Budding teledrama producer wades through glue

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Tharanga Rajakaruna Rajapaksha chose television productions to send his message across, but not knowing about rogues in the business hasn’t helped him much

Budding teledrama producer Tharanga Rajakaruna Rajapaksha believes that teledrama is a strong medium of communicating with the potential to instill patriotic attitudes in audiences. Speaking to The Nation, Tharanga said that teledrama is a powerful way of exhibiting the richness of the country’s cultural and religious values, political ideologies, historical mistakes or how Sri Lanka was established as a nation, in such detail that it can create awareness on cultural heritage.

“It’s easier to instill patriotism or nationalism in people with an artistic teledrama,” Tharanga emphasized. “With the technological advancements in the contemporary teledrama field, this can be easily done,” he said admitting that he is willing to use the latest available technology in his productions. He said that a feature in the local field is that there are only a very few who are willing to do this.

Tharanga was born in Dehiwala and his family moved to Homagama when he was a young boy. He received his school education at Mahanama College, Colombo. Although Tharanga didn’t actively participate in arts and cultural events at school, he said he harbored a keen interest in such subjects. He explained that television has been a popular medium of disseminating information as well as providing entertainment in Sri Lanka since its establishment.

He identified that its easy accessibility and the ease with which the common person can relate to it, attracts more audience compared to other genres. Specifically with television, he believes teledrama is the easiest way to get closer to a larger audience. “I always felt that teledrama is very powerful in conveying messages. Since television has a large audience, teledramas are more effective when conveying a message to the general public,” he explained. Apart from his contributions to teledrama production, he is an active member of national movements such as Sinhala Ravaya and Thun Hela Jathika Viyaparaya. also mentioned that the support received from his family inspired him to start working in this field. “I believe that it is the blessings of my father, mother, brother and my beloved wife which paved the way for my success,” he said while acknowledging the contributions of his supporters. “And it’s my guru, Ritigala Sumedha who encourages me to follow my heart,” he added.

Tharanga produced his debut teledrama Ehala Maha Nikinniya in 2013 and it has been telecast on TNL since November 2014. Tharanga said that though he enjoyed producing this drama with his team, searching for a television channel to telecast the drama was not a pleasant experience. “We had to face a lot of difficulties to find a channel to telecast our production. We invested a lot on this project. Keeping the final product at home was not going to fulfill any of our intentions. Neither would we gain any economical benefits nor would it convey the message we wanted to convey,” he said.
Directed by Sameera Hasun, Ehala Maha Nikinniya was scripted by Sashreeka Weerakkody. Athula Jayasinghe, Ritigala Sumedha, Ashen Manjula, Duleeka Marapana, Tharuka Wanniarachchi, Daya Wayiman, Richard Weerakkody and Nilmini Kottegoda make the cast.

However, after a number of failed attempts to find a time slot for their teledrama, both in state and private television stations, the production team finally decided to handover the responsibility of procuring a time slot for the teledrama to a middleman. They handed the teledrama to Deepthi Wageesha, an agent from a company called Red Apple One who succeeded in procuring a timeslot in TNL TV.

Although the teledrama Ehala Maha Nikinniya completed its telecast, the production team is yet to receive its due payments. “We are supposed to receive a payment of 4.2 million for this drama. But, Deepthi Wageesha has gone missing,” Tharanga complained. “She has deceived many teledrama producers like us, promising them timeslots for their drama.”

According to Tharanga she has committed a fraud of more than 60 million rupees in this business. He also said that they have made complaints to the Police and Criminal Investigation Department regarding the scam. “I spent all my money my father gave me, to build a house, to produce this drama. And now I have lost all that money,” he said.

He pointed out that incidents similar to this are one of the major reasons behind the downfall of Sri Lankan teledrama. Especially, Tharanga, being a budding teledrama producer, said that having to face such a scam kills enthusiasm in an amateur. “I know of people who gave up the field due to similar situations,” he said adding that it’s hard to stop such frauds in the field since the country lacks a strong monitoring system. “This isn’t the first time such an incident has occurred. Yet, we can’t prevent such scams,” he expressed his grief.

Considering the fact that he lost his money producing the drama, he said that he is happy about the feedback he has received. “The feedback was encouraging. I was happy to know that people still admire stories which relate to our history, cultural values and patriotism,” Tharanga said with pride.
He also stressed that most television channels don’t do a fine job in selecting teledramas. “They don’t really seem to care about the content or the quality of the dramas they telecast,” he said. He said there are a number of fine teledramas unable to reach the public due to the inability of acquiring airtime from a television channel. “It’s their hard work which is being overlooked. If a chance is given, more fine products will be produced by them,” he opined.

Tharanga said that it’s surprising how teledrama selecting committees in media organizations reject dramas with fine quality. “It is as if they show teledramas just for the sake of filling airtime, focusing only on the money they can make,” he said while iterating that this situation makes it unfair for the audience in terms of not having decent deledramas to watch.

 “The audience must receive something worth for the time they spend in front of the television. Something that will add value to their lives, something which will make them think,” he added.

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