Thamasha: A Synonym for Versatility
By Priyangwada Perera
She introduced the concept of Shadow Theatre to Sri Lanka in 2012. However, she was oblivious of the fact that she was the first to have come up with this. “It is different from stage plays because we use no dialogues in it. What we use are the human body, a music track and lights. The specialty is that we use animation to assist us in delivering our message to the audience.”
On 27 December 2012, Thamasha Jayasuriya arrived at the Kularatne Hall of Ananda College, Colombo to stage her Shadow Play. She was with a group of friends who were her support and little did she know that she was making history. Upon requesting permission from the Censor Board, they told her there had never been such a play staged. They gave the 19-year-old Thamasha a certificate, acknowledging the fact that she was the first to stage Shadow Play in the country. It also indicated that she was the youngest director and her The Circle of Love being 1 hour and 1 minute long, was the longest play of that calibre.
Studying at Sumana Balika Ratnapura, Thamasha was a student of Bio-Science. All she could bother about was her studies. However, it burdened her free and creative soul. Thamasha knew she loved Shadow Plays. But that was all she knew about Shadow Plays. Coming from Homagama, due to her mother’s transfer as a Head Mistress to Ratnapura, they were living in Ratnapura at that time and she was being educated there.
Being a YouTube follower of the dramatists Shadow Lamp, she was inspired beyond measure. She was determined she was going to do something similar.
“When I came across this kind of theatre, I wanted to learn it. I researched to find out who had done it in Sri Lanka but found none.” It was her Bio Science teacher Tissa Jananayake who directed her to Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) and got her permission. Little Thamasha went to SLRC and was advised by Gordon De Silva. However, none of this worked out for her. Dynamics - an event management company gave her some words of wisdom. Her family and her friends were her support. Thamasha even wrote to Shadow Lamp, a great team of performers from Spain whom she followed on YouTube and asked them for advice to form the image of a dog using the body. “I was not impressed when they wrote back saying they couldn’t reveal the secret but if I worked hard enough, I would figure it out myself. However, today, I know that what they said only made me a better director and creator. Now, whatever picture you give me, even if it is a photo of you, I can bring it out in my shadows. My children and I can bring it to life,” she thankfully recalled.
In 2012, the 19-year-old Thamasha managed to do the play. A crew of ten, their parents, her own family and friends plus her teachers supported her maiden effort with much faith in her abilities. Her first play earned Rs 600,000 and she donated all that money to the Cancer Hospital. “Credit goes to my crew because they did not charge even a cent. That is why I could donate all of it,” she said. Doing her Advanced Levels the second time she gave more than her best yet she could not make it to her mother’s dream of medicine. Nevvertheless, she went on to study Bio Medicals at British College of Applied Studies (BCAS).
In 2014 she staged her second play. Learning from experience, she reduced it to 45 minutes. Shadow of Love, was staged incorporating children chosen after auditions. Her father was the one who was behind her in all this.
She became a presenter at CSN and also became an event manager. Thamasha also wrote to different countries promoting her team. “My animation alone costs Rs 50,000. It was a very young kid who did it but I have to value it. Locally, I was often undermined except at corporate events.”
She kept reaching overseas. Her first tour was in 2014 to the Maldives. From then to 2019, she did the opening act with her team at the 7-star resort Soneva Fushi on 31 December. “It is Shah Rukh Khan, Tiger Shroff and big stars who come there.” This time they missed it due to COVID-19.
In spite of a degree in Bio Medicals, her dream was to go to Mumbai, see the Film City and become a Director. It is to try her hand at learning something that she headed for Mumbai. Her father’s friend Suman, helped her get through to many stars. She worked as the Assistant Director with Director Rajesh Ranasinham - a film director from South India, who made her an Assistant Director and paid her INRs 2,000 per day. She went to Hyderabad for a Sri Lanka-India cricket match and did an advertisement for a phone brand. She continues and is well received and well paid. Thamasha is totally in love with India.
From 2017 she has worked for Lankan events. She also registered for a Masters in Australia. Like a daredevil she became the first female presenter to scuba dive 21 metres whilst presenting ITN’s Travel Girl. A self-taught gymnast, Thamasha is a rare bundle of talent, determination and honesty. Her dreams are many. Who can doubt this girl’s grit and talent?