Malaka Dewapriya, award winning script writer and director of the controversial radio drama series entitled ‘Kanata Paharak’ was recently recognized as the Best Radio Drama Scriptwriter at the State Radio Awards. The radio drama which attracted negative attention due to several satirical episode titles, such as ‘Theruwan Saranai’ and ‘Niwan Sepa Lebewa’ faced criticism as several parties including Buddhist leaders who criticised the titles, as the radio drama was deemed insulting to the religion. The Radio dramas were launched by the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) while Iranganie Serasinghe and Ramya Wanigasekara won special jury awards for their performance in Dewapriya’s radio plays.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Dewapriya said that he held several reservations of his achievements. “The attacks on my plays were not only senseless but also baseless. It was the handiwork of racist, religious and ethnic extremist groups for their own narrow political gains. One of their shallow arguments was that the titles of some of the dramas had derogatory connotations against Buddhism. while on the other hand the same State goes on to recognize the very same creations and commend them as the ‘Best Radio Drama Script writer ’ at the State Radio Awards. Isn’t that itself quite ironic” Dewapriya questioned.
"The attacks on my plays were not only senseless but also baseless. It was the handiwork of racist, religious and ethnic extremist groups for their own narrow political gains"
Last year, a Case was filed in the Colombo Magistrate Court by the Organized Crime Unit by way of a ‘B’ Report under Clauses 291A and 291B of the Penal Code against Dewapriya’s work. Dewapriya charged that the State, while attempting to take action by way of labelling creative art as ‘organized crime’ is at the same time commending his work and honouring him with accolades. “The aims and intentions of many extremist groups in this country are clearly visible with events such as these. The entire campaign against my work was based on an interpretation of their own and had no analysis of the content,” he said adding that several media platforms in the country operate on a business model devoid of communication ideologies and principles.
Elaborating on the controversial titles, Dewapriya commented on how language was devised to give his radio drama more depth and meaning. “A language is a system of signs. Language is used to communicate as well as to innovate and create. The symbols of a language are not the sole property of any religious institution or police or political group or any particular individual. Throughout history, artists ranging from poets to thespians have continuously used literary devices and symbols to give direct and indirect meanings and nuances in their works of art,” he added.
Despite criticism from religious and political factions, Dewapriya’s radio drama attracted praise from veteran artists. The ONUR under President Maithripala Sirisena, launched the radio drama series with the objective of helping people reflect on issues related to national unity, empowering them to be creative, and to encourage critical thinking in handling day-to-day issues. The dramas were also aimed at encouraging people to listen to radio plays and lead towards a positive dialogue within society.