A welcome gesture
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's
move to have a housing complex built for artistes with all
modern facilities would be welcomed by all those with a keen
interest in the country's performing arts and have the welfare
of our artistes at heart.
At a special meeting with artistes at Temple Trees on Monday,
President Rajapaksa who himself had a passing acquaintance with
the Sinhala cinema valued their contribution towards the
rejuvenation of the indigenous film industry saying his decision
to construct a housing scheme for artistes was borne out of a
gratitude for their untiring efforts and dedication in the
fostering and development of the local cinema.
In addition to the proposed "Cinema Village" and "Fund for
Artistes" a quarterly payment scheme for Artistes' creations by
the relevant institutions too was mooted in keeping with a
pledge in the Mahinda Chinthana document.
Time was when the Sinhala cinema was the mainstay in the
country's entertainment sphere and it was a common sight to see
matinee halls around the country overflowing with crowds which
also brought in a bounty to many of our artistes.
But while some went on to strike gold, most others in the
field, especially 'bit part' actors or those who played
secondary roles did not do well financially. A majority of them
took to the celluloid world as a profession and was dependent on
the cinema for their livelihood.
We often come across accounts in the newspapers about laments
by past artistes who had once graced the stage and cinema with
their performances, fallen into penury and resigned to their
fate in forgotten limbo. Most of these artistes had been
recipients of awards but are living in want and destitution.
From their plight it is apparent that the mere presentation
of 'trinkets' with no monetary value, had not brought them any
solace or fulfilment and that rewards of a more tangible nature
would have made all the difference making them a happy and
contended lot in the evening of their lives.
There had also been many complaints in the past that housing
benefits to artistes was dispensed selectively and the more
deserving left out.
That President Rajapaksa had gone to the core of the problem
faced by our artistes and taken remedial measures to redress the
situation should no doubt win him many accolades among the large
fraternity of artistes and give them an added impetus to give
full rein to their creative talents and contribute with added
vigour for the development of the Sinhala cinema.
As already mentioned, almost all those involved in the
performing arts have made this their sole profession and it is
common knowledge that not all artistes command the same
remuneration and that bit part players in films have sometimes
to wait long for the release of films before receiving payment,
leaving no room for any savings for their future.
This is why most of our artistes today have fallen into the
abyss of poverty and living a hand to mouth existence. Some
don't even have a home to call their own while others are
dependent on their children or other handouts to maintain body
With the local film industry too now in the doldrums not only
the performing artistes but also those depending on the film
industry for their bread and butter, such as technicians, are
facing a bleak future steps should be devised to recognise their
roles in the fostering of the Sinhala cinema and reward them
There is also the urgent need for a fresh initiative to pump
in the much needed oxygen to an ailing Sinhala cinema and bring
it to its glory days of the past where people flocked in their
large numbers to see their heroes and heroines on the silver
The dynamic new Chairman of the State Film Corporation
Jayantha Dharmadasa who is a prominent entrepreneur and is
conversant with the business end of things should take immediate
steps to halt the rapid decline in the local film industry and
resurrect it to function as a profitable venture while providing
the local cinema goer with entertaining fare.
He should forthwith come out with a solution to deal with the
fast disappearing cinema halls in the country which are today
been converted into business enterprises by their owner who no
longer consider the film exhibition as a viable venture.
While the housing needs of the artistes are being met it is
also worthwhile to look into the possibility of launching an
insurance scheme so that all "actors" in the industry would
perform to their optimum with the knowledge of a secure future
and a dignified existence and give of their best for the
development of the Sinhala cinema.