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 Post subject: Tony Ranasinghe - Celebrity film actor
 Post Posted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 7:02 pm 
Tony Ranasinghe - Celebrity film actor
Role in Pavuru Walalu, my exalted moment: Tony

By Ravi Ladduwahetty
@ DM / 10Feb2006

Celebrity film actor, script writer, Shakespearean dramatist and translator Tony Ranasinghe who has acted well in excess of over 100 films, believes that his role in Prasanna Vithanage’s Pavuru Valalu was the most exalted moment in his trail blazing celluloid career.

Tony with his grand daughters Judy, Liya and Daisy

“This story was conceived by me. I wrote the screen play which won the award for the best script writer. What was significant was that I wrote the script based on the original story and was able to work on the script with all the protagonists and with Director/ Producer Prasanna Withanage making it a consolidated effort which was worth watching,” Tony told Mirror Life in an interview.

He described Prasanna Withanage as a bright young director. “There are some young directors and some not-so-young directors and unfortunately, some directors get their henchmen and friendly critics to do write ups about movies where they give their own interpretations and what the spectators see is neither a commercial film nor an art film,” he said.

Tony has an avalanche of awards to his credit. He bagged the best actor’s award for Hanthane Kathawa, Duhulu Malak and Ahasin Polowata.

He has also clinched the award for the best script writer in Koti Waligaya, Keli Mandala, Avara Gira and Pavuru Walalu.

However, it was in his role in Saptha Kanya (seven virgins) that won four accolades in the same film. They were: the Sarasaviya Award, the Swarnasanka Award, the Presidential Award and the OCIC Award. He also won the Presidential Cinema award for the Best Actor in 1979 for the role he played in Ahasin Polovata where he acted opposite Sriyani Amarasena.

He started life as a stage actor in 1963 with the play Ran Thodu when he bagged the Governor General’s Award for the Best Stage Actor where the Best Stage Actress was Anula Karunatilleke. The Award was made by the then Trade Minister T.B. Ilangaratne, on behalf of Governor General William Gopallawa. The theme of the film was based on the virginity of a woman, which was a controversial issue at that time. He also won the award for the Best Supporting Actor in Gamini Fonseka’s Parasathumal.

One of his initial lead roles was Delovak Athara, which was directed by Lester James Peries and his second - Ransalu. There was also Sumitra Peries’ film Ganga Addara in which he played the lead role acting as Vasanthi Chathurani’s father.

“Delovak Athara was a dream come true for me acting in the lead role in a Lester James Peries film almost at the inception of my career,” an elated Tony spelt out.

He also acted in the lead role in Sumitra’s Yahalu Yeheli which had a bevy of beautiful girls including Swarna Mallawaarachchi, Nadeeka Gunasekera, and Sriyani Amerasinghe’s daughter Inoka.

He also played a major role in Sumitra’s other film Maya which was the story of a girl reborn and he acted as her father in the first birth.

Unfortunately, he also performed the lead role in a film named Samanalayo ( Butterflies) which was directed by D.B. Nihalsinghe. This did not see the light of day due to some production problems.

Tony has performed with all the frontline directors including Doyen Lester James Peries and wife Sumitra, Titus Totawatte and in almost Gamini Fonseka’s films. He says that the highlights were Bandura Mal, Mayurige Kathawa and Sagarayak Meda and Koti Waligaya, where he made his debut as a script writer.

One of his star performances was also in Sugathapala Senarath Yapa’s films of which he rejoices is Hanthane Kathawa which was Vijaya Kumaratunga’s debut film in the lead role. Tony also acted in Pembara Madu.

He also played the lead role in Vijaya Dharmasri’s Duhulu Malak with Nita Fernando and Ravindra Randeniya.

However, what surpasses all is the role that he played in the introspective film Ahasin Polovata where he acted as a doctor and won the best actor’s award at the inaugural Presidential Cinema Awards and awarded by former President J.R. Jayewardene in 1979.

He also acted in Prasanna Withanage’s first film “ Sisila Gini Ganee” and second- Anantha Rathriya, where the latter was a small role as a lawyer in a court house.

It was a fairy tale start for Tony. He was a stenographer in the Government Electrical Department, forerunner to the Ceylon Electricity Board. His brother Ralex who was a well-known photo journalist had an influential circle of friends and it was with their help that he was invited to act in well known play Boarding Karayo directed by Sugathapala De Silva. One of his finest moments was when he acted as Baladasa in epoch making Martin Wickremasinghe’s Gam Peraliya which was directed by Lester James Peries.

Tony has an abiding interest in the Bard of Avon- William Shakespeare, which he says, not as scholar but as an artiste. He says that there is no other writer who has created such a stupendous role such as those in Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and Merchant of Venice. He has acted as Shylock in Bandula Vithanage’s Merchant of Venice. He has acted in another translation of Twelfth Night and acted as Malvolio.

He has translated and directed the Bard’s plays, whom he treats with reverential respect. He draws parallel to Shakespeare’s plays and also says that it is very symbolic of terrorism in Sri Lanka which he says, should be nipped in the bud. Probably, the case in point is Bard in Julius Caesar.

The writer was quick to recall Julius Caesar in Act II Scene I. Brutus, speaking of Caesar, in his Orchard in a soliloquy, says: “ Think of him as a serpent’s egg, which hatched, would have his kind grow mischievous. And kill him in the shell.” So, he believes that terrorism should also be killed in the shell.

He has an avid fan club of western film stars who he believes as having influenced his decision to take to the cinema career. He was an avid film goer as a young man. His heroes and heroines were: Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Jane Mansfield, Clark not allowed, Catherine Hepburn, Vivian Leigh and Monroe, the last which whom he said was not known for her histrionic capabilities, but known for alluring qualities. We all dreamt of her” he quipped.

He paid glowing tributes Dr. Lester James Peries and Gamini Fonseka who lured him to leave the state service, which was very secure employment to celluloid stardom. I am glad that I took that bold decision, he said.

Asked what his message for film artistes was, he said that his lone message for all artistes was to make use of their time profitably and also productively. Time has been of essence to all, he prophesised.

He is inspired by Shakespeare’s quote: “time waits for no man, in “As You Like It”. He says that that goes for politicians and all people who influence society too which include Heads of State!! Encore!! Encore!!

Pix by Kithsiri De Mel

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