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 Post subject: Malini Fonseka
 Post Posted: Sat Jun 10, 2006 2:54 pm 
Malini Fonseka

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Malani Senehelatha Fonseka started her acting career with stage dramas. In 1963 she made her entry to the stage dramas with "Noratha Ratha".

In 1968 Malani won the best stage drama actress national award for her performance in "Akal Wessa". Malani has played the lead role in 14 stage dramas.

1968 was a special year for Malani as she was chosen to play a role in Tissa Liyanasuriya's "Punchi Baba". Malani was introduced to the cinema by Tissa Liyansuriya and Joe Abeywickrama.

Malini became a movie director and a producer with "Sasara Chethana" in 1984. During this time Malani makes her entry to the Television as well.

Malani has acted in 137 movies so far out of which 04 are international movies.

Malani is an extremely talented actress together with the good looks which has made her a star in commercial movies as well.

Although many actors have been in the No 01 position in Sri Lankan cinema, any of the actresses have not been able to compete with Malani so far. Hence she is the present "Queen of Sri Lankan cinema" loved and honoured by the Sri Lankans.

Malani & Gamini first starred together in the movie "Parawalalu". Early 1970's was the period which Malani and Gamini were the no 01 actor and actress in Sri Lankan cinema. Gamini was a established and experienced actor when Malani entered the Sri Lankan cinema in 1968.

Malani & Gamini, co-starred as Irin and Willy Abeynaike in the internationally acclaimed movie "Nidhanaya". Malani & Gamini has co-stared in many thriller movies like Kasthuri Suwanda, Edath Sooraya Adath Sooraya & Awa Soya Adare.

Malini first co-starred Wijaya Kumarathunge in the movie "Me Desa Kumatada". Malini and WIjaya has co-starred in 41 films which is a record in the Sinhalese film industry, making them the couple who has acted in most number of films together. Both Wijaya and Malini was adjudged as the " Most popular actor and actress" consecutively for 5 years.

For Malani alone among film actresses (or for that matter even film stars of either sex) occupies what is perhaps an unique position in the cinema. For she is the bridgehead which has joined the commercial and classical cinemas together and what is more with her radiant good looks and innate simplicity of manner and bearing has endeared herself to several generations of film fans in Sri Lanka.

Her own inborn skills and the cultural moment conspired to make Malani Senehelatha Fonseka the fable that she has become. For Malani Fonseka is quite singularly the film actress of our own age and century, an emblem of the Sri Lankan woman of our times as she struggles with all the political, social, economic and cultural forces to hold her own in a society where the odds are stacked against women. This does not mean that Malani is a consciously political figure or radically asserts her femininity.

In this respect Swarna Mallawarachchi is more radically assertive. But Malani owes her singular place to the fact that emerging as she did at the tail end of the 1960s she defined for the emerging audience an image of a Sri Lankan woman who could be believed in and to whom the middle and lower-middle class audiences of the time could credibly relate.

early stars

If Rukmani Devi was the star of the early Sinhala cinema a whole crop of women stars followed her path-breaking footsteps in the 1950s and early 1960s among them Sandya Kumari, Vijitha Mallika, Florida Jayalath, Clarice de Silva and many others.

However, none of these early stars could break out of the pre-conceived mould of powdered and coifurred marionettes playing the role of the virtuous heroine just as the male stars of the time could not break free of the image of the well-barbered men with their pencil-line moustaches cast in the mould of the South Indian film heroes. both these images were part of the stock-in-trade of the early commercial Sinhala film which was often a gross imitation of the South Indian, plot, dialogue, songs and all. Of all these female stars who preceded Malani perhaps only Jeevarani Kurukulasuriya was able to establish some kind of seminal identity of her own.

When Malani emerged into the cinema, however, Sinhala films were beginning to leave behind this unreal, studio-manufactured, celluloid world and come out into the light of day. Even the commercial films in which she mostly starred to begin with were becoming less fantastic. In this context Malani was the ideal candidate for stardom.

Coming from an average, middle-class family (her father was a foreman in the binding section of the Government Press and there were 11 in the family in those pre-family planning days) she was for the average film fan the girl next door. But it was also the days before television and the later spectacular spread of the mass media which has today served to demystify in a sense the aura of stardom.

These two strands conspired in turn to make of Malani the star that she became. She was perhaps the first figure of the star system, an authentic symbol of Sinhala womanhood transmogrified by the magic of the medium into a stellar figure.

Malani was also fortunate in the sense that she came to the cinema through the stage which provided an ideal springboard for her career. The early 1960s witnessed a spectacular efflorescence in Sinhala drama, both original as well as translations and adaptations and Malani made her mark in plays directed by talented young dramatists of the time such as S. Karunaratne and Sumana Aloka Bandara.

She was to win the award for the best actress in 1965 for her role in 'Akal Wessa.' This early conditioning in the theatre gave her an initiation into stagecraft which was to stand her in good stead in later life and also an early maturity and sense of professionalism denied to many star-struck young men or women emerging into the limelight and the glamour of the cinema.

The 1960s in contrast to the decades which followed were still part of the age of innocence. The rat race and the scramble for status were yet to intensify while the political storms of the next decades were still in the future. The expectations of a reasonably good life for the majority of the people were yet to be completely exploded.

Urban and rural middle-class and lower middle-class parents could still expect their children to get respectable employment in the Government sector and there was interest in cultural and artistic activities as evidenced by the fact that Malani's fellow students at Gurukula Maha Vidyalaya in Kelaniya should have been future film directors such as H.D. Premaratne, Pathiraja L. S. Dayananda and K.A. Wijeratne, cameraman Donald Karunaratne and film stars Wimal Kumara de Costa and Nilanthi Heendeniya.

Thus Malani's emergence and rise as a film star not only paralleled the development of the Sinhala cinema but that of the middle classes as well. By the 1960s the cinema had left behind the studio tradition which nurtured the copy-cat films of the previous decade.

If these films were largely patronised by the lower middle class and lumpen elements of the towns in the immediate post-Independence years by the 1960s the cinema was attracting a new middle-class audience which discovered a self-image in the likeness of stars such as Malani Fonseka and Gamini Fonseka. What is more there was a substantial expansion of the film industry itself both at its commercial as well as serious ends.

There were commercial film-makers such as Robin Thampoe, M. S. Anandan, Neil Rupasinghe and Yasapalitha Nanayakkara, serious film-makers such as G.D.L. Perera, Titus Thotawatte and Amaranath Jayatilleke and middlebrow film-makers such as K.A.W. Perera and Sugathapala Senarath Yapa all operating at the same time. There was also the man who introduced Malani to filmdom Tissa Liyanasuriya who straddled all these categories and produced such memorable films as 'Saravita' which was able to capture the peculiar flavour of the times.

Malani recently observed that she had been the screen fiancee of both Gamini Fonseka and Vijaya Kumaratunga who represented not only two generations but also two social categories. While Gamini was the tough guy who appealed to the lower middle and working class audiences Vijaya had the clean-cut and clean-limbed good looks of the new generation of the urban young who were emerging in the 1960s.

This was the time when even the lower middle class young people were slipping into long trousers even if they knew no English and a large part of Vijaya's appeal was that this category of the young was able to totally identify itself with him. Vijaya who as a youth had aspired to be a Sub Inspector of Police was able to establish an instant tie with them while they in turn saw in Vijaya a vehicle for their vicarious wish fulfilment. As for Malani she was perhaps Sri Lanka's first authentic film actress. The leading ladies who had gone before her were largely wooden replicas of South Indian film heroines, over-dressed, coquetish and residing in an unreal black-and-white limbo of heroes, heroines and villains. Malani although her first roles were also in commercial films was, however, able to bring in a gust of fresh wind into this petrified celluloid world because of her sheer spontaneity, youthfulness and playful manner.

On the other hand she also appealed to the more conservative instincts among those film-goers who saw in her a typical symbol of Sinhala womanhood, the 'game kella' or village lass. As Gamini Akmeemana has recently observed she was shy, submissive, guileless and even somewhat naive but all these constituted a huge source of appeal to the emergent audience of the 1960s. The middle class audience and she were one for one magic moment.

international recognition

She was also among the first stars to move between commercial and serious cinema with effortless ease. She was fortunate to have had a grounding in acting on stage and to have moved in the avant-garde theatre circles of the time and to have acted in her first film itself with veterans such as Joe Abeywickrema but by any standards her performances in such landmark films as 'Nidhanaya', 'Eya Den Loku Lamayek', 'Bambaru Avith' and 'Soldadu Unnehe' were outstanding.

Of these, her role in 'Nidhanaya' (arguably Lester James Peries' best film as well) as the human sacrifice of a psychotic nobleman played by Gamini Fonseka was the best while her performance in Dharmasena Pathiraja's 'Eya Den Loku Lamayek' as a village girl awakening to both the joys and pains of adolescence brought her the award for the best actress at the Moscow International Film Festival in 1975, the first time a Sri Lankan actress had won such international recognition at a time when unlike today the country's representation at such festivals was rare.

So Malani Fonseka has straddled several eras of the Sinhala cinema and conquered all categories of films. At a time when audiences were being seduced away from the cinema, she herself turned her hand to film direction with some blockbuster films of doubtful value and today is at home in the television medium itself largely under the direction of her husband Lucky Dias. But whatever she turns her hands to she has the capacity to adorn and embellish, which is why she is more than a film star in a pantheon which waxes and wanes alarmingly but something of a national icon as well.


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