A scowling Musila glowered at me from across the room as I walked in on a practice in full swing.
He was, of course simply in character; the bad guy- Musila, the main protagonist of Revenge, the fictitious sequel to the Guttila story.
The demons dance in the background, while the villainous Dushta (Janmesh Paul) cunningly induces Musila to seek revenge from his nemesis. This was my first glimpse of the long awaited sequel to the Guttila story, presented in 2004 by Guttila Productions, with the concept and lyrics by Uddaka Tennakoon and music by Diliup Gabadamudalige.
Going behind the scenes of the drama which will take place in a few days time, I was given the chance to meet with the talented young cast of 23 members who are enjoying acting, singing and dancing out an age old story.
Almost every actor in the cast had this to say of the drama – they had been completely drawn to the music. A diverse mix of almost every possible musical genre (including rap) had been incorporated into a scene which is centuries old, and yet these varied styles don't appear even slightly out of place within the setting.
"The whole concept of Revenge is completely different from anything that has been attempted in Sri Lanka before," comments Jerome de Silva the Director of the drama. "Apart from the costume concepts, Revenge is, in every sense different from its prequel. It is a very slick drama, very entertaining and wonderful to watch."
In Revenge, rather than Guttila, Musila is the main protagonist. "The point is that after Musila's defeat, that would not have been the end of his story," explained Uddaka Tennakoon, the brains behind the drama. Having designed the concept and lyrics for Guttila in 2004, the story of Revenge began to unfold in 2006, a prequel to the epic story that its author was so fascinated by.
The drama itself – in plot and morals, has an underlying seriousness beneath all the singing and vibrant dance moves. But the cast, despite having to work extra hard, have had nothing but good times.
To sum up the experience of working with the professionals, says Eraj De Silva (Guttila), "It was all in all, an intriguing experience, because for one thing, you give it your all, but unlike most scripts where the script writers are not present, here, they're right here with you and sometimes you stop to wonder if what you're doing is exactly what they want."
The directors are confident that, for such a young cast (ages 13-26), who have not worked with professionals, they have stepped up to the challenge extremely well. "They have all come a long way since we started out, and the whole production has begun to look really good," enthuses Jerome.
From lawyers to teachers to the majority of students, the cast of Revenge is a fun loving bunch with one thing in common. They absolutely love what they do, be it singing, dancing or acting. For John Wijesinghe (Panditha) who is a Maths teacher by day, taking time off for acting is something of a release, as it is for most of the cast members who work.
Nineteen year old Dmitri Gunatilake who plays the role of Anoopama – the wife of Guttila, weeks away from the dreaded A/L exam, is no stranger to theatre.
"Yet this is a whole new ball game," she adds. "While I like the fact that for once, unlike in school, I actually get to take on a female role; there is also the challenge of working under professional directors, because they expect so much more of you."
For Jerome too, it has been "a challenging yet rewarding experience. Being that we're dealing with a young and relatively inexperienced cast, they are willing to learn and learn easily."
Christopher Stephen (Musila) is an old hand in the Guttila and Musila story, having played the role of Musila in Guttila – 2004. "I really like the fact that I get to play Musila," he grins. There is a lot of scope for an actor to portray a personality like that, and in the case of Musila, the actor could even get away with slight over-acting."
Adding to this, Eraj De Silva identifies fitting into the serene role that Guttila plays, which he says, sometimes presents him with a challenge. "In comparison to the character I had to play in Blood Brothers last year, the role of Guttila is completely different."
And there we have it. The good and the bad, and of course the morals of the story which initially inspired Uddaka Tennakoon to contemplate what would have happened to the two violinists after the famous contest.
The show will take place from June 19 to 24 at The Lionel Wendt Theatre. Tickets, priced at Rs. 1000, 750, 500 and 200, are now on sale at the theatre. Parking will be available at the Women's International premises.