Thun Mollu: Three characters in a chaotic coexistence
What sounded like indistinctly American jazz music rolled out to the
ears of the audience as I sat in the gentle darkness of the Punchi
Theatre to witness the award-winning playwright and drama director
Buddhika Damayantha’s latest creation Thun Mollu (Three Idiots). The
drama is played by three characters – Andy (Mahendra Weeraratne), Norman
(Rajitha Hewathanthri) and Sofia Rosemary Dalpadathu (Ayesha Dissanayake.)
The ‘turbulent behaviourism’ of the trio is the central force driving
the story and its narrative.
The location of the story is an apartment occupied by Andy and Norman
where they live and produce their life’s occupation, the magazine they
publish as a periodical which is presented to be as something of a
progressive explosive critique of the hypocritical political structures
that govern the country. The premise of the story is basically how the
two ‘revolutionaries’ who hope to contribute towards a salutary change
in the country through a magazine they are committed to (despite the
looming penury that seems to be ready to engulf, them if the magazine
does not sell well) get thrown into a stormy ride due to the girl next
Their attractive neighbour Sofia Rosemary Dalpadathu instantly
mesmerises and throws off course Norman, who seemed until then a writer
regimentally committed to the cause.
She turns Norman’s world upside down inside out and upsets the
deadlines that have to be stuck to ensure the magazine comes out on the
due date. But none of it is her fault. She can’t help it if the writer
next door to whom she was simply being genuinely neighbourly has fallen
head over heels and has lost all sense of rhyme and reason. And thereby
the playwright presents the crux of what turns out to be a chaotic
triangular correlation of people with three objectives forced into
I was beginning to wander while watching the drama with its overt
references to the prevailing political landscape and the campaign
slogans from the recently concluded Presidential election whether the
script was written over the past two months.
While the play does have its grains of appreciable comedy it did not
strike me as a comedy which has the potential to keep the audience in
The story has a rather telling subtext of how romantic idealisms of
young writers who believe their penmanship can be a forceful catalyst
for change in Sri Lanka may commit a great deal of their young lives to
a goal, possibly flirting with the disaster of crippling impoverishment.
One may wonder in this respect how many young artists and writers in
Sri Lanka over the course of our modern history would have dreamt of
being forces for salutary change, but perhaps couldn’t even sustain
their basic needs and thus got obliterated.
What potential does the ‘New Young Left’ if one may call it, as
manifested by young groups who regularly brandish Che Guevara as their
‘image-slogan’ calling for socialist change, to actually see their
political goals realised, through their chosen medium of rebellion which
is art and mass media and not armed struggle?
Perhaps nothing for certain, is a message in the subtext of the play
was what I felt seeing the struggle that Andy and Norman and embroiled
in as politically active young men. The core of the song strummed out
with a guitar as a creative pace changer to the narrative: his tin ekak
wage ape jeevithe (Our life is like an empty tin can), speaks of the
existential bleakness that really underscores the plight of young Sri
Lankans like the trio of characters in Thun Mollu.
There is a heady mixture of elements in the play. The jazz music that
marked the start had me wondering if this was a story set somewhere in
the USA delivered in the Sinhala medium.
There were enough indications in the visual texture of the opening
scene to assume so, coupled with the jazz of course. I was also
wondering if it was a translation of a foreign play, although neither
the ticket nor the poster stated so. But as the dialogue progressed it
was evident that it is a story set very much in present day Sri Lanka.
Without intending to insinuate any denouncement towards the
playwright or the work, I would say that the play seemed an underworked
script overacted in performance. True, the characters are eccentrics but
there was notable zealousness in the actors –especially in the
performances by Hewathanthri and Dissanayke to the effect of almost
brandishing labels about the eccentricity of their characters.
Perhaps, may I suggest humbly, for what it may be worth, I hope the
director may consider reviewing the method of projection of the
characters in performance, opting for a more mercurially subtle shifting
of gears to bring out their emotional constructions without a constant
drive of alacrity and adrenaline on noticeable standby within the veins
of the actors.
In a day and age where translations of foreign plays are dominating
the segment of ‘artistic theatre’ in the realm of Sinhala theatre,
original plays must be appreciated for the risk taking involved.
The playwright intended to present a story to an audience seeking
popular entertainment in the nature of slapstick comedy. But he has
created a work ribbed with doses of comedy, lively music and some rather
weighty undertones about the seriousness of the subject of the young
‘struggling activist’ who strives to establish in this era the belief
that the pen should be mightier than the sword; as the path for a