Nadagamkarayo: A Farce in its Truest Sense
By Priyangwada Perera
Nadagamkarayo is the latest craze on TV. People are watching it on TV and internet, and speaking of it. Viewers are so obsessed that they are now creating fan art by drawing their favourite characters. From tuk tuk wisdom quotes to Facebook posts, Nadagamkarayo quotes are now commonplace in society and in social media.
Ceylon Today recently went to Kirindiwela where Nadagamkarayo was being filmed and managed to have a chat with many masterminds behind the creation of the latest fan favourite teledrama.
Script writer Saddha Mangala Sooriyabandara’s memory runs back to his village Vatapuluwa and his father. His father was working with a group of young men who were somewhat idling. Father was a dramatist and through drama, he changed the course of life for these young men. Sooriyabandara’s father was also a teacher of music. His knowledge on drama too was vast. In spite of being a young boy at that time, he remembers how it used to be. This memory was playing at the back of his mind when he based the same experience when he wrote the script.
Always in an attempt to do teledramas of different themes, Sooriyabandara started with Kalu Araliya as episodic teledramas in 2012/13. This too is a different theme and he was not thinking of making it a ‘hit’ or turning the teledrama culture upside down.
A killer combination
“Television is more of a medium of communication more than it is a medium of aesthetics. People mostly watch TV for entertainment. We can only do some limited work. Keeping that in mind we tend to not do super-creative work on TV. Instead, we choose to give something that makes people think,” said Sooriyabandara. His previous work was predominantly discussing negativity in society but his best critics – his wife and son – said that he should show something positive and out came Nadagamkarayo. He said that the teledrama industry is in a very uncertain position. Money restricts creativity. This is why we only have ‘budget teledramas’ at the moment. The visual medium called television is expensive. Certain creative work of yester years, the writers, and creators have suffered emmensely. His formula for this teledrama was with something to think, enjoy, and some light entertainment. It has proved to be a killer combination and the teledrama is now trending.
He looked at the teledrama industry and said it is suffering. “A script writer should be able to think without restrictions. If money is what determines my freedom to think, that will never give birth to a good creation. A good investment will bring out quality work of art. Superb teledramas like Dandubasnamanaya or Gamperaliya invested a lot of money to make them the successful productions they are but they hardly made a profit. People no longer do that. An actor or an actress or technical staff or even a script writer is not correctly evaluated. What they earn is a mere minimum. Industry is such that the artists are not united. If only we give our audience some quality work, they will watch it. Money sanctions the peace of mind of a writer or creator. Where the industry has fallen, all that freedom is denied. Channels need to decide what they must do, to preserve this work.”
Mega Teledramas wrongly defined
Clearing a common misconception Sooriyabandara said mega teledramas are not the teledramas with a lot of episodes. Mega teledramas are ones that the episodes are shown every day, back to back, all five weekdays. These are what called Mega teledramas. Some people think such teledramas shown on all five days are easily and cheaply made. It is the ones shown in the weekend that have been dealt with more money and more pain. So, the channels in general do not pay much for weekday teledramas. They are not even considered at certain award ceremonies. However, Sooriyabandara was happy about the selection of actors and actresses, a fine combination of the new and the veteran.
Director Jayaprakash Sivagurunadan said that Direction is his profession. “When I got Sooriyabandara’s script I took it. None of us know what happens in the end. It has become very popular with the viewers. I have always tried to come up with different kinds of teledramas. I still do not know what the spectator has grasped and the reason it has appealed to them. Be it Agni Piyaapath or Kalu Araliya, each teledrama is different.”
His only concern is doing justice to his audience. Even if it consists of one person, he believes that he has to do justice to that person. “That has always been my attitude. Every time my dramas have at least made it to the ten most popular teledramas in the country. That means people have accepted them.”
Is this a real nadagama or a farce in its literal meaning more than its backdrop being the art of dance and performance? We asked Giriraj Kaushalya and Hashinika Karaliyedda. “At the very start the genre of nadagam was what felt like to be the base. But as we proceed with the drama, it becomes evident that we are dealing with our own farce of life,” said Giriraj. Hashinika said that this is not just a mere nadagama in its literal sense. “It is easy to read between the lines. This is the stage of life as well,” she said. “Even Buddha brought in stories from past lives or history to explain something. Similarly, instead of making it a lecture, dramatics are used to give the message. Why people stick to teledramas of low quality is because that is all that is given to him. But the moment we give them something of good quality, they absorb it. That is the specialty of this teledrama.”
Comedy is the situation, the rhythm, not some fake accents and exaggerations of delivery. “We are with a very talented young group. Our talents are brilliantly captured by the director and the technical crew,” said Giriraj.
Brilliance of the director
Sajitha Anuththara Anthony said he got addicted to the script even before he started playing the role of Saraa. By now, he has won many hearts. “I too could have become a lukewarm, good-looking character alone. But the team is of such brilliant talent that we take it together.” He made a special mention of the director with whom he has worked before. “Uncle Siva just suggests and ever demands. He gives us immense freedom and milks our talents in an effortless matter, creating a very positive environment for an actor to grow and flourish.” Sajitha said that he has given his heart and soul to the performance.
Manamaalan or Malan De Silva, played by Kokila Pavan Jayasuriya has also become an instant hit among viewers. Kokila said that by now, all the characters in the teledrama have spoken to the Lankan audience. “Now, people are drawing us, writing poems about the characters, and even paintings are done. Even we do not know how we managed that. But to all of these fans, those who love and appreciate, I want to say ‘I love you, I love, I love you’,” a bubbly Kokila said.
Malan comes to the village from Colombo and says he is a model coordinator. He is opportunistic, makes use of every little opportunity he gets but sadly it does not do him much good. “Unlike in certain other teledramas, I got a script and I liked it. I have not seen a character like Malan. It is based on my imagination and of course, I must have been unconsciously influenced by what I have seen and experienced. I steal expressions and characteristics of others without knowledge.”
Senali Fonseka plays Paatali or Sudu Chuti and she feels privileged to have been a part of this teledrama. “I have very few dialogues. It is mostly run on expressions and action and I enjoy playing Sudu Chuti and I think the spectator feels it. I came from Siri Perakum and Vijayaba Kollaya and this is just my second long teledrama. Being an actress, I just concentrate on the character. Each of my characters ultimately becomes my learning experience, my drama school. So, I want to learn more by doing various kinds of characters. I want to become a good actress and I take small steps towards that goal.”
Upatissa Balasooriya who comes from Jayantha Chandrasiri’s Wedahamine, plays S.K. Sirisena and has known the director’s expertise for almost 20 years. Balasooriya said, “This teledrama has that conflict and drama, essential aspects in a teledrama. It also takes the spectator to a natural environment of freedom. Among quarantine teledramas that restrict themselves to the kitchen and bedroom scenes, Sivagurunadan has shattered the myth that people no longer watch teledramas.”
Prasannajith Abeysuriya who plays the character of the Master thinks the teledrama is loved because the script is written after a fine understanding of the medium and human experience. The range is broad and Sivagurunadan does justice to it while the crew delivers well. “There are some very nice songs brought out in the drama and that too is appealing,” he said. Abeysuriya elaborated that the teledrama takes a middle path, not overdoing or underplaying. “While we have preserved the quality, we have also won the masses.”
Nadagamkarayo has topped the ratings and has become a household name. If you are ready for addiction, it would be too good a drama to miss.
(Pix by J. Weerasekara)