There is a huge need for children’s fiction in Sinhala, especially for adolescents. Attempts have been made to fill this void by translating popular children’s adventure books from the west such as the Biggles series by Capt. W. E. Jones, that doesn’t diminish in any way the crying need for indigenous writing of this genre.
Martin Wickremasinghe’s ‘Madol Duva’ may be called as the last, significant children’s adventure story we have seen, though some might question it being called as such (in that case, what else is it?)
Palitha Lokupothagama’s ‘Yakage Mala’ is a step in this direction, though it might be called an adventure story with an educational purpose, the latter given more importance than the adventure. It takes place in a farming village in the Kurunegala district. The normal placid life of an agricultural village is disrupted by the arrival of an American company which begins a mysterious construction in an abandoned rubber plantation. Tharaka, Haritha, Ruwan and Sarani, Year 10 students and friends from the same school, decide to investigate. But the property is enclosed by high walls and there is a mysterious white man at the gate, barring entry.
The author talks about organic farming and ecology along the way, and obviously feels the need to educate his readers. Palitha Lokupothagama, a school teacher for 21 years, quit after feeling that there was nothing more he could contribute to that sphere and that his creative talents lay elsewhere. Today, he’s a renowned dramatist in the sphere of school drama while running his own modest publishing firm based in Giriulla.
In 1988, his school drama ‘Kaputa Saha Keju Kella’ won 8 awards at the youth club drama festival. The drama ‘Salli’ won first place at the Rupavahini Muthuhara children’s drama festival in 1989. ‘Wessa’ a full-length drama, followed in 1990. ‘Noba Venuven Mal Pipevi’ won three awards including third place at the 1997 state children’s drama festival. ‘Amara Giya Divya Loke’ won five awards including first place at the 1998 state drama festival, and ‘Rupa Pettiya’ reached the finals in the limited section of the school drama festival.
The normal placid life of an agricultural village is disrupted by the arrival of an American company
In addition, he is the author of several children’s books, including ‘Sapaththu Kade’ published in 2015. Two of his dramas have been included in government school syllabuses.
This author is unusual in that he doesn’t hesitate to offer DVDs of his dramas to the public. Most Sri Lankan dramatists object to any video record of their work, claiming that it will harm their market. But Palitha has a video team filming all his plays, and they are for sale at his centre at Giriulla, along with DVDs of quality foreign dramas, movies and classical music performances.