Mistress of wit and banter
Not many are remembered with such great fondness and affection as she
is. During her heyday, she riveted and thrilled her audience with
vociferously delightful stage performances.
Picture by Wasitha Patabendige
No flattery is needed to say that Mercy Edirisinghe’s jovial presence
in the field of art is not one that would ever fade away. Still very
much loved by her fans, Mercy is yet to put a stop to her creative
“I will act till fans get fed up of me,” she says with a smile.
Then she eloquently notes, “Stars fade. They shine for a moment and
then fade away into thin air but great artistes are evergreen. They
glimmer forever. They are very much like the all seeing sun and the
bracing moon. They stand above all and outshine everything.”
Mercy, the buoyant soul she is, joined Daily News ‘Projector’ to have
a jovial, yet intellectual discourse on the current state of Sri Lankan
theater and cinema.
Q: How do you compare today’s Sri
Lankan art to your days?
A: The 70s was a golden
time for Sri Lankan art. Both drama and cinema prospered during those
days. But after the 70s, the whole industry went through a barren
period. I believe things are on the rise again. Yet, I feel that we are
still not getting enough good creations.
Sometimes people make creations for the sake of getting awards.
Sometimes they do them to fulfill their mercenary purposes. I am not
saying that money or awards are not important, they also do play a role
in harnessing talents, but those factors shouldn’t be the main focus.
The other factor is that sometimes dramas do not travel around the
country. During our days we used show our dramas in every corner of the
country. Now matters are restricted to certain theaters around Colombo.
Q: Do you see any specific faults in
the younger generation?
A scene from ‘Diyamanthi’
With Vijaya Nandasiri in ‘Ran Kandha’
With Jackson Anthony in
A: Sometimes they do not
stick with stage-ethics. For instance, these days’ people portray sexual
content in a very raw, blunt manner. Even during our days, we spoke
about such issues, but we did that in a very subtle manner. We did it
while keeping aesthetic elements alive.
Q: Don’t you feel that the seniors
are being overly critical about the younger artistes?
A: Well, I don’t look down
upon younger artistes. I encourage them. I believe there is great talent
and potential there. We should invest their talents.
The fact is that they shouldn’t focus solely on mercenary purposes or
creating something for the sake of getting awards. Art is a sacred thing
and they should always remember to show their respect towards it.
Q: In the current social system, how
practicable is it to engage in art related work without focusing on
A: If you do a good
production people will always embrace it. A good creation will
ultimately make money as well.
For instance I did a role recently in the ‘Amanda’ teledrama and I
got great responses for it.
Most teledramas revolve around monotonous storylines these days. It
is important that people come up with good creations. There has to be
Q: Don’t you feel that our cinema
industry is still stagnating, despite all the big budget films that came
A: I do feel that way.
This happens mainly because some film directors do not have the proper
training or professional expertise to express themselves through
Q: What are your views regarding the
current cinema trends, especially on big-budget films like ‘Aba’, ‘Kuveni’,
‘Kusa Paba’ and so forth?
A: Yes, there is an
obvious trend. People invest millions to create such films. I feel it is
a waste. I think we could have come up with better creations if we
invest the money for other productions.
There has to be a certain sense of novelty in every creation. However
when people keep coming up with the same genre of movies over and over
again, viewers lose interest.
Q: What genre of art form do you
A: I prefer drama above
anything else. The drama is where real action takes place. Everything is
live and existence.
Q: Was it difficult to shift from the
stage to the wide screen?
A: It was not challenging
for me at all. In dramas you have to act with heightened senses.
Your emotions and everything have to be hyper. In a sense it is a
form of over-acting. But in cinema, you are acting for the camera and it
is very much a toned-down version.
Q: Is there a particular reason why
you stopped acting in films after a certain period?
A: I stopped doing films
at a certain stage because I didn’t want to end up as a comic icon.
There was a time when all I got was comic roles. I felt that is enough.
When I first started acting on cinema, I got the chance to play major
roles. Vasantha Obeysekara’s such as ‘Diyamanthi’ and Palangatiyo’ are
on top pf the list. I really enjoyed giving life to his characters.
Q: Do you hope to make a return to
A: I do. We are going to
do a remake of the 70s drama ‘Kavruvath Enney Naha’. It is an absurd
play. I recently did a film. It was directed by a young director called
I feel it is a good movie. It is about the cultural conflicted that
existed between our ancient Vaddas and the Sinhalese commoners.
Q: Other than art related work, is
there anything new that is happening in your life?
A: I started a rest-house
in my hometown Warakapola last December. It is called ‘Mercy Edirisinghe
We serve unique Sri Lankan food on buffet terms. The idea is to treat
locals with rare forms of Sri Lankan dishes with a sense of uniqueness.
I spent weekends at the guest house.
Peyton’s ‘Mysterious Island’
In the sequel of sorts to 2008's ‘Journey to the Center of the
Earth’, ‘Journey 2: the Mysterious Island’ features Dwayne Johnson
(replacing Brendan Fraser) as stepfather Hank Parsons to teen Sean
Anderson (Josh Hutcherson).
Scenes from ‘Journey 2’
The action begins when Hank agrees to escort Sean to the South
Pacific to find his missing adventurer grandfather (Michael Caine), who
has sent out a coded S.O.S., somewhere from the area.
After enlisting help from tourist guide Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) and
her goofy helicopter pilot father, Gabato (Luis Guzman), all four end up
stranded on a bizarre tropical island with giant lizards, miniature
elephants and huge bumblebees.
The good news is that they locate the grandfather on the island; the
bad news is the group discovers they must leave quickly, before it sinks
from under their feet.
Shot on location in and around Oahu in Hawaii, the movie is part
family comedy and part exotic, computer-generated 3-D fantasy.
For the more refined, ‘Journey 2’ also references Jules Verne's ‘The
Mysterious Island’ and ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’, and
hints at Robert Louis Stevenson's ‘Treasure Island’ and Jonathan Swift's
“I didn't look at Journey 2 as doing a sequel, I looked at it like I
was shooting a reboot,” said director Brad Peyton, who made a name for
himself on the animation side.
Peyton enjoyed a breakout with the 2002 award-winning short, ‘Evelyn:
The Cutest Evil Dead Girl’, which picked up a Genie nomination. That led
to Tom Hanks’ production company, Playtone, hiring him to write and
direct the cartoon, ‘Spider and the Fly'.
Before ‘Cats and Dogs’, he also produced the stop-motion, 13-episode
comedy series, ‘What It's Like Being Alone’, for the CBC.
Naturally, the special effects in ‘Journey 2’ are Peyton's strength.
But he knew going in that headliner Johnson would bring a whole new
dimension to the project.
“Whatever he does, he wants to own it,” said Peyton of Johnson. “His
enthusiasm elevated the other actors.” Also helping cast and crew was
the location filming on secluded parts of Oahu. Those included Waimea
Valley, China Wall, Kualoa Ranch (where much of ‘Jurassic Park’ was
filmed) and Halona Beach Cove (where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr
shot their famous beach scene in ‘From Here to Eternity’).
The movie will begin screening at Liberty cinema from March 1.
Bringing ‘Oscar’ home
By now every cinema enthusiast’s eyes are glued to the results of the
84th Academy Awards and speculations have either proven correct or
wrong. Just before we wrap up this year’s Oscars let us have a look at
the career bests of some of the top favourites vying for the crown.
Several of Hollywood's biggest names — including Meryl Streep, Martin
Scorsese, Glenn Close and Woody Allen - have had a strong year on the
2011-12 awards circuit: But how does this season compare to some of
their career high points?
With the Oscars on Sunday adding to their already heaping totals, we
took a look at how this year stacks up to some of these titans’ past
The most-nominated actress in Academy Awards history has had a strong
year — stronger, in fact, than 2002, when she gained heat from two
films, ‘Adaptation’ and ‘The Hours,’ and stronger than 2006, when she
played an ice-queen fashion editor in ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ And it's
been a better run than her ‘Bridges of Madison County’ year of 1995.
Streep turned Margaret Thatcher in ‘The Iron Lady’ for her
nomination. If she notches a best actress win, she'll top her previous
hottest year - 1982, when she won an Oscar for ‘Sophie's Choice.’
With turns in movies such as ‘Fatal Attraction’ and ‘Dangerous
Liaisons,’ Close had some very strong years in the 1980s. But her
gender-bending role as ‘Albert Nobbs’ in 2011, bests them all. Even if
she walks out of the awards venue with her arms empty, Close will still
have topped her bunny-boiling year of 1987, when she of course played a
vengeful mistress in ‘Fatal Attraction.’
Woody had one of the best years in awards history in 1977, when he
was nominated for a rare Oscar trifecta of best writer, director and
actor for ‘Annie Hall’ (he won for director and writer).
Can he get close this year? He had worked wonders as writer-director
on ‘Midnight in Paris’ and might just end up grabbing the golden
If you're the much-acclaimed, often Oscar-deprived Martin Scorsese,
perhaps no year will compare to 2006, when ‘The Departed’ won you your
first golden statuette. Best picture and best director wins for ‘Hugo’
will be an added bonus to his career. But the filmmaker has still had a
year to remember — his landmark year of 1976, when ‘Taxi Driver’ was
The cast and crew of ‘Parapura’. Picture by Nissanka Wijeratne
Generations of artistes on screen
Popular actor Cletus Mendis is shooting for his maiden movie
Ranjan Ramanayake won the award for the most popular
actor at the seventh SL IM Nielson People’s Awards Night for the
fifth occasion held a special function to pay tribute to some of
the artistes and media personalities who had helped him find
success. Here Ranjan felicitates
Senior Prof Sunil Ariyaratne and director Hemasiri Sellaperuma.
Pictures by Nissanka Wijeratne
The movie brings together several generations of artistes on one
reel. The cast comprises Ravindra Randeniya, Sanath Gunatileke, Jeevan
Kumaratunge, Buddhadasa Vithanachchi, Ranjan Ramanayake, Palitha Silva,
Dilhani Ashokamala, Kanchana Mendis, Nita Fernando, Kumara Thirimadura,
Roshan Pilapitiya, Ajith Weerasinghe, Chillie Thilanga, Dilanga Mendis,
Gamini Jayalath, Gamini Ambalangoda, Teddy Vidyalankara, Sampath
Kumaratunge and others.
‘Parapura’ is produced by Cletus Mendis, Basil Jayasooriya and Srimal
Gael Garcia Bernal
Bernal to play Zorro
‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ star Gael Garcia Bernal will lead the cast
of ‘Zorro Reborn’. The project will be the first major ‘Zorro’ film
since 2005's ‘The Legend of Zorro’, in which Antonio Banderas played the
swashbuckling Latino legend. Sony executives are also developing a
prequel to their two hit Banderas films, based on Isabel Allende's 2005