Maya Roo
– Short Bursts of Psychoanalysis


Review by Prof. N. A. de S. Amaratunga


For those who like serious art there is a serial presentation of telefilms named "Maya Roo" on Mondays at 8.30 p.m. on Rupavahini. These could best be described as short bursts of psychoanalysis. Some of these are adaptations of famous writers like Guy de Moapassant and Wilkie Collins while others are originals by Prof. Nimal Senanayake who has written the script for all of them with some contributions by his daughter Chathurika Senanayake and also produced them. Anuruddha Jayasinghe has excelled as the director. Several leading actors and actresses like Sriyantha Mendis, Jackson Anthony, Saumya Liyanage Semini Iddamalgoda and Nadi Chandrasekera make excellent contributions. Camera work is by Prabath Roshana and music is by Ruwan Weerasekera.

Prof. Nimal Senanayake is a neuro-physician who in the past has scripted and produced several mystery and suspense filled high class teledramas and films. His interest in these works seems to be the complexity of the human psyche. In all his creations, he seems to question the relationship between perception and reality and attempts to examine the discrepancy. What is perceived by the human senses and the mind is often distorted by the psychical aberrations while reality is a scientific and material presence. He employs the vehicle of mystery and suspense to analyse the human mind.

In "Horla" which is an adaptation of Moapassant’s short story by the name of "Le Horla" published in 1887, a supernatural phenomenon is presented. The supernatural here however is a symptom of the protagonist’s troubled mind which is brilliantly portrayed by Jackson Anthony. Moapassant had been interested in the supernatural and several of his short stories deal with this subject. Yet his supernatural phenomena are more or less creations of the human psychological constitution rather than an act of an external power. Moapassant was fascinated by the science of psychiatry which was developing rapidly during his time. Prof. Senanayake also seems to be fascinated by the human psyche and the mystery and suspense that its complexity is capable of creating. His script of Moapassant’s ‘Le Horla’ retains to a great extent the strength of the original plot and Anuruddha Jayasinghe’s direction has done justice to the script.

Devanarayana, the protagonist in this story, lacks nothing in life or so we are made to think; education, money, social status and tranquility in his environment, yet suffers from a strange affliction, a subjective presence of another being that makes its presence felt by various means. He is treated in a hospital where he attempts to commit suicide. He tells his psychiatrist that as the problem became unbearable he had set fire to his house thinking that would get rid of his invisible tormentor which apparently had not happened. His two servants had perished in the fire. One was a woman who feels lonely and ill when Devanarayana goes away on holiday. His love life is not revealed to us, but this woman’s affliction that comes about when he is away could be a hint that he may have had an affair with her and it may not have been a success. Whether this is the cause of his mental state is a question that one is made to ask. The psychiatrist does not tell us what the diagnosis is. We the viewers are left to grapple with this riddle which actually is the riddle of life that all of us are confronted with. Isn’t there a subjective being inside all of us?

Senanayake has adapted a short story; ‘The Dream Woman’ by the 19th Century English writer Wilkie Collins and named it ‘Rebecca’. Collins is the author of ‘The Moonstone’ which is supposed to be one of the best detective stories of all times. Collins had been treated with opium for his gout which had caused paranoid delusions in him and made him feel that he was accompanied by a subjective being which he called the ‘Ghost Wilkie’. This influence could be seen in ‘The Moonstone’. Senanayake had earlier scripted and produced an adaptation of ‘The Woman in White’ by Collins which he called ‘Davala Kanya’ which was a very popular telefilm.

In ‘Rebecca’ a young man who seeks shelter from the rain in a lonely house is awakened in the night by a dream in which a woman comes into the room and attacks him with a knife. He tells his mother about this experience and the mother seems to have a premonition that an evil would befall his son. Later while driving he knocks down a girl who resembles the woman he had seen in the dream. He is attracted by her and develops an attachment to her. He takes her home one day and the mother is shocked beyond belief as she seems to know that this is the woman in the dream her son had seen and no good could come to her son out of this match. She asks his son to send the girl away and the girl leaves with much animosity towards the mother. Disregarding his mother’s objections, he lives with her in a flat. One day he sees her in a confused state and discovers that she takes drugs. The mother tries to take him away but he says the girl would be alright with therapy. His kindness towards the girl is not reciprocated and she insults his mother and leaves him when reprimanded. She returns in the dead of night exactly like in the dream and attacks him with a knife but is killed in the ensuing scuffle. This story examines the belief about dreams and their connection with real life. What really are dreams is the question posed amid mystery and suspense. How the dream had affected the son and mother and how finally the dream comes true is an unanswered mystery.

Another interesting little story named ‘Cinderella’ deals with love, jealousy and hatred. The jealous husband had suspected that his young wife is carrying on with her previous boy friend. He tells his story to a photographer whom he meets by chance and says he had intercepted the love letters sent by the boy friend and that when confronted, the wife had committed suicide. In a quirk of fate, the photographer happens to be the previous boy friend and he knows that she had never been unfaithful to the husband. He knows that she had not even replied his letters. He now turns into a detective and visits the house where the wife was supposed to have hung herself and finds evidence to prove it was not a case of suicide, but murder by the jealous husband. He sends the evidence to the husband who goes to the house where the evil deed was done and hangs himself, using the same rope and from the same beam of the roof that he had used to kill his wife. Whether he acts out of remorse or fear of the law is the question we have to answer. Sriyantha Mendis acts as the jealous husband. Saumya Liyanage is the photographer who seeks retribution. Nadi Chandrasekera is the wife, the victim of the cruel world where these three helpless people are entangled in a vicious relationship of love, jealousy and hatred.

Senanayake’s telefilms are a welcome change from the mundane cheap affairs that pass for teledrama. I hope that the Rupavahini authorities would appreciate the need for good teledrama if it has an interest in developing the taste for quality art among the people of this country. At least state television must show greater responsibility in this regard than commercial television. We look forward to being treated to some more of Senanayake’s work in the future.

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