Author: Randima Attygalle
Source: The Nation
Eka-Adhipathi, the breakthrough of Dharmasiri Bandaranayake as an actor and a playwright came about in 1976, a few years after his lead portrayal in Henry Jayasena’s Makara. “Eka-Adhipathi marked my maturity as an artiste,” words of Bandaranayake justify the seven coveted awards it secured at the State Drama Festival, including Best Actor and Best Original Production. Creating a sensation among theatregoers and breaking away from the ideological melodramas of contemporary times, Eka-Adhipathi was critically acclaimed as one of the best theatrical labours of the times.
The oppressive rule of a political despot, portrayed by Bandaranayake himself, has emerged on the stage till 1993, marking over 1400 shows. “The last production of Eka-Adhipathi was in 1993, and after a long lapse of time, it will see the light on December 3 and 4, with several new faces and a few from the previous productions,” said Bandaranayake, adding that the production aims to inspire many young artistes pursuing drama studies and engaged in individual productions. “Eka-Adhipathi succeeded in bidding the audience for a strong dialogue and I long to see a similar social dialogue in contemporary times through it,” added Bandaranayake.
Nourished by historical and political ingredients from many parts of the world, Eka-Adhipathi revolves around a Machiavellian military tyrant in a fictitious land, whose regime brings nothing but chaos, misery and destruction. “The barbaric deeds to which a power-hungry tyrant can resort to, to sustain his power, are narrated, and the essence of the play is to protest against the elimination of human life,” explained Bandaranayake.
A 26-year-old young man portraying a 60-year-old tyrant, with no inkling of the ‘youthful countenance’, is indeed remarkable. Young Bandaranayake enthralled the audience, while ‘oppressing the masses of his doomed land’, his stagecraft surfacing, several decades ago. “Today, I’m of the dictator’s age, and whether it is a young man portraying the dictator or not, let the audience judge,” he chuckles! It was fate that Bandaranayake turned out to be the despot himself. “Not a single artiste was committed to this lead role, so I had no option but to play it myself, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, yet a tedious task at the same time,” added he.
Deviating from the standard theatrical dialogue, Eka-Adhipathi is persuasive and dynamic in its language, complemented by the mastery of music. Touched by the mastery of Master Khemadasa’s music, the play had a strong spell on the audience. The originally composed music of the Master will be directed by one of his golayas, Deshaka Sampath, in the new production.
A production of TrikonE Arts Centre, Eka-Adhipathi will commence the series of re-productions of Bandaranayake with the adaptation of Arthur Miller’s Crucible in April next year, followed by Makarakshaya, Yakshawagamanaya, Dhawala Bheeshana and Trojan Women.
“Eka-Adhipathi has stood the test of time, and I invite all lovers of drama to be part of it,” concluded Bandaranayake. (RA)