KAW turns 80
The indefatigable master film-maker
Art is a form of taste. Taste differs and each person presents and
enjoys taste differently utilising different types of media. As much as
authorship, art and music one can surmise stage, cinema and television
as the foremost among publication media.
K. A. W. Perera: from script writer to director
Out of them the cinema has gained prime world attention. More than
any other media the cinema nurtured by various languages and mixed with
numerous cultures has brought the world into subjection in different
It is 59 years since the cinema which is a powerful art medium which
can turn a country and nation for better or for worse and it has
conquered Sri Lankan borders. It is opportune for us therefore to ponder
whether the local cinema which is 59 years old has made any contribution
towards the welfare and progress of our country and nation.
The local cinema which began on January 21, 1947 with the film
Kadawunu Poronduwa (Broken Promise) freed itself from South Indian
influence and asserted indigenous features from 1956. There was an
outstanding script (dialogue) writer who contributed towards making that
golden era which started with the film Rekawa into a silver lining in
the indigenous cinema.
He later became a foremost counsellor of the local cinema who worked
behind the scenes to set up the National Film Corporation with the
sponsorship of the United Front Government in 1970. He is none other
than K. A. W. Perera who turned 80 recently.
Born on April 15, 1926, Koddul Arachchige Wilson (K. A. W.) Perera
was the only son of Wilmot Perera and Mrs. Kavinihamy Ratnayake of
KAW’s mother Kavinihamy had one desire about her son. That was to
make him a disciplined and intellectually fit citizen who could render
some service to society rather than a person amassing personal wealth.
With this motive in mind she admitted her son to Ananda College,
Colombo, the leading Buddhist School in the island.
The school was however not within walking distance and Kavinihamy
gave her son 10 to 25 cents daily to travel by bus. K.A.W. who was an
enterprising child trudged to school daily saving the money he received
from mother to see films.
At school his main interests were drama and sports. Although teachers
did not bank on his studies he somehow managed to pass the Junior School
Thereafter he left Ananda College and registered himself at a private
school to follow university entrance classes. K.A.W. who walked past
Stork Place, Colombo daily to attend this private school struck a
friendship with a girl named Agnes who was a trainee nurse.
The friendship turned into a love affair and he decided to marry her
despite the disapproval of his parents.
After Agnes entered his life K.A.W. began to encounter economic
problems, so he decided to seek employment by registering himself at the
Employment Exchange. But his application was turned down as he did not
attach any copies of certificates to it.
A crest fallen K.A.W. tried to make a quick exist from the employment
exchange when a person from inside the office summoned him by his name.
To his amazement K.A.W. found this stranger to be a former teacher who
taught him at Ananda. With the help of this person K.A.W. was able to
obtain an appointment as a temporary clerk at the Education Department.
While serving as a clerk he used his leisure time to write drama
scripts to the then Radio Ceylon. His dramas broadcast on Radio Ceylon
became immensely popular among listeners. One such fan was a Director of
Education attached to the Ministry of Education where K.A.W. too served.
This Director who perused K.A.W.s educational qualifications
appointed him as an English Assistant teacher attached to the Biyanwala
MV in 1949.
After a brief stint of four years as an assistant teacher he left his
job to join Radio Ceylon as a full time Copywriter and Program Producer.
It was during this period that Dr. Lester James Peries launched the
golden era of the Sri Lankan cinema with his debut film Rekhawa.
It was a realistic film which chartered a new course for the
traditional Sri Lankan cinema. K. A. W. Perera who later became a man of
an epoch also subscribed to this film by writing its dialogues.
Among other finds made by Rekhawa who later earned a name for
themselves in their respective fields were Titus Totawatte, Willie
Blake, Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody, Sunil Shantha and Gamini Fonseka.
The dialogues in Rekhawa were more realistic than those in the
contemporary stage dramas.
Thereafter K.A.W. wrote the dialogues for the Hindi film Anjalee
which was dubbed into Sinhala. He also functioned as an assistant
director of this film.
A surfeit of films with the screen play/dialogue written by K. A. W.
followed thereafter. Among them were Sandeshaya, Getawarayo, Saravita,
Heta Pramada Wediyi, Kala Kala de Pala Pala de, Sigiri Kashyapa,
Yatagiya Davasa, Okkoma Hari and Oba Dutu Da.
K. A. W’s association with the late E. A. P. Edirisinghe made him
join E. A. P. Films Ltd towards the end of 1959. E. A. P. Production
Pirimiyek Nisa for which he wrote the dialogue as an assistant director
became an instant box office hit.
This spurred the late Mr. Edirisinghe to invite K. A. W. to direct
his next film. K. A. W. was a little hesitant to take up such a major
responsibility because he was only a dialogue writer. So he opted to be
co-director of Suhada Sohoyuro, a film adapted from the Tamil film Pasa
Malar in 1963.
After learning the intricacies of film direction through ‘Suhada
Sohoyuro’ K. A. W. stepped into the shoes of a full - blooded film
director by directing Senasuma Kothanada which earned him the Sarasaviya
Award for best direction at the 1966 Sarasaviya Film Festival amidst
many other awards. This film also helped Premasiri Khemadasa to make his
debut as a music director and Visharada Amaradeva to make it as a
From then on there was a deluge of Sinhala films directed by K.A.W.
Among them were Kapatikama (1966), Bicycle Hora (1968), Seeye Nottuwa
(1971), Kathuru Muwath (1971), Lokuma Hinawa (1972), Aparadaya Ha
Danduwama (1973), Duleeka (1974) and Lasanda (1974).
The film Lasanda based on a novel by the late T.B. Ilangaratne earned
Participation and Gratitude Medal at the 20th OCIC Gonefree Film
Festival held in Italy in 1974. Lasanda was also acclaimed at the 3rd
Tashkent Film Festival held in 1974 with a special Diploma Certificate.
Among later K.A.W. films were Vasana (1976), Nedeyo (1978), Janaka
Saha Manju (1978), Sasara (1978) and Hingana Kolla (1979).
They were followed by Adara Ratne (1980), Bangali Walalu (1981),
Wathura Karaththaya (1982), Dhawala Pushpaya (1994), Madhuri (1996), and
K.A.W. did yeoman service to the Sinhala cinema by introducing a long
line of talented actors, actresses and lyricists in the calibre of
Geetha Kumarasinghe, Oswald Jayasinghe, Sampath Sri Nandalochana Rex
Kodippili, Upali Attanayake, Gothami Pathiraja, Manouri Wimalatunge,
Jayanthadas Perera, Freddie Silva, Dharmasiri Gamage, Prof. Sunil
Ariyaratne, Ajantha Ranasinghe, Augustus Vinayagaratnam, Premakeerthi de
Alwis and Ranjith Weerasinghe.
K.A.W. who was awarded the Kalasuri honorary title in 1991 has won
prestigious awards at the Sarasaviya, Presidential, OCIC and Swarna
Sanka Film Awards ceremonies.
He also received the ‘Rana Thisara’ lifetime award at the Sarasaviya
Film Awards ceremony held in 1989. As a teledrama producer he received
the U.W. Sumathipala Award at the Sumathi Tele Awards ceremony held in a
The Sinhala cinema is now on a strong edifice thanks to the
pioneering work rendered by people like K.A.W. Perera who counts almost
55 years service to the field. May he live long to see the Sinhala
cinema which is close to his heart blossoming and reaching new heights
in the future.