Being away from the hustle and bustle of our restless lives we all sit in front of the TV to relax. But unfortunately, the question arises whether the inane mega tele dramas except for a handful of good programs telecast by the TV channels and the rotten songs aired by the radio channels can soothe our minds. Though in the past a better media culture had been established by media luminaries such as Premakeerthi de Alwis, Ridgeway Tillakaratne, Sunil Shantha and Ananda Samarakoon to create a sane society , at present , it has become hard and nay impossible to trace even a sign of that golden media culture. Indeed, this is apparently a curse.
In those days undoubtedly the first priority had been given not only to the quality of the programs but also to their impact on society. Therefore, the songs and plays, before releasing to the airwaves, had been standardised by the relevant authorities. Even a single song aired by the radio had ensured the betterment of society. The quality and diversity of the programs and the specialty and uniqueness of the program presenters had adorned the media culture. Speaking of a golden media culture we cannot lose sight of Radio Ceylon.
The greatest of service rendered by the Radio Ceylon to the good music industry of Sri Lanka can never be forgotten and underestimated. During the colonial period in Ceylon the radio broadcasts based on the BBC model was introduced. According to the records and reports, the first experimental broadcast was established on February 22, 1924 at the building of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).
On June 27, 1924 the radio broadcast was inaugurated in Ceylon by the Governor, Sir William Henry Manning. Edward Harper better known as the Father of Broadcasting in Ceylon was the chief engineer of the Telegraph Department in the year 1921. According to the Radio Ceylon broadcaster Gnanam Rathinam’s book titled The Greenlight t’he broadcasting station premises had been sited in a bungalow called ‘Bower’ in Borella.
In the year 1949, the radio station was shifted to Torington Square. In addition , Vernon Corea’s contribution is highlighted. By and large , it can be pointed out that the foundation laid by the pioneers was the main factor for a better media culture.
Speaking of the programs broadcast by Radio Ceylon, the gramophone songs which had allured the listeners can be considered to be outstanding. Programs such as Lama Pitiya, Muwanpelessa Sarala Gee, Yauwana samajaya, originally moderated by Prof. E.W. Sarachchandra, Pansiya Panas Jatakaya and Guvan Viduli Geetha Nataka – the first of the series was Manohari written by Chandraratna Manawasinha still echoes in our hearts and minds. Of all the above mentioned programs the most engrossing ones were Muwanpelessa, Winoda Samaya and Lama pitiya.
The radio play titled Muwan Pelessa, the brain child of Mudalinayaka Somaratne, revolved around seventeen characters. It is said that on the request of S.B. Senanayake the script for Muwan Pelessa was written by Mudalinayaka Somarathna.
The entire plot reflected the beauty of a rural village. Somarathna , before composing the script , had visited villages such as Minipe, Mahiyangana, Laggala, Meemure, Kaikawala and Diyanilla to absorb the real life of a village. The surprising fact is how Somarathna came up with the title Muwan Pelessa. Somarathna on his way to a certain village had met a villager.
The villager had called the village pelessa. The word pelessa had inspired Somarathna to think more. Afterwards on seeing the deer in the village he thought to combine the two words together Muwan and Pelessa.
This is how the title came to the arena. As time passed this radio play had got into the blood streams of all. But sadly as if through a curse it struck like a thunderbolt when the fans came to know that Somarathna left for California.
The news about his trip made a stir at Radio Ceylon. Afterwards, the fans of Muwan Pelessa began to write to Radio Ceylon demanding the continuation of Muwan Pelessa. As a result, Victor Migul came up with the new script. After his demise the vacuum was filled by Sri Nimal Padmakumara.
The voices that gave life to the characters were Rex Kodippili (Kadira) Malini Fonseka (Namali), Gamunu Wijesooriya (Veddah Mahathaya) Wally Nanayakkara (Ukku Banda), Hugo Fernando (Arachhila), Kingsly Disanayaka (Kadira’s Mama), Lilian Edirisinghe (Gobira’s wife), S.A. James (Namali’s father), Veena Jayakody (Kekuli), Devika Karunarathna (Biso), Rathnawali Kekunawela (Manike), Susila Kuragama (Vadhi dance watcher), Dharma Sri Munasinghe (Malhamy), Freddie Silva (Pina), Saranapala Suriyaarachchi (Kolamba hunter), Piyadasa Wijekoon (Gobira) and Ralph Wijesekara (Handuna).
Vernon Corea should deserve credit for pioneering innovative radio programs over the airwaves of Radio Ceylon. Among such programs , Lama Pitiya or Kiddies Corner was outstanding. Indeed, Lama Pitiya was a fertile ground for upcoming talented artistes. When speaking of Lama Pitiya Karunaratne Abeysekera’s contribution is the most prominent. Karunarathna Abeysekara who was a legendary broadcaster and lyricist had made an extra ordinary effort to elevate the good music industry in Sri Lanka.
The harvest of Radio Ceylon
Suffice to say, Radio Ceylon regarded as the icon of the Sri Lankan music industry is a giant tree that produced luminaries for Sri Lanka.
Among the artistes created by Radio Ceylon, the most celebrated artistes such as Premakeerthi de Alwis, Malkanthi Nandasiri, Rupa Indumathi and Nanda Malani stand at the front lines of the Sri Lankan music industry.
In addition, the good music culture unlike the modern rotten music trends was established by Radio Ceylon for the betterment of our society.
In addition, the fragrance of Radio Ceylon had wafted to the Indian sky. Everyone in India had tuned into Radio Ceylon in which Hindi film music were presented by Indian announcers such as Vijay Kishore Dubey, Sunil Dutt, Gopal Sharma, Ameen Sayani, Hamid Sayani, Shiv Kumar Saro and Manohar Mahajan. It is clear that even at present we can cherish those programs and songs with much love.
Not only the songs but also the television programs and tele dramas broadcast by television channels can be said to have played a vital role in both education and entertainment. For an example, tele dramas such as Yashorawaya, Dandubasnamanaya, Isiwara Gedara and Pitagam karayo had portrayed the unfathomed salient areas of our society.
Mushrooming channels and inane Mega tele dramas
Needless to say that Sri Lankan cultural values are being eroded by the non-standardised mega tele dramas and mushrooming channels. Especially, the mega tele dramas which revolve around interminable plots are found disseminating negative ideas about different subjects of the country.
Furthermore, the parrot like garrulous radio presenters in a loose sense of Sinhala language and culture can be found destroying our values.
Not all but only a handful of so called modern musical composers can be seen throwing up their crude ideas through their songs.
On the other hand, it is evident that the money-thirsty businessmen in the guise of mega tele drama directors and whose intentions are making a mint of money even by killing dogs as a local saying goes, have swallowed up our golden media culture with the power of money. However, the spectators and listeners unaware of their private agendas have fallen into their pitfall.
To get rid of this hell there should emerge a loud din about the people’s appreciation of art. We as responsible spectators , should light at least one single lamp rather than cursing the darkness by refusing the mega tele dramas and demanding a sane media culture.
WORDS: ISURU THAMBAWITA