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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 forms.

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 Narahenpita.

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 Certificate examination.

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.

Assistant teacher

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.

Dialogue writing

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 playback singer.

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 Undaya (2000).

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 later year.

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.


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