The veteran actor, director and screenplay writer, Sanath Gunathilaka, released his debut book, Sinhala Cinamawa Saha Mama on Wednesday, January 20, at the Visual and Performing Arts University Auditorium. It is an analysis on the 69 years of film industry in Sri Lanka and the current crisis faced by the industry, published by Fast Publishing (Pvt.) Limited.
The book was presented to renowned Director, DB Nihalsinghe and to Visual and Performing Arts University, Vice Chancellor, Professor Ariyarathna Kaluarachchi. Addressing the audience, Prof Kaluarachchi said he has no involvements with the cinema industry, although he is a huge fan. Reminiscing his youth he said, “We used to go to the theatres and sit in the front row because we felt that we see the movie first, before the rest of the people behind us. We felt closer to the actors in the movie that way.” Referring to Sanath Gunathilaka, he said, “He’s a giant in the cinema industry and an experienced actor. His book is on the 69 years of Sinhala cinema that started with Kadawunu Poronduwa. This would be a turning point in both the life of Sanath and the Sinhala Film industry.”
Kelaniya University, visiting lecturer and Sarasaviya, Deputy Editor Dr. Nuwan Nayanajith delivered a discourse on Sinhala cinema industry and Sanath Gunathilaka. “I believe Paliganima is the first Sinhala film. Based on that fact, the film industry is 80 years old.” Speaking about Sanath, he said he used to know him since childhood. He referred to him as a “mature stud” (Viyapath Bambara). “My father used to hide the books we had at home before he arrived, because he used to take books and never return them afterwards,” shared Dr. Nuwan. He also mentioned the great service done by Sanath Gunathilaka to the industry when the film corporation building was almost sold to an embassy, and when the Sarasaviya newspaper was almost closed down, both the incidents where he intervened to prevent. He also mentioned Sanath Gunathilaka mentoring of the younger generation. Sanath Gunathilaka is also the writer of three screenplays, including Sisila Gini Gani and Ekamath Eka Rataka.
Referring to Sinhala Cinemawa Saha Mama he mentioned that the book takes a holistic approach and it includes details on the establishment of the film corporation, DB Nihalsinghe, AJ Gunawardene Committee, Senaka Bandaranayake Commitee, review on measures done to improve the sinhala film industry, personal review of the incidents where he was blamed and many more. The postscript is written by Professor Sunil Ariyaratne. In the book Sanath has viewed economical support to the film industry by the government as synonymous with a cloth. He believes that sometimes it is too big, sometimes it is too small and at the moment they feel ‘almost naked’. He also mentioned that in his book Sanath did not mean to attack anyone. The flaws of certain people were written for the future benefit of the industry.
Dr. Nuwan referred to Sanath as the “last great actor of this country”, and one of six greatest actors, where he named Gamini Fonseka, Joe Abeywickrama, Tony Ranasinghe, Wijaya Kumaratunga and Ravindra Randeniya, as the preceding five. He believes the industry has many issues that demanded solutions.
He emphasized the need to raise the standards of film scripts, and the need for a studio in the country, as Indian studios which are currently being used by the Sri Lankan film industry are rapidly digitalizing, leaving the Sri Lankan filmmakers stranded. He also commented on the difficulties in screening Sinhala movies due to losses by either the producers or the movie theatres, and the need to abolish the entertainment tax for movie theatres.
Referring to his book, Sanath Gunatilaka said that he wrote what he heard, saw and experienced. He said that the cinema industry is in a tragic predicament right now. “Gamini Weragama believes that in two years, the Sinhala film would be limited to Colombo area. There is a direct political influence to the industry. Most politicians are not interested in it.”
Pics by Venura Chandramalitha