Mirror Magazine

Anot her take on the Guttila Kavya
Having spent years in the making the English musical Guttila is finally ready to dazzle Sri Lanka’s theatre going public. “It’s not a translation of the Guttila Kavya, but an original script based on the story,” says Uddaka Tennekoon who began working on the lyrics seven years ago. “It took so long because I could only work on it during my spare time,” he says adding that though he wasn’t very serious about it at first, he began to realise that the piece had a lot of potential and what started out as a hobby ended up a full-length original musical.

“I’ve always been a spectator so this is a first time for me,” smiles Uddaka. Speaking about his work, Uddaka explained that there are many instances when the story deviates from the original Guttila Kavya. Even some of the basic elements in the play have been changed. Guttila for instance is a young musician as opposed to the original Guttila who was a man of advanced age. He has also added two new characters, Anoopama, a student of Guttila and Panditha, a friend.

Uddaka pointed out that in his script Guttila and Musila are violinists, while the original instrument is a seven stringed veena. “I made this change for practical purposes as the lute is a cumbersome instrument which will be hard to manoeuvre on stage,” he says. Once the lyrics were done, Uddaka approached the person he had in mind to make his words come to life. “I knew that Diliup was the person for this.”

Diliup Gabadamudalige who was delighted to accept the offer said this was the kind of work he loved to do. Diliup feels that an original musical is a challenge as there really is no template to work with.

All the music that will be used during the production has been composed and played by Diliup himself and was recorded in his studio. The other musicians involved are Kalani Perera, who plays Guttila’s violin section and Dinesh Anton Subasinghe who plays Musila’s section.

“It was a lot of fun doing the music for this script,” says Diliup who went on to say that it consists of a cross-section of virtually every style of music. He has used a lot of orchestration blended with Asian and traditional instruments with a touch of Asian melodies. There’s also a good mix of all types of music including rock, rap and reggae. Diliup explained that he used different types of music depending on the mood of the character and the message they were trying to get across.

Having recorded for nearly a year, he has used a range of instruments from orchestral instruments to distortion guitars. He did however point out one strange thing – “I am a pianist, but there is not one single note of piano in the entire script,” he grins. Diliup mentioned that he has also used all the special bowing techniques in the string orchestration.

A production of this calibre involves a lot more than lyrics and music. Set in ancient India, the play has seven locations including the cities of Udeni and Benares, a forest, Lord Sakka’s kingdom and Guttila’s house. The seven locations of course require seven unique sets, designed and created by the expert Heenetigala Premadasa and his team. “The sets are not modern, but they are stylised and very artistic,” says Diliup.

While a detailed backdrop gives a finishing touch to any play, one must also consider the practical aspect of having to move it in the shortest time possible. “There will be no breaks between the songs and we will have short set changes,” says Diliup. Working under Stage Manager, Thushara Hettihamu, will be a much-needed backstage crew of around 15. Imran Pakeer Saibo will be in charge of lighting, while Ossie Nugara will handle sounds.

To go with the Indian sets will be the Indian costumes. “When we started we did contemplate having modern costumes but we decided against it because we thought this would be nicer,” says Diliup. The period costumes are designed and produced by Lou Ching Wong, with Ashok Ratnaraja coming in to do make-up. The all-important task of choreography is in the capable hands of Channa Wijewardena, who has been working with the cast and has also brought in some of his own dancers.

Guttila will be staged in Colombo from May 15 to 23. The play does not end there, “First we want to take it outstation, to Kandy, Galle and maybe some other places, and after that we are hoping to take it abroad,” they say. A double CD containing all the songs of the musical will be released on the opening night and the CD will be sold at a special rate during the show. The media sponsors for the play are the MBC Network and The Sunday Times.


Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.