The Rathu Sahodarayas (of the JVP) are reported to have decided to boycott the special show of Maname at the Temple Trees, scheduled to be held shortly to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the great play by the legendary Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra. The play is about Punic faith. Based on the Sattubatta Jaathaka as well as a folk story, it pivots round the eponym, Prince Maname, betrayed by his newly wedded wife, who gives his sword to a Veddha King in a duel, only to lose both men in the end; the Veddha deserts her as he cannot trust a woman who betrays her husband. In creating Maname, Prof. Sarachchandra had been influenced by Kurosawa`s classic Roshomon with a similar theme, based on a Japanese folk story, during his visit to Japan on a scholarship.
JVP Leader Somawansa Amerasinghe, who gets into controversy every so often?he recently landed himself in the soup by comparing the SLFP with a practitioner of the oldest profession in the world?has, in a discussion on the invitation in question, told a party meeting that the government has given the sword to the UNP, the implication being that the government is the Princess and the UNP the Veddha King. He seems to think that the JVP is Prince Maname. (Not bad, eh?) The JVP leaders, despite their pro-proletariat postures (or `posturing` as one might want to say), seem to have some predilection for associations with royalty. During the second JVP uprising in the late 1980s, it may be recalled, its military commander adopted the code name Vijayabahu, the name of a famous Sri Lankan king.
How can the JVP claim to be in the same predicament as Prince Maname? Neither the JVP nor any other party can stake claims to that role. It is the people of this country who play Prince Maname repeatedly at every election, reposing their trust in politicians who act just like the treacherous Princess, siding as they do with either big businesses or foreign powers.
In 1994, the people who were looking for a king got a princess instead?from Horagolla. They, like Prince Maname, set out on an arduous journey with her as partner. She promised them the sun and the moon and peace on top of them. Their trust, she proclaimed, was sacred to her. But ere long, true to form, she betrayed it. She embraced the Vikings, their Tiger pets, multinationals and the international community.
She gave Lanka Gas to Shell and Air Lanka to Emirates; a French company was contracted to dump locomotives fitted with ship engines here. Multinationals almost gained control over the country`s water resources and every piece of family silver went to foreigners for a song. State land was distributed among cronies. (A recently released book elevates the princess to the level of a `queen`!)
Then came the same play with a different cast in 2001. The sword continued to be in the wrong hands. After some time, the cast forgot which play they were playing and we were treated to an assortment of plays including Maname, Hamlet, Julius Caesar etc. Remember the following lines a professor turned politician recited at the Sattahip round of peace talks:
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
So, they lost their ventures after two years, in 2004 and the people were again left with the Princess. Maname resumed yet another time with the Rathu Sahodarayas as part of the cast. They, however, left the stage when the princess was about to commit treachery. She, too, had to make a hasty exit before the play was over.
Exit of actors notwithstanding, Maname has been going on at the Temple Trees and the President`s House for decades with the people being betrayed. Perhaps, there is no need for a special show to be held there. Under the present political dispensation, the play has reached the scene where the Prince is having a duel with the Veddha: The sword finding its way into the wrong hands must be only a matter of time.
We almost forgot! President Rajapakse will only be insulting Prof. Sarachchandra posthumously if he extends invitations to his new found Green allies to the special show of Maname: It is they who assaulted Prof. Sarchchandra with iron bars and nearly killed him in the early 1980s. Perhaps, even if invited, they won`t come as they cannot be theatre-goers. For, no lover of the theatre or literature for that matter, would ever have thought of harming Prof. Sarchchandra.