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Dilhani spearheads campaign to save Sinhala cinema

Sarasaviya Best Actress for 2005: Dilhani Asokamala Ekanayake

CINEMA: What saddens we most is the significant drop in attendance at the cinemas. Undoubtedly, television is the prime cause for this disaster which commenced with telecasting of films of all languages which made the viewers to believe that at no cost they could enjoy feature films of their choice within a comfortable home environment.

We must plan at the highest level to reverse this sad situation, said Dilhani Asokamala Ekanayake in an interview with Artscope. She was adjudged the Best Actress for 2005 at the recently concluded Sarasaviya Film Festival. Excerpts:

Question: Could you please tell about the beginning of your career as a film actress?

Answer: Early in my life, I had no intention to become an actress. In fact, initially I was a student of dancing. But, the destiny changed my course when Yasapalitha Nanayakkara accidentally saw me and invited me for an interview at which I was selected for a supporting role in Dedunnen Samanaliyak.

That was in 1989. First I thought it was a nuisance. But, when I was invited to act in 24 films even before the release of my first film, I was shocked and thought that I had the talent and the fortune to act, and now I am stuck in acting.

Q: How did you read the character of Komala in Kalu Sudu Saha Alu for the performance of which you received the award for the Best Actress of the year?

A: Since we are living in an environment of war, I had a fair idea of war and its fall out. The role itself threw a twin-challenge at me both as an individual and an actress.

Sudath the director of the film was instrumental in moulding the character of Komala which he had in his mind. The physical, social and climatic environment he created favoured me in evolving the character to which I gave my utmost.

Inborn talents

Q: It is said that one to be a good artist, she or he should possess an inborn talent as well as learning through social observation.

A: I believe that inborn talent in a person is secondary to experience and learning one gathers, with which one could move forth in whatever field one gets into. For one to summon one’s talent for action, the right atmosphere and right guidance must exist.

It is my habit that I always look twice at a person whom I think is worth taking note of. My favourite subject is reading biographies. I love to read the biography of Joe Abeywickrama. Also, I like those of Buddhist leaders. I cherish association with facts of real life. I don’t like fiction.

Q: Do you see a difference in acting for cinema and television?

A: First, I refused an offer to do a role in a teledrama to be directed by Vijeya Dharmasri. Performance either for cinema or television is the same. In either situation I do not think of the camera which records the action.

However, performance for the television demands a little bit of over-acting because the medium is different from that of cinema which is more realistic than television or the stage.

Acting for television is easier, but, sometimes I feel it is torture. Cinema is a more serious work of art than teledrama. For television over-acting is necessary because its viewership is not steady and absorbed spectators as the filmgoers.

Q: Can you explain as to how you enter into expressive moods of varying emotions?

A: Accession into a particular character should be made after a detailed study of the character as envisaged in the script. In order to get a correct picture of the character I have got to study the entire script to the very end.

With that confidence so built, I need 2-3 minutes total silence immediately before the take, and me left alone to get into the right mood. To express my emotions I should be within the right frame of environment to enable me to perform at my best. I am very poor in performing in crowd scenes. It irritates me to see people peeping and watching.

Q: Do you perceive moments beyond what the script of the film offers or demands?

A: Yes, some directors leave a margin for such developments and even welcome it, but, not all the directors. Sometimes the situation built on location could evoke an unforseen reaction which is more effective than what the original script thought of.

Q: What are your impressions about you being recognized as the Best Actress of the year?

A: This is the third time I was recognized with the best actress award at national level. First, it was for Me Mage Sandai and then the next was for Sulanga. Such a prestigious award bestows an added value to our performance.

That makes me to perform better and with greater pride in every new film I undertake. It also compels me to learn more and more about the art of acting and to read into every role I am entrusted with.

Once we are award-winners, the spectators expect us to improve on every film we act. Otherwise we fail to justify the recognition. That casts an additional responsibility on us which is good for us and to cinema too.

Q: In your long journey in cinema spanning for two decades which of the characters you gave life to, you like most?

A: There are several such characters. However, what I love most is the dual role I played in Chaya Maya for which I dedicated myself totally because I loved it so much for its diverse characters.

One is that of an innocent woman while the other is of a cruel woman. It was a big challenge for me and required a balanced and perfect understanding of the two characters. That performance itself taught me several tips on acting.

Q: You have been performing different roles in films. How do you enter into different characters you have enlivened in your profession?

A: While playing a character assigned to me my attention is more on the environment of the character than the nature of the character itself. That is why the study of the script in detail is essential.

Anyway, so far I have not been offered with an unusual or extraordinary character. Most of what I have been acting is rather type-cast from which now I think it is time to move away.

Q: Do you as one who had acted in several comedies see any difference in the performance of a character of a comedian and that of a serious character like the one you played in Sudu Saha Kalu?

A: At the beginning of my career as an actress, I have acted in several comedies. Performance in comedies is somewhat difficult. If we fail to arouse humour among the audience, the whole effort is a flop. It is not all artists who can successfully perform in comedies. It demands an unusual gift.

Q: Have you got anything to say about the cinema artists of the seventies and those of today?

A: The film artists of the fifties to seventies obviously belonged to a privileged class in society, beyond the reach of most who admired them. For them they were like magicians who did things which no other person could do. At that time, a premiere was a unique occasion for rejoice and celebrations.

This situation changed with the coming of the television. Not only the large screen images of the artists were reduced to the size of the miniscreen, the artists themselves were often seen at home and away either in person or in image which resulted in loss of glamour and honour with which they were once identified.

Television also had made the art of acting a cheap simple and an ordinary thing which converted the artists to average men and women with no standing. The artists are no more deified today. It is not easy to reverse this order and restore the lost past glory of the film artists.

Q: Who are the two male and female artists in the world cinema you like most?

A: In the world cinema I like Amita Bachchan and Vyjayanthimala more than any other in the West or the East. The former for the vast range of performance he is capable of and the latter for her true eastern feminine beauty.

Q: What is your opinion about the present Sinhala cinema and its future?

A: What saddens me most is the significant drop in attendance at the cinemas. Undoubtedly television is the prime cause for this disaster which commenced with telecasting of films of all languages which made the viewers to believe that at no cost they could enjoy feature films of their choice within a comfortable home environment. We must plan at the highest level to reverse this sad situation.

Q: What are your plans for the future as a film artist?

A: My greatest ambition is to do a serious role that will last in the viewer’s memory for a long time to come. Now I have no desire to act in commercial films. I am yearning to work with some of our eminent film-makers.


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