He is an outstanding creative rebel whose out-of-the-box thinking has revolutionized the world of Sri Lankan dance. Now again dance maestro Chandana Wickramasinghe is preparing to take Sri Lankan audiences by storm with his new ballet ‘The Story of Sita’, which is scheduled to go on the boards in January 2018. It recently had a very successful maiden show. Wickramasinghe gives a new twist to the timeless love story of Valmiki’s Ramayana, using only the characters of Rama, Sita, Ravana and Mandodari (Ravana’s wife.) Wickramasinghe perceives Ramayana as a work of male dominance and explores and questions the strong thread of male chauvinism that runs throughout the Ramayanaya. He clearly depicts the injustice done to women by rampant male chauvinism in society in his ballet. In the Ramayana a possessive and jealous Rama suspects Sita of having had an extra marital relationship with Ravana and insists that Sita proves her innocence by committing Sati Pooja.
He disregards all pleas by her handmaidens who shave their heads in protest and in desperation she indeed performs Sati Pooja. However, in the unique Wickramasinghe twist to the Ramayana, Sita at the last moment ponders on the fact that Ravana never even laid a finger on her and that the Demon King is reputed to be a respecter of women. She also mulls over the fact that in spite of her pure, steadfast devotion to Rama he suspects and reviles her. She then climbs down from the pyre. The point Wickramasinghe makes is ‘why should only women be subjected to this kind of ordeal? Women do not have to be submissive weaklings before men.
They should be free to follow their path without male subjugation. A firm and committed opponent of male chauvinism, Wickramasinghe aims to make society, especially males re-think their attitude towards women. He also admits that giving a new twist to the much revered Ramayana will upset traditionalists and he would draw much fire from them. Like all his other creations Wickramasinghe fuses dance, drama and music into a dramatic, thought provoking holistic work of art. The Story of Sitha held the large audience who attended the maiden show enthralled and Wickramasinghe points out that despite his critical handling of the beloved Ramayana no one walked out before the end. The audience included critics, academics and professionals and Wickramasinghe is confident that he gave them much food for thought on male chauvinism and the injustice done to women.
“My desire is to see women given their rightful place in society and this is what I strive to do through my art,” he says. The Story of Rama and Sita will go on the boards on January 27, 2018 at 7 pm at the Bishop’s College Auditorium. Rawana is played by Dave Nilantha, Seetha by Pama Kavisha, Rama by Yasas Udayasiri and Mandodari by Divyanjali Supunkumari. The story, choreography and costumes are by Chandana Wickramasinghe himself. Lyrics are by Ratna Sri Wijesinghe and the music is by Peshala Manoj. Singing is by Visharadha Nanda Malini and the choir. Stage management and special effects are handled by Upali Ariyasiri while the sets are the creation of Heenatigala Premadasa.