The golden era of tele-art in Sri Lanka would be the 90s decade; there's no denying that. Inspired by the cinematography at the time, the teledramas that came out during this decennary managed to exhibit the history of our country, its values, heritage, people, wisdom and the social phenomena in the most wonderful way.
The society is a collection of different people who believe in different values, cultures, ethics and many other factors. Portraying this diversity through the members of a family, Kande Gedara had a fabulous storyline. The characters of Bala Mahaththaya, Loku Haamine, Senarath, Mayura, Subhash, Sandun, Almeida, Kalagune, Chamari, and Ranjan represented many of us, in the most entertaining and accurate way. The cast included Rohana Beddage, Ramya Wanigasekara, Jackson Anthony, Susantha Chandramali, Veena Jayakody, Shriyantha Mendis, and many other talented actors and actresses.
Aired from 1990 to 1995, Doo Daruwo is known as one of the longest-running Sri Lankan teledramas. This was also a story that revolved around a family; how a family starts, grows and more importantly, how it changes over generations while infusing different social morals into it. Directed by Nalan Mendis, the characters of this teledrama were beautifully captured by many veteran actors and actresses, including Henry Jayasena, Iranganie Serasinghe, H.A. Perera, Sunethra Saratchandra, Neil Alas, and Jayalath Manoratne etc.
The innocent Suratissa, the simple Baladeva, the stubborn Ranjani and the easy-going Sunimal; born into the same family, these 4 kids believed in 4 different worlds. They had different dreams, they followed different rules in life. And amidst all that lies the love of their parents; undivided, unvaried, and unconditional. This story came to us through Yashorawaya, a teledrama based on a novel of the same name, written by Somaweera Senanayake. Lucky Dias, Iranganie Serasinghe, and Geetha Kanthi Jayakody are some of the many actors/actresses who contributed their talents in this show.
Based on the novel by Mrs Sumithra Rahubadda, Iti Pahan told us a story about a rural woman who lived during and post-British colonial period of Sri Lanka. The theme song "Iti Pahanakadko Ma" sung by Nanda Malini was so beautiful and touching that still reminds us of the helpless Dulina.
Donna Isabella Koraneliya, AKA Gajaman Nona was an iconic character in Sri Lankan literature. The knack she had for writing and reciting impromptu Sinhala poetry was truly impeccable; even Sir John D’Oyly, the Government Agent of Hambantota and Matara District was impressed by it. Born into a rich family at the time, her personal life wasn't lovely as one would think. The early demises of her husbands left her struggling with financial issues, as she had no income to take care of her kids or herself.
This life story of Gajaman Nona was brought to us by the teledrama of the same name. It's Vasanthi Chathurani who brilliantly pumped the life into the character of Gajaman Nona in this one.
Remember this song? We didn't have the popular "comic book" concept back then, but we did have a whole bunch of Chithra Kathaa Paththara (newspapers dedicated for picture-based stories). Based on one of those stories, Suseema was a teledrama that appealed to the young generation in the early 90s. The songs in this teledrama (including the above) are still quite popular.
The modern Cinderella story of the decade, Rathu Rosa instantly won the hearts of Sri Lankan youth back then. However, the Prince Charming in this story wasn't as charming as the one in Disney. Presenting the talents of young Kamal Addararachchi and Vandana Liyanarachchi, it was simply a hit. The theme music here is iconic to its director; Ranjan De Silva. Almost all of the teledramas he directed after this seemed to have the same theme music in them.
The stories of Ingammaruwa, was another super interesting teledrama we had the privilege of watching. It drew our attention to this slum of a community in Colombo; their life, daily struggles, how they overcame them and many other things while depicting a cross-section of our society as a whole. Plus, every episode managed to pass an important message to the crowd in a very subtle way. Sriyani Amarasena, Manel Vanaguru, Mahendra Perera, and H.A. Perera are some of the many actors/actresses who took part in it.
"Katu Akule Mal Ahare – Ralu Ahase Tharu Hinahe"
Almost nothing brings out the memories of a 90s kid than the theme song of Amba Yahaluwo. Based on the beloved children's book written by T. B. Ilangaratne, this teledrama unfolded a heart touching story of two best friends; Sunil and Nimal. They came from different social backgrounds, and despite that, their friendship always pulled through. Not only this story presented the value of true friendship, but it also painted a picture of the simplicity of the village life along with its issues and battles.
Dandubasnamanaya was an elegant assortment of Sri Lanka's glorious, traditional martial art; Angam Pora, rural life, education system and governance during the British colonial period of Sri Lanka, presented in a form of a teledrama. Directed by Jayantha Chandarasiri, this is considered as one of the Seven Iconic Teledramas in Sri Lanka's television history.
There are many, many other brilliant tele-creations of this decade and it was quite a task to limit this list to just 10. Do let us know about your favourite 90s teledrama in the comments section.
Cover photo credits: Nalan Mendis