Iranganie Serasinghe: Mischievous young girl who turned a brilliant actress

STAR: As soon as I stepped into Iranganie Serasinghe's garden, I was engulfed by the tranquil enchantment of it. With large trees of various types and beautiful flowers scenting the air, it was the kind of place no one would expect to see in the heart of Nawala town. The garden itself was a reflection of Irangani's fervent bond with nature.

Dressed in a simple gown there she was. She greeted me with that motherly smile, so familiar to us. Fifty years of brilliance and passion- Iranganie Serasinghe- was seated in front of me. After seeing her as the mother in the silver screen and the small screen as well it's hard to imagine Iranganie as a little girl. So we started our conversation from her childhood life.

MOTHERLY: Iranganie Serasinghe

"I lived in a quiet and lovely village near Ruwanwella. And I used to go out to the paddy fields every evening to watch flocks of birds return home. I used to sit on a rock amidst the field at sunset and watch them. And then our caretaker would come running to the fields and ask me to return home saying that girls should not stay out at the time of sunset. I calmly asked her why they shouldn't.

Then she says that 'kalu kumaraya' is coming at that hour and I should go in. The next day again I went to watch the birds at sunset, and she rushes there and asks me what I was doing there even after her explanation. I calmly replied 'waiting for kalu kumaraya to come'. And then she would go bananas," Iranganie says with a mischievous glitter in her eyes that surprisingly matches her motherly look. Iranganie goes back to those days.

She recalls how she and her sisters would secretly get into the little boat which took people and sailed across the river. "The caretaker would discover us gone and come rushing to the shore screaming for us to come back," she laughs like a playful little girl hiding her face with her hands.

She has always been mischievous and a rebel. She was not one to go by the traditional standards. Never one to take advices, how did Iranganie play 'mother' so touchingly? "That I also don't understand. I started my cinema carrier by playing mother in Lester James Peries' 'Rekawa' when I was just 25. Since then most of the roles I have done were roles of the mother.

Everytime I play mother and give advice to someone on screen, I wonder what my mother would have said if she had seen me. Because I was the last person to take advice, let alone give them," Iranganie says in a light wing. Iranganie had won the best actress award for her very first role in Rekawa, and since then the number of awards won by her exceeds 35.

She had the rare opportunity of starring in about seven films by the Doyen of Sinhala cinema - Lester James Peries out of which most were motherly roles. Iranganie was the beloved 'Suduhamine' in 'Yashorawaya', the innocent mother who silently bears all pains because of her children.

The classy mother of high society in 'Sathpuravesiyo', and the caring mother and grandmother in 'Doo Daruwo'. No matter what kind of a mother she played, people loved her from the bottom of their hearts. She touched their hearts and souls for decades. What was her secret of winning such deep and unwavering love of her fans? Iranganie smiles innocently.

"I think it's the roles I play. And the credit should be attributed to the script writers for writing such nice words for me to speak. Maybe that is why people like me," she says modestly. Her roles in 'Bakmaha Deege and in 'Kinihiriya Mal' where she played the role of an ultra modern lady who runs a brothel, was so different from her motherly nature.

Iranganie says that the roles were challenges to her and that she loved playing those roles as they were different from her usual ones. "I was getting bored of the type cast roles I was getting. After all, which performer would like to perform the same thing over and over? So I took those roles gladly, and did my best," she says.

According to her, those had been two of her favourite roles. "The role of a spy I played in Lester James Peries's 'Sandeshaya' is another favourite of mine".

Iranganie has two inheritances from her little days - her mischievousness and her love for nature. Whenever she has free time she flees for the heavenly sanctuary of her estate in Belihuloya. Iranganie's passion for mother nature has led her to take part in various activities in saving the environment and wild life.

Having elephants at her house as a child, Iranganie is one who loves them deeply. An Orchid flower had been named after her as a tribute to her service in saving the environment. "I didn't see the flower yet, but will be soon sent one when it blossoms," she says.

In spite of her motherly nature, the qualities of a young girl were still prominent in her. Nearing 80 years now, Iranganie can still understand what it feels like to be 20. That is why she is the best to give some advice for the younger generation.

She laughs playfully at this. "I don't want to advise the youngsters, because I know they won't take it. I was the last person to take advice when I was young. But I'd like to request them to save nature. Because if nature goes down we go down with it. Beautiful places like 'Hummanaya', 'Dunhinda' and 'Diyaluma' are being destroyed by people.

They go there and drink alcohol and smash the bottles there. No one else can go and enjoy them afterwards. Please don't destroy nature, live in harmony with it," the beloved mother pleaded.

Handagama's film 'Aksharaya' in crisis

FILM: Controversial film director Asoka Handagama claims he is being discriminated and is clamouring for justice from the authorities to ensure his latest film Aksharaya (Letter of Fire) is screened for the cinema going public.

Asoka Handagama - controversial film director

"For the first time a local film is going to be banned after being approved by the Public Performance Board (PPB). This defies reason," Handagama said.

"Who is going to listen to my grievance? I have been a victim of a grave injustice as my creation is facing the threat of being blacked out to local viewers", laments Handagama who has directed several films which were the subject of much debate in local cinema circles .

Starting his film career with "Chanda Kinnari" , he directed "Sanda Dadayama", "Me Mage Sandai" and "Thani Thatuwen Piyabanna" which won international recognition.

However Handagama's latest film "Aksharaya" (A Letter of Fire) has now created a tug-of-war between the Public Performance Board (PPB) and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage.

According to Handagama, despite the approval granted to the film by the PPB Chairman Prof. Somaratne Balasooriya on March 29, 2006, the Minister of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage told the media that he would not permit "Aksharaya" to be screened in Sri Lanka.

"Although there is no official ban yet on the film, there is an attempt to do so by the authorities and I have received a letter from the PPB, requesting me to hand back the approval letter they granted me.

What the authorities are doing now is taking steps to ban the film. Not only that they have already started discriminating me too. For the first time in the history, a film approved by the PPB is to be banned by the Cultural Affairs Ministry with the support of the National Film Corporation", claimed Handagama.

"This is in total violation of my right to freedom of expression in the medium of cinema. The PPB granted their approval for the film under the 'Adults only, category.

Then why is this fuss now? If there is an audience even one or two or more to view the film, we cannot deprive them of this right to view the film. It is up to the viewers to form their opinion on the film. That is up to them and not to anyone else", Handagama pointed out.

The film "Aksharaya" was shot in 2004 and completed production in June 2005.

The film was first screened at the St. Sebastian International Film Festival held in Spain in October 2005. The second screening was at the Tokyo International Film Festival in Japan in November 2005.

The film was screened for a limited audience for the first time in Sri Lanka at the French Speaking Countries Film Festival held in Colombo, March 19 at the Elphinstone Theatre. (A.G.)

Host of cultural events from Alliance Francaise

HAPPENINGS: The Alliance Francaise of Colombo has organized several exciting cultural events in collaboration with the University of Visual and Performing Arts and the Italian embassy, during the months of May and June.

Their expectation is to promote arts and culture which will offer the people a place to witness cultural diversity. Jean- Philippe Roy, the Director of Alliance Francaise stated that this will open doors in terms of cultural interaction and exchange between the French and Sri Lankans.

"The Music Day"(fete de la musique) which will be held on June 21 is a celebration of live music which is open to both professionals and amateurs. The first phase of the event will be in the form of a competition between school choirs/singers/dancers, out of which the winners will get to perform in the evening programme.

Live images of the celebrations in Sri Lanka will also be screened in Paris. The event is entirely free of charge and anyone can take part as a performer or a spectator. This will take place at New Town Hall, Colombo 7 from 1 pm onwards.

Commencing on May 3, the Cine Club will screen Italian films starring renowned French actors every Tuesday at 3 pm and every Wednesday at 6.30 pm at the Alliance Francaise.

Each film will be followed by a short discussion for "added cultural value" according to Jean -Philippe Roy. The Cine Club is open to all and is free of charge.

The play "Mr. & Mrs. O" will be performed on May 29 at the Bishop's College auditorium. This play without speech includes mime, contemporary dance, circus arts and even comic book arts.

This will be followed by the Franco-Sri Lankan mime workshop where Sri Lankan and French actors will have the opportunity for a cultural exchange.

The Alliance Francaise, No. 11, Barnes Place, Colombo 7, can be contacted for more details on this regard.

Ban on Handagama's film: lethal blow to freedom of expression

The news report that the Ministry of Cultural Affairs has threatened to ban Asoka Handagama's latest film 'A Letter of Fire (Aksharaya) does not augur well for the development of the national cinema.

In the first place, one always assumed that once the Public Performances Board certified a film, as it has done in the case of Handagama's film, no higher authority had the right to overturn the decision of the Board on the universal premise that the Board, as in other countries, enjoys complete autonomy.

I must confess that I am not sure of the legality of such a counter ban, but if it is carried out it would deal a lethal blow to the freedom of expression of serious artistes in the medium of the cinema.

Asoka Handagama's film is a serious work, powerful, disturbing (to the fainthearted), a searing attack on all our 'Sacred Cows'. Critics might find it difficult to read all the sub-texts which are sardonic assaults on marital, sociological, cultural institutions in the narrative.

One may like or dislike the film - that is another matter. But surely hasn't every adult the right to see the film once passed by the PPB? If you don't like it, you have the luxury of walking out of the cinema.

On the other hand, to call it an obscene film is preposterous. It is an attempt to introduce controversial new themes, exploring the darkest recesses of the human psyche, expressed in compelling, often violent images on the tragic consequences of incest, a theme as old as Greek drama.

Every national cinema needs directors who will push the frontiers of the medium both in terms of structure as well as the introduction of controversial, even taboo subjects to prevent our cinema from being stultified and moribund.

Why it should upset people who read stories of fathers raping daughters in our daily newspapers is a mystery. One must also remember that the film is predominantly in the English language, which adds to the power of its "no holds barred" audio-visual assault.

'Crash' at Majestic

CINEMA: "Crash" - winner of three Oscar Awards in 2006 for best picture, best original screenplay and best editing will be released at the Majestic Cinema, Colombo from May 5.

"Crash" is imported and distributed here by the Cinema Entertainment Pvt Ltd. (CEL).

Diving headlong into the diverse melting pot of post-9/11, Los Angeles, Crash tracks the volatile intersections of a multi-ethnic cast of characters struggling to overcome their fears as they career in and out of one another lives.

In the gray area between black and white, victim and aggressor, there are no easy answers.

A cultural cross-section of Los Angeles denizens are connected to each other through crime, corruption, obligation, indignation and chance over a two-day period.

The most powerful storyline features Matt Dillon and Ryan Phillippe as beat cops, jaded and abusive, who pull over and harass a black yuppie couple (Terrence Hoard and Thandie Newton) because the suv they're driving vaguely fits the description of vehicle.

Similarly potent table-turning and judgment-testing events occur in the lives of the actual carjackers (Larenz Tate and Rapper Ludacris) and their victims (Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock).

These four are, in turn, connected through other events to a young Hispanic Lockmith (Michael Pena) desperately trying to make a better life for his 5-year-old daughter after moving out of a crime ridden neighbourhood and to a struggling Iranian shopkeeper (Shaun Tub) desperately seeking to lay blame for the vandalisation of his convenience store, and to a pair of internal affairs detectives (Don Cheadie and Jennifer Esposito), whose lives and jobs are complicated by politics tested principles and personal secrets.

They all live in Los Angeles. And during the next 36 hours, they will all collide.

This is the directing debut of award-winning writer/producer Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby) from a story by Paul Haggis and a screenplay by Haggis and Bobby Moresco.

Produced by Catty Schulman, Don Cheadie, Bob Yari, Mark R. Harris, Bobby Moresco and Paul haggis. Michael Muro as Director of Photography. Editor is Hughes win borne and music is by Mark Isham.

'Lux' stars celebrate the diamond year!

EVENT: Lux celebrated its diamond year in glamorous style at the Water's Edge, Battaramulla, recently. The night kicked off in dazzling manner by a ravishing dance by Channa Wijeywardhana dance troupe.

Film stars Manjula Kumari, Kanchana Mendis, Sangeetha Weeraratne, Yashodha Wimaladharma, Anarkali Akarsha and Marketing Manager Surith Perera cutting the anniversary cake. Picture by Saliya Rupasinghe

Stars Sangeetha Weeraratne, Kanchana Mendis, Yashodha Wimaladharma, Anarkali Akarsha and Manjula Kumari sparkled the night with their captivating beauty.

Renowned film star Sangeetha said that being a 'Lux star' was every upcoming actresses' dream and that her association with lux would always be treasured by her.

Two new brands of Lux were launched at the occasion, 'chocolate seduction' with cocoa cream and 'aromatic glow' with lotus extract.

Also the new Lux TV commercial featuring Malani Fonseka, Sangeetha Weeraratne, Chaturika Peries, Dilhani Ekanayake and Sabeetha Perera was launched at the occasion.


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