Unfading star of the silver screen

PERSONALITY: Her maiden role in the Sinhala films happened to be a lead role. She made a creditable debut as a devoted wife opposite Joe Abeywickrama in "Landaka Mahima".

She had reached the peak of her acting career when she decided to quit the local cinema. She is non other than Nita Fernando, screen star par excellence.

Nita- star par excellence

Among her last films was "Duhulu Malak" which bought her fame for her super performance. "Duhulu Malak" was a landmark in Nita's film career as well and the maiden effort of Wijaya Dharmasri as a film director.

Nita co-starred in "Duhulu Malak" with Ravindra Randeniya and Tony Ranasinghe and her performance won her the acclamation of critics.

She also won the OCIC Award for the Best Actress that year for her role in "Duhulu Malak".

Nita's first screen appearance however was to be in Gamini Fonseka's "Parasathu Mal". She had been selected to play the role of one of 'Bonnie Mahattaya's' many 'conquests ', but failed to turn up on the sets as she was unable to obtain approval from her parents.

Nita never gave up hopes of acting in films and by the time "Landaka Mahima" was mooted she had been able to persuade her parents to allow her to pursue a career of her own choice.

‘Silent Honour’ muhurath ceremony
Pix by Tennyson Edirisinghe

At that time, Nita was yet a student at Holy Family Convent Wennappuwa. Upon leading school she also toyed with the idea of becoming a teacher. But an uncle of hers who had noticed her talents when she took part in school concerts convinced Nita that her destiny lay in the 'celluloid world'.

"Somehow my uncle's predictions came true and after completing my school career, I made my entry into the local cinema in the mid 1960's.

"Landaka Mahima" directed by W. M. S. Thampo was my first film. Within eight years since the launch of her screen career she had acted in 40 films. "Duhulu Malak", "Lasanda", "Hadawath Neththo", "Mangala", "Wasana" and "Shanthi" are some of the films that she acted in.

"Duhulu Malak" was a landmark in my film career and at my peak I had to leave the industry due to my marriage to Elian Perera. We both migrated to Canada and lived there for 18 years from 1975", Nita said in an interview with the "Daily News".

Apart from her film career, she has played lead roles in stage dramas in Gunasena Gallappathie's "Sandakinduru", John Silva's "Vessanthara", Kalinga Obeywansa's "Aalaka Manda", Martin Gunadasa's "Sahana Laddo" and Anula Wijerama's "Maha Gajaba".

Nita played one of the main characters in the stage play "In the name of the God the Father" directed by Namel Weeramuni and Malini recently. She has also acted in several tele dramas including "Kahala Nadaya" which was telecast recently on Rupavahini.

"On the one hand, it made me sad all the while I was living in Canada because I left the industry at my peak. I was always complaining about this to my husband. But being a down-to-earth person he comforted me by taking me around the world and making me understand the reality of this universe.

According to Nita her husband said "to realise it, you have to move yourself from the " celluloid world. But do not worry, I will one day take you back to where you were". This was his promise. To Nita, it was not a 'broken promise'.

The film "Soorya Kantha", the first production by Nita was the outcome of Elien's promise. Nita, then moved to her second production in 1999, with the film " "Pavuru Walalu" (Within Walls) directed by Prasanna Vithanage.

The film was a total success which helped Nita attain international fame. She won the Best Actress Award at the 11th Singapore International Film Festival in 1999 for her role as 'Violet' in 'Pavuru Walalu'.

These days Nita is completely busy shooting her latest production "Silent Honour". The Muhurath of the film was held recently at the Namel-Malini Punchi Theatre.

According to Nita, her husband Elien was always behind her success. "Elien was a mentor to me rather than a husband. He was behind me in every thing I did.

Still I cannot bear the pain of missing him.

He encouraged me to face everything alone when he was alive. But I miss him so much and no one can fill the void left by him", Nita said with emotion.

'Saradiel' to ride again in epic new tele-drama

TELE: One hundred and forty two years after he died at the end of a British hangman's noose, the legendary Sinhala folk hero Utuvan Kande Saradiel will ride again, this time on television screens in thousands of Sri Lankan homes, thanks to a new tele-epic now being filmed.

Ravindra Roshan as ‘Utuvan Kande Saradiel’

The serialisation of the story of the man dubbed a local Robin Hood by his adversaries, the British administrators of 19th century Ceylon, is sponsored by Swadeshi Industrial Works, the indigenous pioneer in the manufacture of personal care products.

'According to Director Sudath Rohana, a veteran of 20 well-received tele-dramas, this will be the biggest tele-production in Sri Lanka to-date in terms of budget.

Scores of present-day residents, still in awe of the dashing outlaw whose exploits brought fame to the village of their ancestors, recently climbed to the base of 'Saradiel's seat,' a distinctive landmark on the Colombo-Kandy Road, to watch spellbound as a Sri Lanka Air Force helicopter circled the rocky pinnacle of Utuvan Kanda to film the last stand of their hero.

Scheduled to be telecast by the Independent Television Network (ITN) beginning late September, the evocative 30-episode drama stars many popular and accomplished local artistes.

'Utuvan Kande Saradiel' is the first ever tele-drama about this controversial character, whose daring campaign of robbing the rich to help the poor made him a thorn in the side of the British, a brigand to the wealthy people of the day, a protector of the down-trodden to the poverty stricken, a crusader against injustice to many and a freedom fighter to some. "There are many conflicting portrayals of Saradiel," says Director Sudath Rohana.

"Our objective is to explore the conditions that led this young man to wage a lone struggle against the yoke of an imperial power, because we believe that through the character of Saradiel, we can explore the cultural heritage that we should continue to value today. It is also an opportunity to look at issues like racial unity through our art."

Born in 1832, to Haldaduwana Dikiri Kewage Adasi Appu and Utuvan Kande Molligoda Pichohami, Saradiel was 16 years old when the 1848 rebellion of Puran Appu and Gongalegoda Banda took place. Instead of joining the rebels, he launched his own campaign against the administration, and is believed to be the first to employ guerrilla fighting tactics against the British.

Prashan releases new album

ALBUM: Prashan Deepthi Kumara, a versatile painter cum singer from Bandaragama in the Kalutara District last week presented his maiden album 'Wasanthaye Rajadahana' to eminent Science fiction writer Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

Prashan gives his maiden CD to Sir Arthur C. Clarke

The presentation ceremony took place at Sir Clarke's residence in Colombo with the participation of several artistes in the field of music. Prashan started his painting and musical career at the age of twelve while being a student at Taxila Central College, Horana.

At the tender age, Prashan started sketching the portraits of many important personalities in the country. He focused attention mainly on singers, film stars, musicians and politicians.

He also painted country's environmentally and historically valued sceneries and places such as the world famous Sigiriya, the Isurumuniya lovers and also the sacred city of Anuradhapura. To his credit, he has conducted four exhibitions, one in Colombo, two at Sigiriya Village and also at his alma-mater, Taxila Central College, Horana.

Among number of paintings of personalities, he highly admires the painting of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. He has also done the portraits of late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Dr. Lester and Sumitra Peris, Vijaya Kumaratunga, Malani Fonseka, Tony Ranasinghe, Victor Ratnayake, Premasiri Kemadasa and many more.

While doing paintings, Prashan also focused attention on music and singing. He developed his musical career by singing at musical shows. Prashan released his maiden album last week at a simple ceremony in Colombo with the participation of few of his close associates.

The first CD was presented to Sir Clarke, who is also a music lover. The lyrics of the songs were written by Prashan himself. Nelu Adikari has given her contribution for two songs.

Music was provided by Mahinda Bandara, Mervin Priyantha and Nawaratna Gamage. Prashan also highly remembered the names of Victor Ratnayaka, Dharmasiri Gamage, Sarath Dasanayaka, Stanley Peris, Premasiri emadasa and P.V. Nandasiri for their invaluable support given to develop his musical career.

Jothipala commemoration

Popular singer H. R. Jothipala

REMEMBRANCE: The commemoration of the 19th death anniversary of H. R. Jothipala, the popular singer will be held on July 7 at 6.30 at the Tower Hall Maradana with the participation of veteran actor Sanath Gunathileka. The function is organised by T. M. Sangadasa, President of Kala Lanka Foundation.

A special slide prepared by Tissa Nagodawithana will be shown after short speeches by veteran artistes appreciating the singer. Kala Lanka Foundation invites all those who are interested to participate in this occasion.


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