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One man, 14 personalities

Wilson Gunaratne on portraying diverse personas:

Seasoned actor Wilson Gunaratne of Charitha Hathak fame is all set to embark on yet another great adventure in his career by portraying 14 diverse characters on screen. Named 'Neighbour in Trouble' this unique television series will begin work shooting in locations in Colombo and around the island soon.


 Wilson Gunaratne in ‘Neighbour in Trouble’

It was mainly the success of Charitha Hathak which triggered the idea for 'Wilson at the 80'. The thought took shape while the actor turned director was at Sandeep Marwah Studio, Delhi, engaging in research.

"I was inspired by what I found. I worked hard to build up 14 characters, each very different from the other, to present them to the art scene. This is the first time that an actor had attempted presenting such a large number of characters in one series in Sri Lanka," he explained adding that the fourteenth character will be unveiled at a special event organized by the 80 Club of Colombo. Titled 'Wilson at the 80' the event will take place at the 80 Club House on September 26 at 7.30 p.m. The evening will also see Gunaratne taking to the stage with music garnished with old hits and a considerable dose of comedy.

"'Neighbour in Trouble' is a humorous comedy based on cultural conflict and language barriers. You can expect English and Sinhala dialogues in the series. This consists of 12 different stories. The story rotates around a team trying to run different types of projects and organizations. None of the different settings are spared and you may find traits of people whom you have met and worked with in these characters," he explained.

According to Gunawardena some of the latest technological devices will come to play in shooting the episodes where two or more roles portrayed by him are present in the same scene.

He says, "At times the viewers will able to see me portraying all 14 characters in one frame. Nobody had tried it out before in any of the local productions. It is a time consuming and expensive task but I decided that as I might not get a chance to put the idea into practice in around five years, I might as well take the plunge. I felt that I am still up to it to take on this challenging task and do justice to the project," he smiled.

He says that it is through practice and hard work that an actor is able to shift into roles quite different from each other in a matter of minutes. Continuous rehearsals help to prefect the loose ends and help him essay his role up to his satisfaction.


The many faces of Gunaratne

"I was invited by the studio to shoot the production in India but I preferred to engage in the process on local soil to enhance the dignity of our Motherland," he stressed adding that each individual has a responsibility towards upholding the value of the country.

An expert at imitating voices to suite the diverse roles, Gunaratne said that he had already recorded and decided on 14 different voices for the roles he hopes to bring to life. Two Indian actors will be joining Gunaratne on the sets but the rest are local artistes.

"I also aim to star in 28 different roles for a film. I have already composed 28 different voices for the project and hope to begin work on it next year," he revealed. Gunaratne and G. Chandrathilak are working on the script.

"The film will be based on the concept of totally rejecting terrorism and I believe that the time has come for us to start finding the answers to the problem which had been a canker in society for nearly three decades. It is up to a Government body and other authorities to take note and support this mission."

Speaking on his ability to portray diverse roles Gunaratne set Indian actors Sivaji Ganesan portrayed nine roles in Navarathri and Kamal Haasan playing 10 roles Dasahavatharam as examples.

"There are opportunities for actors to portray many roles in foreign projects but here the maximum number of characters offered to an actor is two. I got the opportunity to not only impersonate a number of different characters but also act with the same characters in same frame," he noted.

On his successful stage play Charitha Hathak he notes, "The play ran for over nine years continuously even while the country was affected by terrorism. The script was always updated with current issues being included to cater to the needs of the public. People are still vying to see the play. It was first staged on July 7, 2000, at 7.07 p.m. I play seven different characters, as the title suggests, in the play. We need to train youngsters to play characters which are completely different from each other. If the authorities presents me with such an opportunity, I am willing to take up the task," he concluded. You can contact him on 0722251865.

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