Tapestry of a visual artiste | Sunday Observer

Tapestry of a visual artiste

3 September, 2023

Malaka Dewapriya is a young visual artiste who has long excelled in theatre, and as a film and radio playwright. He made his directorial debut in 2001 with Harold Pinter’s ‘One for the Road’, which went on to win several awards at the Youth Drama Festival.

‘Pinter’s play is a chilling study of power and powerlessness that presents a violent, disturbing portrait of political horror in which an interrogator torments a tortured prisoner and his imprisoned wife and child. But what was unique about Malaka’s directorial endeavour was the creative revival of the art of radio drama and the introduction of a new subject matter that firmly established him as contemporary young producer.

Malaka has so far authored three radio plays and produced over 20 dramas. The compositions display an ideological bent in terms of imagined objectivity, associated techniques, multiple meanings, and their multidimensional nature.At times his writings have come under censorship, and suppression because of his critical views and opposing stances. But his response has always been creative, reflective of Paul Ricoeur’s comments about storytelling being at the crossroads between theory of work and morality.

One might wonder how a radio play can hold its place in a society held captive by an electronic media culture and enslaved by consumerism. But as French sociologist Jean Baudrillard said, this is a world of vivid colours and visual illusions that can make dark eyes blue. It is a world where exchanging goods takes place on paper, reality is make believe and enjoyment is an illusion, as are the tears and the laughter. In such a world, is there space to enjoy the works of a visual artiste?

But as Johannes Biranger says, there is also an audio illusion in the post-modern era. Visual imagery as well as voice and rhythm have garnered unprecedented attention, with electronic sounds becoming the primary means of providing entertainment. It is in this backdrop that Malaka mentions the renaissance of radio drama around the world. And it is in this environment, the radio plays written by Malaka emerge as wonderful artistic creations in the field of performing arts.

A notable weakness in the works of young playwrights in the past few decades has been the inability to compose a realistic narrative. It is very rare to find writers who are both creative and grounded in reality, have a good imagination, can make up fantastical objects, and have thematic vision and multidimensional narrative techniques.

But Malaka is the exception. His collection of ten radio drama series ‘Balance Bar Eke Bush Eka Burul’ (wobbly bush in the balance bar) is a masterpiece in script writing, showcasing his skills, imagination, talent and creativity.

The first is the use his imagination that seamlessly shifts between reality and fiction. In dramatic art, human nature is created by the logic of imagination, with imaginary logic bridging the border between reality and illusion. This, according to Helen Nicholson, is not a copy of an existing situation, but a creation.

All the collections of ‘Balance Bar Eke Bush Eka Burul’ are extraordinary reflections of this reality. In ‘Sith Piri Tale’, a popular politician contests the same election with two identities and both identities win. In ‘Nirvastrang Parahan’, a rule is introduced ordering women to keep their upper body bare. In ‘Pinlanthaya or Clean Land’, the earth stops rotating and the world is divided into two regions, dark and light.

Law and judiciary are privatized in ‘Ves Antara’, while in ‘Anuraga Poraya’, similar to Dario Fo’s play, there is a gender reassignment, where pregnancy and childbirth are transferred from women to men. All these episodes are interesting little wonders that are arguments of the imagination. Originality is the main characteristic of the high drama plots.

Second is the narrative style, where all the stories are broadcast with a broad understanding of the artistic effects of theatre. How the narratives are structured generate meaning upon meaning, blurring the lines between reality and imagination is extremely interesting. A series of verbal gestures accomplishes much that visual images cannot. Amphibians are the main characters in many of these stories. That is; the fictional characters of the imagination represent the many pentacles of reality.

The significance of Malaka’s plays is the ideological discourse he highlights through his work. There is no artistic rule that says the socio-political issues of the environment we live in should be addressed only through radio or theatre.

But since the Thatcher era, many of the works of theatre have been tied to the non-human resistances of a neo-liberal consumer society. Many creations of this era use a false consciousness to create real narrative, reflecting the political dimensions of art.

Jean-François Lyotard once said that the issue power can arise a question for the performing arts, while Augusto Boal deemed theatre a process, saying, “Although it is not the revolution, it can be a rehearsal of the revolution. “The world needs to change. And Berthold Brecht has argued “The world can be changed.” When viewed in this ideological light, almost all of Malaka’s works are radical creations that oppose the conception of real reality and its political dimension.

The perpetual process of power acquisition, the amphibious politics that exposes the rich capitalists of the country, the gullible voters who are forever deceived by the same type of corrupt politicians in different guises, the backwardness of the conservatives to modernity, the liberation movements that do not lead to victory, the slave mentality that makes those in darkness enjoy it, the lawlessness of the dominant hegemonic law. These thematic approaches are extremely modern. For each of these thematic dialogues, Malaka uses a satirical metaphor, where contradictions of reality are extremely fascinating.

The stories contained in this anthology include ‘Sunmanaya’, which exposes Sri Lanka’s (No Body to Somebody) lumpen elites, ‘Sith Piri Tale’, which reveals the nakedness of the so-called folk norms in South Asia, ‘Nirvastrang Parahan’, which reveals the backwardness of separation from conservatism, ‘Ves Antara’, which calls to court the personalization of neoliberal economic invasion’, a ‘funded statue’ that hints at madness and the power transfer of capitalists, are all masterpieces. Malaka uses an accessible language that is highly optimized for hearing reflects an in-depth reading on many topics.

Malaka’s radio drama marks the birth of an independent writer with a rare talent.