Veteran actor Kamal Addaraarachchi received the Best Creation award for the short film ‘Nihanda Lipiya’ (Silent Letter) directed by him at the Whatashort International Short Film Festival held in New Delhi. This is an interview held with him on his cinematic life and his creation.
Q: What do you feel about the international award you received for your first creation?
I am ambivalent about it, both happy and sad. I am happy because this is the first international award I received, and it was my maiden film creation too. I am unhappy about the present plight of the local cinema industry. The uniqueness of this film is that this is, on the whole, a maiden effort of a team. This is scriptwriter Thiwanka Perera’s first effort.
This is the debut production of specialist doctor Mahendra Perera. This is veteran musician Sidath Somsundera’s first music direction in a film. Even the main character is played by a child actor who is a novice. His excellent acting contribution was the deciding factor on receiving this award. He received a special award for his performance at the Mumbai film festival. All in all, I feel great satisfaction.
Before I accept a role in a film, I thoroughly study the script and decide whether to act in it because 70 percent of the success of the film depends on the script.
The script of this film was given to me by specialist doctor Mahendra Perera of the Cancer Hospital, Maharagama. It was in English. He asked whether we could do a film on this. I studied it meticulously and found it was an excellent script, so I decided to make a film based on it.
When I started the film I never expected to do an outstanding artistic creation, but to do justice to the script.
Q: Can you explain how you chose the cast members?
I faced a big challenge which, I was sure of overcoming. Choosing a child actor was a real challenge because I wanted a child who had no previous acting experience. Yet I chose a child who was familiar with the social background of the film.
He acted exceptionally well in his role. The cast consisted of Chamila Peiris, Jagath Beneragame, Sweenitha Weerasinghe, Mahinda Pathirage, Dayadeva Edirisinghe and Wilman Sirimanne. Janaka C. Attanayake was the camera director. Filming was completed in five days. This accolade for the film belongs to the team effort of all.
Q: When your first effort is recognized internationally, what do you feel about the state of present day Sinhala cinema?
Really, I feel sad about the present state our cinema. That is why I said it at the start. The Sinhala cinema is in a sorry state today. Cinema is a strong media which can make strong impact on society. But the doubt is whether it is doing its role properly.
Cinema and literature go hand in hand. To write a good script, literature should be nurtured well. That is the way forward to make good films. Today, people in the country are so morally declined, they have no regard for the country, nation and religion. A quality film can imbue nationalistic feeling in society. During the Russian Revolution the same thing happened.
If I were given a chance what I would do is to construct a well-equipped cinema hall. There is a lack of good films as well as better infrastructure in film halls. We should set a good example to children by improving the cinema industry.
Q: There was an era which belonged to Kamal, Jackson and Sriyantha in cinema and stage. Why are there no such potential eras emerging at present?
We were highly dedicated to our profession. We did research and frequent practice but such dedication is not to be seen now. People’s taste for art has dwindled. Now, the people are glued to TV sets since evening and they are often exposed to stereotype, cheap profit-oriented teledramas. People forget the cast easily but the actors are helpless in this regard.
Q: You are playing the controversial role of revolutionist Rohana Wijeweera in silver screen. Is it a novel experience for you?
Certainly. First, I had to observe his external appearance and his manner of speaking. He fought against the social injustice which prevailed at the time leading his youth supporters. They were youthful and emotional, but there was no one to provide saner counsel to them due to lack of proper communication.
He had a good rapport with the North. He strongly believed that any race has the right to self-determination but dividing the country was not the solution to the national problem.
The Black July devastation is a black mark in their political history though the then rulers laid the full blame on them. I don’t think they were such racists. Wijeweera believed that if the state wanted to suppress them, the way forward would have been to establish a socialist government. If the then political authority had given a patient ear there would not have been such a catastrophe.
Q: Do you think you did justice to Wijeweera’s role?
As I observed and studied about him, I think, I did justice to his character.
Q: How was it to out of an intense of role such as Wijeweera and be yourself?
I am Kamal regardless of the role I portray. Acting is acting. I did not even grow a beard for this role. But, when I am performing I place myself in the shoes of the character and perform accordingly.
Q: On what basis do you select a role?
Whether the character is black or white, short or tall, is irrelevant to me. But I do pay attention to the script and the cast. I only consider the relevance my role has to the story and the other characters.
Q: What are your future films?
I have been part of Jayantha Chandrasiri’s film Ghora Sarpa and Anuruddha Jayasinghe’s film Ginnen Upan Seethala. Only dubbing portions remain. If I get good scripts, I will consider them for direction. But I am not very keen about it.
(Translated by Ananda Elkaduwa)
Pics by Chamila Karunaratne