Management thoughts on Thanamalvila Kollek : Rural talent reaches global arena | Sunday Observer

Management thoughts on Thanamalvila Kollek : Rural talent reaches global arena

Amidst an avalanche of awful teledramas, you get a rare gem among the mundane. I had an enjoyable time watching one such rarity, particularly during the Covid-19 lockdown. It is titled ‘ThanamalvilaKollek’ (A lad from Thanamalvila). I saw much depth and breath of unraveling a powerful ‘untold chapter’ of a rural youth going global amidst a multitude of challenges. It could be viewed as a rare rendering of rags to riches, in the modern-day context. Today’s column is a reflection of its significance for Sri Lankans.


The way director RoshanRavindra? connectsThanamalvila, Colombo and Paris in depicting a panoramic view of a youth going, growing and glowing, is indeed interesting and impactful.

The story is a narration of an untold chapter of Deeptha, a rural youngster who could not pass his ordinary level exam.

He inherits the knack of painting from his father, a traditional temple artist. Deeptha’s untapped talent was spotted by Yasodhara, an educated lady who happened to be a friend of his sister, and is persuaded to embark on studies in visual and performing arts.

He gets a job and comes to Colombo and engages in the task of preserving old paintings. The western oriented people whom he meets in Colombo such as Maria, help him to further polish his artistic talent.

He submits an entry for an art competition organised by a French institution. He wins the first place and obtains a scholarship to Paris. The lad from rural Thanamalvila who could have easily resorted to illegal means of making money, earns fame as a reputed artist, marries a Sri Lankan girl domiciled in France with her professional parents and life goes on.

The impressive story of ‘ThanamalvilaKollek’ could be viewed from multiple perspectives.? Let me attempt to do so with socio-economic, religio-cultural and psycho-dynamic angles, in doing justice to Deeptha’s dealings.

Socio-economic perspective

The Thanamalvila Divisional Secretariat in the Moneragaladistrict, is one of the poorest regions in the country. It highlights the urban-rural divide with relative deprivation of economic opportunities. Traditional Sinhala Buddhist society is prevalent with a sense of cast-consciousness.Studying beyond the GCE Ordinary Level is a huge barrier for many youth. Deeptha becomes an exception thanks to the helping hand of Yasodhara, representing the rich community having rural roots with a sense of social consciousness.

As the timing of the story is set in the backdrop of the battle against terrorism in Sri Lanka, the attraction of rural youth to the military as a steady source of income is also highlighted. The multi-faceted tragedies experienced by the South is symbolically depicted by the death of a close friend of Deeptha in the battlefront, and his elder brother losing his leg and becoming ‘differently abled’.

Deeptha’s sister marrying a newly rich man, who works in Italy, shows the dimension of rural youth crossing the economic poverty line through foreign earnings.

The way Deeptha’s friendly bunch of school dropouts struggle to survive through illegal sand mining, and many other attempts highlight the stark economic realities. One of them becoming a Bhikkhu, after a sad episode where his mother’s sealed coffin was received from Dubai, having suffered as a house-maid, showed the impermanent nature of life.

Religio-cultural perspective

The way several key characters are depicted is a symbolic representation of urban-rural divide in Sri Lanka.

The way Maria, a key player in old paintings restoration, assisting Deeptha in understanding some reputed painters’ masterpieces has been beautifully presented.? One such reference is to Richard Don Gabriel, whose impressive painting decorates the background of the altar in St. Theresa’s Church, Thimbirigasyaya. Maria says the colours used by Richard closely resembles temple paintings, depicting his origins and eastern style. The way Deepthaharmonised traditional temple paintings and western abstract paintings, in enhancing his inherited artistic skills with the international exposure is indeed amazing.

The drama shows the shallowness of so-called famous personalities in artistic circles who have teething issues in their relationships. For Deeptha, it is a stark contrast to the poor people he grew up with in Thanamalvila, economically deprived yet having contented family lives. The cynical remark about Colombo that it can be either a gate for heaven or hell indicates the vices and virtues prevalent in the so-called high-class society.

It is interesting to see the diverse assistance Deeptha receives from Yasodhara, a devoted Buddhist who seemed to be suffering with a terminal illness and Maria, a devoted Catholic, who was busily preparing for her wedding. The street friend of Deeptha, with whom he discusses many aspects of life and society, advises him not to get overly attached to any person you come across in your life, depicting the religious wisdom, “attraction brings sorrow”.

Psycho-dynamic perspective

Deeptha’s success? in breaking the barriers of poverty and its associated evils through artistic fame is parallel to many such cases in positive psychology highlighting great achievements under challenging circumstances. It reminds me of the story of SundarPichai, the CEO of Google.

Sundar shared his humble origins recently, referring to how his father had to spend a year’s salary on his air ticket to America so that he could study at Stanford. He said that it was the first time he travelled in a plane, and the only thing other than luck that got him from there to where he is now, was his passion for technology and his open mindedness.He said that while facing challenges during his younger years, computing was the bright spot for him. As a boy growing up in Madras, Pichai slept with his brother in the living room of the cramped family home, but his father was determined to give his children a good education.?

Deeptha’s story with Thanamalvila origin, settling in Paris could be a Sri Lankan equivalent to? many such success stories. The drama represents the cherished religious values prevalent in his early surroundings.

Way forward

“In life, you can blame a lot of people and you can wallow in self-pity, or you can pick yourself up and say, listen, I have to be responsible for myself,” so said Howard Schultz, a former CEO of Starbucks, who also had a difficult childhood amidst poverty. The wise use of scarce opportunities available for untapped talent is the key.

For me the tele-drama shows the diverse facets of Sri Lankan society with its urban-rural divide and the struggle of talented youth without proper guidance resulting in underdeveloped careers or underemployment complexities. Deeptha’s success story of rags to riches should be an encouragement for all with a positive mindset to face life as it is, moving ahead with confidence.

?It gives a clear message for policy makers and practitioners alike, on the need to provide opportunities to tap potential talent, not recognised in conventional educational streams. Such a signal is much fitting to post-Covid-19 where economic challenges will demand to tap talent for fresh thinking and innovative solutions.