A Shining Star striving to protect Planet Earth
CONTEMPLATIVE: Irangani Serasinghe
Picture by Mahinda Vithanachchi
She is, at times, the compassionate mother. At other times she is the
acknowledgeable grandmother or the lovable wife. Then she is the
dignified Walauwae Hamu.
She is many characters in one who has given many unforgettable roles
to the cinema, theatre and the small screen. In other words, she is
veteran film and tele star Irangani Roxana Serasinghe.
âI was born in a remote village near Ruwanwella. My father was J.H.B.
Daniel. I was second in a family of four children. I was quite a
mischievous child during my childhood and a defiant adolescent,â
Serasinghe smiled as she recalled her past.
It all began with mimicking certain characters and incidents which
she encountered in her daily life. She began schooling at St. Bridgetâs
Convent, Colombo, and then moved on to Bishopâs College where she
completed her SSC.
Irangani sat her university entrance examination at Girlsâ High
School, Kandy, and entered the Colombo University in 1947 to follow a
three-year general degree in the Arts stream. She took up History,
English and Economics.
Throughout her school days and during her university period
Iranganiâs acting career blossomed. Her first public theatre performance
was in Bernard Shawâs âPygmalionâ where she took up the role of
That was when she was still schooling at Girlsâ High school. She was
an active member of the University Drama Society organised a play each
year. It was during this period that her unique talent for acting caught
the eye of film director Lester James Peries.
Before long Irangani was invited to take part in Lesterâs
productions. Her first experience in front of the camera was in his âBe
Safe or Be Sorryâ, a Government documentary for traffic police. Then
followed the legendary âRekhawaâ and from there her line of destiny was
âMy role in âRekhawaâ is unforgettable. I took up the role of a rural
woman, a background which I was familiar with. In âSandeshayaâ I was
given a different sort of role, the character of a spy.
I also enjoyed acting in âBakmaha Deegayaâ since the style of that
film was entirely different from the ones I had acted in so far,â she
confessed adding that her first occupation had been as a teacher at
Musaeus College, Colombo, for a year.
Though she had acted in a number of award winning films and
teledramas, most of which won her awards, Irangani admits that the stage
is her first love.
Irangani married her first husband Dr. Dissanayake (later Professor
of Dental Surgery, University of Peradeniya) and accompanied him to
England where she followed a course in the Bristol Old Vic Theatre
School for a year. Then she spent another year studying at the Central
School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art in London.
Irangani worked for the Features Department of the Times of Ceylon
for almost four years before stepping in to the post of English drama
producer for a year at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).
Next she was employed in the industry of tourism at Walkersâ Tours and
Travels during the 1970s.
At the age of 30, Irangani wedded Winston Serasinghe whom she starred
with in several theatre productions and films including Rekhawa.
They were blessed with two sons, Ravi and Ranjit.
âI never dreamed of becoming an actress and never thought of myself
as one. My ambition was to get married and have babies,â she smiled. âMy
most cherished moment in life was the day I saw my first born. I have
been longing for a child and it was like a miracle,â she exclaimed.
Being a celebrity for several decade, what kind of advice would she
like to give debutantes to the field?
âYou can take up any sort of career according to your choice but it
all comes down to what kind of person you are and how you are going to
progress in life. The truth is that a lot of people are hurting not only
themselves but others as well. Young people brand elders as âOldiesâ and
think that they donât know what they are talking about but there are
basics that never change,â she pointed out.
âWhen you are young, your whole life is before you. Though you think
you are heading in the path of success you may be heading for disaster.
When someone tries to advise you, you brush it aside. You need a bit
of wisdom to avoid such circumstances. Learn to respect yourself first.â
Though she had starred in almost 50 local and international productions,
Serasingheâs heart lies in her environmental conservation work.
âConservation of natural resources is immensely important for the
survival of Sri Lanka as well as the world. We are so negligent about
this fact,â she repents.
âThroughout the ages we have destroyed many things. The British
destroyed all the central hills to plant coffee and tea by burning
acres and acres of land but when we took over we did the same thing.
Even people in power have a hand in selling trees that have been cut
down and are making money out of it.â
âI do wish that the younger generation would become aware of how
important environment conservation is. Our people are undisciplined.
Buddhism encourages self discipline. Our country is blessed with
beautiful places but people ruin the beauty through anti-social
behaviour. There are enough rules and regulations to protect nature but
no one obeys or enforces them. That is the tragedy of this country,â she