Chandani banks on innate thespian skills
SARASAVIYA BEST ACTRESS (2006): Chandani Seneviratne
ACTING: â€œWhen I enter into diverse roles, not only the script
but also the physical environment influence my performance. Even the
climatic conditions have an instant effect on the artistâ€™s performance.
When I have to be emotional to fit into a scene, I either get into the
emotions of the character through my own emotions or through the
emotions of the character.
Even the changing of costumes from scene to scene could affect the
mood of the artist in his preparation to enter into the role, said
Chandani Seneviratne in an interview with the Artscope. Excerpts:
Question: You have been acclaimed with awards for your excellence in
performance in cinema, theatre and television. Only a very few artists
holds this distinction. How do you respond to this rare recognition?
Answer: My baptism in thespian art was in theatre for which I still
do have the greatest respect and highest regard. It taught me the basics
of discipline which one requires in performing in the moving art.
Therefore, the training I received and the self-satisfaction I derived
from theatre, has no parallel in any other medium.
Cinema and television differ from stage both in presentation and
performance. My first stage play was Vikurthi. What is important is not
the medium but the character one gets. That is the main source of energy
and motivation. Since I am actively involved in the three mediums, I owe
a greater responsibility to both art and the audience.
Q: How did you read the character of Sisiliyana in Tun Man Yamaya for
the performance of which you received the award for the Best Actress of
A: Sisiliyana, the character I portrayed, was initially inspired by
the script. What she symbolised was a question common to all mothers;
that is love and care for their child whose fate is determined by the
social environmental conditions.
In this film the necessary historical background for portrayal of
motherhood was provided by the exacerbated turmoil that prevailed in the
South in 1989. The maternal sensibilities that last into eternity were
drawn from the first hand experience of the director of the film.
Q: It is said that for one to be a good actor he or she should
possess inborn talent as well as knowledge obtained through social
observation. Any comments?
A: While oneâ€™s inborn talents provide the fertility required for
prosperous grounding, oneâ€™s learning, training and experience in the
relevant field of art spur the flowering of that hidden talent. Neither
the inherent talent by itself nor by training alone could produce an
Talent should be spotted and developed. Social observation too is
essential to enrich oneself in the art one is proficient in because it
makes it a living and refreshing art that makes itself open to absorb
the cultural and social changes developing in the surroundings.
An artist should be basically sensitive, and be able to identify
oneâ€™s own talents. Intellect alone is insufficient. An artist should be
sincere to the character he portrays while being fair by the profession
to which he belongs.
Q: Do you see any difference in performing for the cinema, theatre
A: Yes. Acting in each of these media is defined and determined by
the difference in the energy flow required by each medium. Acting on
stage within a huge frame demands more physical energy. It is also a
direct live communication with an eager audience.
What is conveyed through the large screen is more assertive than what
is communicated through the small screen. However, for me both these
mediums are more or less similar. Yet performance for the large screen
is more poignant and expressive than that for the small screen.
There are instances of the television camera being focused to achieve
greater dramatic effect which we artists should realize. Thus when
facing the camera for television or cinema, to understand the vision or
the intention of the director is extremely important.
Q: Can you explain how you enter into different moods or emotions in
A: When I enter into diverse roles not only the script but also the
physical environment influence my performance. Even the climatic
conditions have an instant effect on the artistsâ€™ performance.
When I have to be emotional to fit into a scene, I either get into
the emotions of the character through my own emotions or through the
emotions of the character. Even the changing of costumes from scene to
scene could affect the mood of the artist in his preparation to enter
Q: Do you perceive moves beyond what the script demands? How do you
communicate such feelings to the director of the film?
A: If I notice the way the character develops demands an emotional or
moral deviation from what the script or the director wants, I convey my
feelings to him in a manner that he is prepared to listen to my
suggestion. The director either accepts or rejects it depending on his
vision. My experience is that many directors welcome such suggestions
coming from us.
Q: What is your impression about you being recognised so often as the
A: The fact of my being honoured over and over again in recognition
of my performance in theatre, cinema and television cast a compelling
burden on me to perform better with increasing refinement. I really
enjoy being honoured. It gives me an insight into my own performance and
look back in retrospective assessment.
Q: In your long journey in the field of arts spanning for three
decades, which of the characters you gave life to, do you like most?
A: In theatre, I like the character I portrayed as the mother in
Vikurthi my debut on stage. Also I like the character of Yerma. I always
subject my performance to self-criticism and I feel those two characters
bestowed utmost satisfaction on me.
In cinema, the roles I played in Sathi Pooja, Suneetha and Sulanga
are carved in bold impression in my memory. For television, my
contribution to Nedeyo, Jeevithayata Idadenna and Sankranthi Samaya
naturally come to my mind.
Of all those characters, my performance as Maya in Sankranthi Samaya
is most striking because it was well written and an outstanding
character of an ordinary woman. It took me away from the narrow
monotonous frame of characters which I often acted out.
Q: What do you enjoy most acting in theatre, cinema or teledramas?
A: I equally enjoy performing for all these three mediums. However,
preference for one over the other depends on the character I get. Its
depth, complexity and variety contribute immensely to draw my continuing
and absorbing attention.
Q: Who are the artists in the world cinema you like most? Any
A: Tom Hanks, for his brilliant portrayal of emotional characters.
Merril Streep is the actress whom I like most. In the Indian cinema, for
me, Ameer Khan is foremost among all actors for his stunning capacity to
perform in a wide range of diverse characters.
Q: A versatile Sri Lankan actor has once said that an actor should be
able to perform any character. Do your agree?
A: It is true that an artist should be capable of doing any role.
But, how far one is successful in this effort is the question. There are
certain characters which cannot be developed beyond what oneâ€™s body
structure gives. That is why casting is a vital aspect in the production
plan of a film. One should have confidence and talent that he or she can
enliven a character given to him or her.
Q: According to Oscar Wilde art should not seek popularity. How do
you apply this for cinema and drama?
A: An artist or a work of art should not go after popularity. Any
work of art has the potential to draw crowds. However, cinema should
seek popularity without which it cannot survive. A movie should appeal
to a wider audience. This saying is correct in respect of poetry, but
not in respect of theatre or cinema.
Q: What is your opinion about the present Sinhala cinema and its
A: Cinema today has gone astray. It should be considered and
evaluated as an industry as well as an art. There is a confusion today
as to which way our national cinema should move.
The current trend to lay emphasis on form above the content is
harmful to the cinema, if persisted on. For any form of art, content is
the core of sustenance. The practice of â€˜stealingâ€™ portions from various
films and planting them in â€˜newâ€™ movies foretells a doomed future for
Q: What are your plans for the future as a film artist?
A: My immediate desire is to direct a film. To begin with, I directed
a few episodes in Samsare Piya Satahan which I found to be stimulating
and invigorating. If I get a break one day to fulfil my ambition, I will
be very fortunate. However, I will never abandon the stage which
inspired me into who I am today.