TV Times

GDL back on stage with ‘Thotupola’
By Chandani Kirinde

When G.D.L. Perera produced the stage play "Thotupola", in August, 1964 on the touchy subject of race relations between the Sinhalese and Tamils in the country, no one would have had any premonition to the extent that relations between the two main ethnic groups would deteriorate in the ensuing years.
But given the simmering ethnic tensions even four and half decades ago, G.D.L.Perera knew it was a subject that needed to be addressed in the public forum if the two communities are to learn to trust each other and live in peace. So he made his endeavourer by producing ‘Thotupola’ which earned him the award for the Best Stage Play of that year at the National Drama Festival in 1964.

Much water has flown under the bridge between then and now and even though relations between Sinhalese and Tamils are worse than they ever were and a public discussion on the subject is largely ignored. So when G.D.L. Pereera decided to revive the play after 44 years, it as a welcome change to see a frank discussion on race relations take centre stage.

The play mainly deals with the prejudices that many Sinhala harbor against the Tamils. This is very much true of today as it as in 1964. That Tamils are favored because they are the majority, that they are better employed than the majority, that they are the bane of the country are some of such prejudices.
The protagonist of the play Dingi appu's son is a soldier away in the army. He forced this only child to join the force as he could not find another job. He blames the Tamils for this situation because "all the good jobs have been taken by the Tamils."

His daughter-in-law is heavily pregnant and Dingi appu is anxious to see a grandson to carry on his, lineage. It is in his dialogues with Marihamy, the village midwife that his hatred for the Tamil begins to emerge. But Marihamy has no such prejudices and raises some pertinent questions in attempts to make him over come his prejudices. She tries to make him understand that the Tamil mans concerns for his son is the same as his for his off spring that is way in the military. She tells him the Tamil man is equally proud of his race and religion the way Dingi appu is proud of his roots. But to no avail.

G.D.L. Perera

His son is subsequently killed while on duty at a government hospital guarding a Tamil prisoner. A Tamil doctor is accused of shooting him while helping the prisoner make a getaway. Ironically, the Tamil doctor makes his way to Dingi appu's village and helps save the life of his daughter-in law who goes into premature labour after hearing of her husband's death. Dingi appau learns he is the killer of his son but allows him to leave unharmed when Marihamy hands him his grandson has tells him it is the Tamil doctor who helped make his dream of keeping his linage going by safely delivering the baby.

Times have changed much since the play was first staged but the subject matter in more relevant now than it was then. The distrust between the communities has grown many fold and t sadly the prejudices that Dingiri appua harbored then are still prevalent among many in our community.

The subject is also controversial and there are few people who will to take on such a subject and deal with it in a public forum. So it is to credit of the veteran film maker and dramatist that he has been bold enough to take on the subject once again and being it to the open.

The play was staged at the at the Namel -Malini Punchi theatre Borella to mark the 7th Anniversary of the Kalagaara , Kandy founded by Mr.Perera to assist young actors. The original cast included Denawaka Hamine. Leoni Kothalawala, Budhi Wickrama. Gamini Wiiesunya and Felix Premawardana

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