It was refreshing to take a quite walk climbing up the hillock to Sanghamitta, then taking the curve round, just behind, adjoining the University Medical Centre was his abode-his bungalow - the centre of drama activity with the rays of the morning sun, holding the hand of his daughter Sunethra he would take a walk slowly going down the hillock to the area amazingly serene breathtakingly nice, with well laid out gardens, the exotic park with Tudor style halls of residence.
A few yards ahead you would find the one and only university of world standing, the magnificent seat of learning where nature itself had created an ideal and a favourable site to achieve all round academic excellence. It was against this backdrop that the greatest drama Maname the brainchild of the great master emerged in mid 1956. He was none other than late Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra. With this masterpiece, he set in motion, the wheel of drama.
My memories flash back to the time, that my friends to this day, Rupa, Shiva, Winnie, Chandra and Beatrice would be watching him from the balcony each one making their comments on the days, he was on his walking spree. At other times he would go in his green Volkswagen - EL 497, where he pleased, mostly to the lecture halls, to deliver his lectures. After returning from his research work in Japan he would talk of Kabuki" . Within him Maname was coming to light. His interests were centred round drama, being the first to introduce a new type to the Lankan Society.
Looking back after 50 odd years, this authority on drama was an amazing character. Maname was a remarkable achievement and a historic victory for him. It had become so much a part of his life. Still later if became his sole life. Very soon fame and fortune came upon him.
All drama loving people seemed to be in love with him. Subsequently the whole university and the entire island. It came to be ranked as the first ever best drama written and produced at the time. It was a superb drama - par excellence. Due to his gifted interest and determination, young talent was explored to its fullest. Edmond Wijesinghe, Shyamon, Pastor Lionel, Trilicia, Hemamali, Indrani, Trixie and Swarna were the lucky ones to be his choice.
They were indeed privileged to participate and enjoy. He produced them to be the most talented actors Sri Lanka had ever produced at the time. Apart from being famous for creating a revolutionary change in drama he was hailed as the greatest contributor to the drama world.
A long felt need in drama to be fulfilled, since early Nadagam style, was his prime aim and concern. With his Buddhist outlook, one of the most interesting and best known Jataka stories formed the theme of his drama. This particular Jataka Story of his choice reflects a very moving human account. Very entertaining, yet full of advice. All human emotions - love, sorrow and joy are all well depicted. In his quest for a right person, to give life to nadagam songs, stylised and rhythmic walk he came across Charles Silva Gunasingha Gurunnanse, well versed, efficient and experienced in the task. He was entrusted with that part of the drama, with his son Norman who was involved with rhythmic beating of drums. The dedicated duo was carrying out their duties to the very letter which kept the great master satisfied and happy. It was purely based on Sri Lankan traditional music creating a distinct Sri Lankan identity.
Drama practices were held in his residence where the foundation was laid for the pageant of great aesthetic, social and cultural value in Sri Lanka's past and present. The most exciting event of the drama commences with Pothe Guru, Shyaman who with his fitting stature opened the show with an impressive performance. Handsome guy Sirimanne played the role of Maname prince with feelings. Trilicia as the Maname Queen, and Hemamali too-were beautiful charming poised young girls who made it a unique one.
Trilicia and Edmond made history as the first duo to add majesty to their scenes so much so that the heroic courage and the commitment of the veddah king was well proved, by the circle of sweat seen on the stage after his performance. A close friend and a colleague of the Master, Prof. Siri Gunasinha who was responsible for fascinating array of colourful costumes adding colour to the show was not without gain and that was the time that Hemamali was blessed with a ray of hope regarding her future which later compelled her to bid good bye to her role with her marriage. It was heartwarming to listen to the splendidly dressed chorus with their captivating voices.
The entire cast did pretty well making the creater happiest ever. The song "Premayen Manaranjithawe......" had become the hot favourite of Lankans. Later Maname had been introduced as a lesson in the prescribed text for higher grades which the students enjoyed with thrill and joy in the classroom with a rhythmic clapping of their hands. It is so sad that some members of the original cast are not among the living. They have been taken from our midst far too early. But they are very much alive in our hearts.The much talked about, Maname the greatest show was launched in late 1956.
It is still being talked about by many - the few who are among the living. It was first staged in the open air stadium, also the brainchild of Prof. Sarachchandra, even today arousing golden memories of an exciting event. It was a wonderful opportunity for the starving drama lovers.
The Maname he cheated kept moving, with rising demand from all quarters. It had its days of glory when it first started going round the island.
With the Dram Soc playing a leading role, trips were arranged to have shows during weekends in many cities of the island. Everybody was clamouring to see and enjoy.
The places were fully packed and they were continually applauding. I have a pleasant recollection of the day Maname was staged at Rahula College auditorium in Matara. It was yet another lovely day for me and my friend Shiva.
While at Matara we hardly missed any show of this calibre. Maname at Matara still holds fond memories of the illustrious Master, the gifted genius, and his galaxy of dedicated actors.
When looking back Maname was a true wonder and a marvellous gift to the drama world. It had a profound influence in the evolution of drama as he was really, the key to the outstanding success of the later dramas.
The impact of Maname was so deep that it paved the way for subsequent dramas to be produced by his pupils and close associates. His pupils and his own family are keeping him alive by following his footsteps, carrying on his values and principles. Prof. Sarachchandra, the Drama Patriot marked a significant milestone in aesthetic history. The service thus rendered to his Motherland and Sinhala culture will linger on.