Mirror Magazine

Spell of stage and screen
Young undergraduate Malaka Dewapriya talks to Sachie Fernando of his local and international exposure in drama and cinema
From the outside he is a diminutive man but on the inside he has massive aspirations and the grit and determination to see them through. He is Malaka Dewapriya – a man in love with art. There is so much to say about what he has done and so little to say about what he hasn’t. He has tried almost everything.

Being a university student at the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, Malaka takes to the arts as the passion of his life, embracing drama in diverse forms. Sometimes as an actor, a script writer, a make-up designer, a stage manager, producer, sound manager and sometimes even as a director.

Malaka, who has carried this ardour from his early school years, has participated in theatre at many levels while still in school.This artiste has worked under experienced directors and has contributed to a large number of major productions. Malaka remembers one of his most cherished moments as his performance in Human and Shadows by Prasanna Withanage (1992). Another unforgettable play he names is The Mahamariya, organised by the University of Moratuwa, (1991).

Both these productions won ‘Best Production’ at the State Drama Festival. He also won Best Actor and Best Producer for his own creation Bandana at the All-Island Subodhi Drama Festival when he was just 17.

Malaka has given his priceless contribution to the state and youth drama festivals since 1991.The experience and talent he gained took him on to direct a translation of a massive play like One For The Road. Malaka is also a journalist, whose writings to the print media range from academic to general features. He has also engaged himself in radio drama at the SLBC as a radio scriptwriter and an actor.

In 1998 he made his way to the silver screen, the maiden being Sammanaru. The second film, Penetrate made in 2001, speaks about our post-colonial experience. This was chosen for the ‘Ibda Awards’, an International Film Festival in Iran. This was followed by Exchange, which depicts the ever-familiar concept of university love. The films are all experimental, projecting Malaka’s viewpoint, as he represents the outlook of the youth in Sri Lanka.

Malaka’s most recent effort The Life Circle has made it to the first 20 films at the 10th International Student Film Festival, which sees the participation of 163 countries involving the work of more than 3000 film directors. For Malaka, it’s the greatest achievement of his life. “This is the first time Sri Lanka took part in this event and got chosen for the finals,” he said with pride.

The festival, which was held at the University of Tel-Aviv in Israel, was organised by the Film Department of the University. The unique cinema event takes place every year in June bringing together students, academics, filmmakers, artistes, journalists and intellectuals from around the world. Approximately 200 films compete in four different categories – fiction, documentary, experimental and animation; all screened at the Tel-Aviv Cinematheque in varied stages throughout the festival. This celebrated event has been rated by the ‘Cilect’ (the international organisation of cinema schools) as one of the top festivals of its kind.

Including a week of youthful and daring cinema, fascinating events, workshops, conferences and exhibitions, one such project saw all the directors were divided into seven different groups and called on to do a “long night shoot”and the visitors around the world were then asked to share 250 short film previews. According to Malaka this was a unique experience. “The knowledge and experience I gained there was great!” he said.

The theme of this year’s festival was “A celebration of young and aspiring art”, and Malaka’s The Life Circle has certainly done justice to this theme. A low-budget seven-minute film, Malaka uses just one voice, one character and one location. The storyline is sparse and evocative, capturing the relationship between a woman’s life and labour. And how, in this process her hopes and dreams are forgotten.

“It was all team work,” said Malaka, not forgetting to mention the university crew who helped him in the production, especially Dr. Dharmasiri Pathiraja, a senior lecturer at the University of Colombo.

“I do this for the joy it gives me,” smiled Malaka while presenting his views on the ‘inside story of Sri Lankan art’. Artistes around the world, Malaka explained, go in to themes beyond reality, whereas the Sri Lankan artistes tend to move within realism. We need to look at art differently view, he emphasised, “scientifically, magically, deeply.” “As a society,” said the artiste, “we need to appreciate, admire and look for the depth in art.”


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