Mentally-challenged people among us are often singled out, discriminated and stigmatized. Although we claim to live in a society of topnotch technology and high standards of living, we are still unable to understand the mentally ill and have compassion for them. Some among us are far from accepting the mentally challenged and treating them as human beings, depriving them from their human rights.
Award winning teledrama director Lalith Ratnayaka’s latest teledrama ‘One Way’ will be telecast every Sunday at 8.30 pm on ITN from August 16 onwards. The story revolves around a compassionate young psychiatrist
“We call them ‘crazy’ and try to hold them captive. It is considered a disgrace to have a mentally-handicapped person in the family and once they are admitted to the mental hospital or an institution, the family doesn’t even consider visiting them. There are hundreds of patients in mental hospital wards, waiting for their loved ones to come and visit. Sadly, sometimes no one comes to see them until they grow old and die,” lamented the award-winning teledrama director Lalith Ratnayake speaking about his latest directorial venture ‘One way’ which revolves around a life of a young psychiatrist.
Ratnayake said that the teledrama ‘One way’ is an attempt to plant a seed of compassion, in the hearts of its audience, towards mental patients. Speaking further about the teledrama’s theme he said that the plot openly embraces mental health issues, giving top priority to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The PTSD is a serious mental condition which follows an experience of extreme trauma, tragedy or terror. “This mental health problem can occur after a traumatic experience with war, assault or disaster,” Ratnayake explained. “There are many people who suffer from the PTSD currently in Sri Lanka due to the armed conflict we faced for decades. Not only soldiers, civilians who faced this traumatic experience can also fall victim to this disorder.” He pointed out that although this is a serious medical condition we haven’t given the due attention to its victims.
Identifying this inadequacy Ratnayake considered conveying the sensitiveness of the issue through a teledrama, considering the massive teledrama audience in Sri Lanka. Stories he heard about these victims inspired him to write the screenplay for the drama. “The story speaks of three different PTSD patients: A soldier, an LTTE member and a man from a village subjected to a brutal LTTE attack,” he said.
One Way is produced by Serenity Entertainments under the guidance of HD Premasiri, Bandula Ekanayake, Channa Fernando and Bandara Eheliyagoda. The drama is edited by Indika Jayawardena, camera by Sajitha Weerapperuma, music directed by Nalaka Anjana Kumara and make up is by Wasantha Vittachchi. One Way will be telecasted from August 16 onward on ITN at 8.30 pm.
Winner of Best Director at the Sumathi Awards in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2010, Rathnayake was also awarded a Signys Gold Medal in 2005. His writing skills were also recognized at the Sumathi Awards where he won Best Scriptwriter in 2005, 2006 and 2010. He bagged the awards for Best Scriptwriter and Best Director at the Raigam Awards in 2010 and at the State Awards ceremony in 2010.
Ratnayaka recalled that it was his childhood aspirations in theater which supported him to travel this far in the teledrama field. Attending Galahitiyawa Madya Maha Vidyalaya, he directed many stage plays at school. Although he was not able to take any of his stage plays to popular theater, he said his inspiration hasn’t waned, that he still wanted to join the teledrama field.
During this period there weren’t much education facilities for a drama enthusiast. There weren’t any degrees to follow. “Although there weren’t any recognized degrees, I followed all the recognized courses in the county. Most of all, the teledrama I watched and the books I read were at my university, studying teledrama,” he said.
In 1994, he joined the teledrama field as a fulltime assistant director and later joined Teleview. His debut tele direction was Sawasa Pipena Mal, a single episode teledrama series, with Sunil Ratnayake. Then he contributed to Ananda Abeynayake’s popular poya drama series Sansare Piya Satahan. His Children’s tele-film in 2000 Wishama Bhaga was critically acclaimed. The film is still screened at teacher training programs at National Education Institute (NEI).
Among his other much-admired tele creations are Theth Saha Viyali telecasted in Rupavahini and Arungal telecasted in ITN (Independence Television Network) which received more than 40 recognitions and awards. Arungal, a story of an unsophisticated family living in a remote village, depicted how a minor incident can turn their lives upside down.
Ratnayaka’s tele-creations mostly speak of sensitive topics in society, where he intends to convey a meaningful message to its audience. He emphasized that meaningful tele-creations are rare today and that most of the teledrama directors and producers are money oriented. “Teledrama industry is a profit earning business today,” he iterated. “Yet, there are a few who are still passionate about the message sent to society from their creations. Most in the field try to produce something that attracts the audience and thereby earn more money,” he expressed his grief that most of them are not putting their best effort to producing a good story.
Focusing attention to his latest creation ‘One way – Thani athata yana paara’, he said, “This will be a novel experience for the audience and it tackles a timely issue which should be discussed in depth. I invite people to watch the drama with an open mind and educate themselves about the issue. We have to change the attitudes we have towards mentally challenged people. They are also human beings and they should be treated as human beings,” he further said.