
including the very coloure of the setting.
On advice of child psychologist, a pale-green was used for the
setting. While two panelists discuss an issue, a video-enactment of the
issue is shown from time to time during the discussion to illustrate a
point. In some instances, parents and guardians of children were called
to the studio. The issues were discussed in a simple Sinhala with an
incident to illustrations.
Issues such as corporal punishment of children, children's likes and
dislikes and formation of ideals (Tharu), birth of second child, gender
biased and early childhood, appreciation have been discussed in the
In this particular programme, traditional ingredient of a Star
(celebrity) or an ideal has been questioned. At the time, a star is
defined as a person who can sing, act and dance. When questioned, the
parents expressed their aspirations with regard to children. Most of the
parents were of the view that their children should be a doctor or an
Engineer (Not a kind-hearted doctor or a sympathetic engineer).
One of the significant features of the programme was that it was
based on research, particularly in household environment. Simple
practices and their long term psychological repercussions were discussed
in the programme. Among the panel of experts were Lecturer Rajarata
University and Adviser, Foundation for Health Promotion (FHP) Duminda
Guruge, Executive Director Mel Madura Dr. Manoj Fernando, Sociologist
Mangala Randeniya and Director FHP Jinendra Senanayake.
For instance, hitting the chair against the child, to please the
child is such bad practice which would in the long rung lead to
retribution. The programme received wide acclaim and subsequently
recommended by academic for university students who follow a Degree in
Speaking on his entry to the field of Television production, Suranga
Lakmal Seneviratne states that he joined a production team of a
television channel on completion of his studies in the university.
Though he had to produce entertainment programme for the channel,
Suranga learnt the technical know-how, concept, programme-design,
budgeting and executing of a programme.
Within constraints, imposed by the channel, it was an impossible task
to express innermost creativity of an artist. Artists had to fulfill
commercial requirements of the channel. It was rating of programmes
which decide priority of the channel in selecting programmes for
Disappointed by the set up in the channel, Suranga tendered his
resignation which subsequently helped him to realize some of his
artistic goals. Birth of a television channel dedicated to promote
artistic legacy of the nation opened up new avenues for talented artists
who were eager to express themselves through genuine original programmes
based on folklore, idioms and proverbs.
Suranga joined the newly formed television channel and produced a
programme titled 'Kium Kerum' with Madumadawa Aravinda. The programme
was based on expressions, idioms, proverbs, imagery in Sinhala.
Apart from revealing the story behind the Sinhala proverbs, programme
explored the social milieu and traditions and the social norms of the
time. Format of the programme was that of a competition and a fun game.
A resource person would explain the socio-economic background which
led to the proverb. School students participated in fun games. In order
to gather material, Suranga had to devour the corpus of knowledge on
Sinhalese proverbs and stories in addition to collecting folk tales from
villagers including his granny's bed-time stories. Perchance he came
across the phrase 'Nodanith Daruwan Ekayen Vatuna' in Gutila Kauya which
subsequently became the title for his series on child psychology.
Perhaps, this period in his career was more fruitful than preceding
years which were more or less confined to commercial productions. One of
the successful productions was 'Hela Sinemawe Anderela' (Comedian in
Sinhala cinema) with Bandula Wijeweera as presenter. Back ground
information and analytical account of comedian of diverse eras were
presented to the audience together with relevant clips from the original
For instance Joe Abeywickrama's comedian character in the film 'Sweep
Ticket' shed light on the prevalent social norms. He (Joe) pushes a girl
in jeans in a scene in a train, having been mistaken her for a man.
Generation of comedians featured in the programme included Anthony C.
Perera, B.S. Perera, D.R. Nanayakkara.
Following his creative stint in the channel came a period of
interregnum where Suranga had no particular task to perform. It was
during this period, he conceived the idea of directing a teledrama of
his own. By the time Suranga had amassed experience in every segment of
production process including working with foreign directors and
conceptualising and script-writing for number of productions.
The idea, thus, conceived gradually grown up to be a fully fledged
script based on national heritage and archeological artifacts. Script of
'Angaeei' (souk), teledrama unfortunately failed to attract producers
who are used to financing formula-teledramas with romantic storyline.
On flimsy grounds, five producers declined to invest in 'Anganee'. So
the burden of producing 'Anganee' fell upon Suranga who produced the
teledrama with little money he saved and the rest borrowed from
Speaking on ground realities in Sri Lanka for artists, Suranga
acknowledged the fact that financial constraints had almost compelled
artist to compromise with creativity.
'Anganee' is significant for Suranga on several accounts. It is
entirely shot in the precincts of the sacred city of Anuradhapura
against the back drop of ruins.
Anuradhapura is where Suranga was born and bred with heap of
nostalgic memories. Apart from highlighting archeological
artifact-hunters, Anganee explores the sub-culture associated with the
The archeological sites and the sacred city, offer host of
employments ranging from labourers in excavating sites, shoe-keepers in
the sacred city, fishermen and flower-venders. Their lives revolve
around the aged old ruins and the sacred city. It is a souk where even
emotions are being traded in exchange for money.
'Anganee' could subject to many readings. The ultimate message of the
teledrama is that the conventional protests against treasure hunters
would not bear fruits.
The drama will be a journey of soul searching into collective
conscience and the vanishing heritage in priceless archaeological
Speaking on the art scene, Suranga states that most of the actors and
actresses are those who take acting lightly. They are also total
failures at school. Some of the directors are also those who have little
or no understanding of the medium who know only to say 'Action' and
'Cut'. Some directors could not even tolerate watching a Perahera.
They not even respond to nature. Although the acting is the
recreation of characters, it is pity that actors and actresses have not
understood this and try to judge characters as soon as they get hold of
This has been largely responsible for the deteriorating standards in
art in Sri Lanka and the present predicament in the industry. He is of
the opinion that entertainment also differs from person to person.
Audience also appreciate themes of heritage, child psychology and
programme like the teledrama Anganee, the feature programme 'Nodanith
Daruwan Akayen Vatuna.'