Third death anniversary:
Gamini's words come true!
I sat to write a tribute to the memory of Gamini Fonseka, my uncle
and friend with deep pain, the strain of which run through my veins. In
him I saw a man with marvellous qualities. His life was devoid of
hatred, anger, animosity and greed.
Though the country recognised him as the best actor ever produced in
the annals of the Sinhala film industry, Gamini Fonseka was a man who
honestly claimed that Joe Abeywickreme was the best actor in his view.
"You people always claim that I am the best. But, I would say that it is
Joe and not me", this great actor opined during a discussion with me a
few days before his untimely death. That proved his sincerity, honesty,
integrity and forthrightness in the expression of his thoughts and
Today, the question is how many in the film industry remember this
illustrious man who once dominated the silver screen and led from the
front to seek due respect and dignity for actors and actresses.
In an era where actors and actresses were treated like dirt by film
producers, it was Gamini Fonseka who fought for the legitimate rights of
his colleagues. There was a time actors and actresses were offered cheap
lunch packets at locations to consume under the shade of trees.
Here, Gamini fought with producers saying that if he was offered
meals at hotels, the same facility was a right of his colleagues. I do
not know how many remember that past in their journey in life.
It is relieving that great men like Dr. Lester James Peries (mentor
of Gamini), Dr. D.B. Nihalsinghe, Neil and Sarath Rupasinghe and yester
year actors like Tony Ranasinghe, Joe Abeywickreme, Irangani Serasinghe,
Neeta Fernando, Robin Fernando and Baptist Fernando yet recall and
recognise Gamini's contribution towards the welfare of those in the
industry. It's a stubborn fact that actors/actresses are born and not
Today, we live in an era where we witness people forcibly gaining
entry into the screen at their own expense just because they feel they
look handsome. In the bygone era, men and women of talent were selected
for particular roles and characters.
When writing about Gamini, it is appropriate to talk about 'handsome'
men coming into the industry at their own expense. I once asked my uncle
Gamini Fonseka whether one should be handsome to enter the film industry
as an actor.
He replied - To suit the cinema, a man should not be too handsome or
too ugly but he should stand in between to be in the lead area. Of
course, Gamini said that talented men and women irrespective of their
ugliness could do better than the appearance of handsome and prettiness.
Leaving some of his views at that, I would now like to talk about the
man Gamini Fonseka after his death. As I earlier stated, how many do
remember him now. Not many. But some like his immediate family,
relatives and the Foundation that exists in his memory.
As a career journalist and an editor, I decided to compile a book in
his memory with selected writings on this great actor turned politician,
who was once a Deputy Speaker of Parliament. My intention was to have it
released today (30) to coincide with his third death anniversary.
Details and procedure on how such a book should be given birth is common
The book was to emerge as the maiden product from the Gamini Fonseka
Foundation. While a few private banks and a State savings bank obliged
sponsorships in a small way to meet the cost, other State institutions
turned a blind eye to the official request from the Foundation.
A State enterprise which has a huge advertising budget that offers
sponsorships even to musical events of no significance turned down the
offer outright. When this was conveyed to a veteran actor of Gamini's
era, in a soft filled with emotion, he questioned, 'If that can happen
to Gamini who are we now and after death' The man Gamini Fonseka, of
course knew about his country, the psychology and mentality of the
people who live in it.
That was why he never expected anything from his nation and the
rulers while he was alive. He decided to contribute to the nation and
hold his head high. He had never been a burden on the State even at
times of illness. He was a man who saved and invested in his small way
to lead a life with dignity and honour.
Though many thought he was a man with thousands and millions in banks
to his credit, those were hypothetical beliefs of people who never knew
him closely. As a devout Buddhist and a father committed towards his
responsibilities, he accomplished his obligations by his family and
children to exist on a paltry saving he had for himself.
At times he had to utilize the interest that accrued to his only
fixed deposit which was only few hundred thousand rupees. I could unfold
these facts as I was a nephew who closely associated him. He however
championed in his belief till his last breath.
Having known the talents, ability and capabilities of my uncle from
childhood, I once told him that this country was too small for him and
he should have been born in a country like India or America. This is
what exactly he told me- "You are wrong son, the rulers of this country
think I am too small for this country.
As I have stated many a time in my earlier tributes to this legendary
actor, there is an issue he wanted to resolve before his death. That
issue yet lies in the judiciary as the Appeal filed by him is now almost
seventeen years old. It was fourteen long years at the time of his
That was why he called me to his residence at Ja-ela to discuss ways
and means of having the matter expedited early even on a compromise
between both parties. To arrive at that, I told him that some political
influence was needed as the respondent was a State enterprise.
He agreed to make a request to the second in command of the country
at that time. I undertook to explore other possibilities connected with
the issue. His lawyer delayed the process by postponing the visit to his
residence to discuss the issue. The lethargic legal eagle finally
confirmed his visit to October 1, 2004.
Gamini Fonseka had telephoned me at my office and home on the morning
of September 30 to spell out the details of the proposed visit and time
of his lawyer. I was not available at both ends.
He had then told his aide Jayalath to remind him when he came down
stairs for lunch to call me. Then uncle Gamini had called for the day's
newspapers and climbed the stairway for his usual short nap after a late
breakfast forgetting to take his medicine which was lying on the dining
table. He never came down stairs on that ill-fated day.
Gamini Fonseka passed away peacefully in his sleep. And his lawyer
had no reason to call at Gamini's residence the next day. His last wish
is pending even after three years of his death. Yes.. Mr. Fonseka, as
you believed our people have short memories that fade away in no time.
I agree with you, dear uncle of mine, that history seems to have
insignificantly recorded that there lived a man called Gamini Fonseka
and nothing more about you. Your belief was correct and that is why a
book on you had got delayed and your last wish remains unresolved.
This is a tragedy of our times. You were a wonderful man who did your
duty by your country and its people. I was privileged to have had an
uncle and a friend like you.