Blend of love, stardom and business
Upali speaks of life with his scintillating star wife
Soorath Aakain Vali Sabeetha’ - Sabeetha, the young woman with most
beautiful eyes...; when announced in Urdu, Sabeetha got on to the stage
amidst a thundering applause to receive the Special Award presented to
her for the service she rendered to the Pakistan film industry by taking
part in 17 Urdu films.
“At that function, only my mother was with me. I thought if my Sri
Lankan fans could also see it how fortuitous I would have been,” said
Sabeetha reminiscing on one of the most memorable events in her life.
Her fans see her stunning beauty and the versatile talent on celluloid.
Who has not got enticed to her mesmerising brown eyes?
The beauty who still could lure and steal male hearts of any age and
in any walks of life, at present has diverted her life towards her
But, still her classy glamour in an attraction where ever she appears
or whenever her name is announced. Sabeetha Perera, the famous `cats
eyed’ actress who has won acclaim internationally not merely from `fans’
but also from `fanatics’ who have been charmed and beguiled by her
Fame and beauty, in many occurrences in world history resulted in
failure in personal lives. But what we are going to talk about Sabeetha
is quite contrasting.
After being a top Star in the Lankan filmdom for nearly three decades
since the age of 13, and facing many ups and downs in life Sabeetha
finally found her life partner 12 years back. What does `he’ have to
talk about her, who sees her as his `woman’ and not as the scintillating
star in the sky?
“She is intelligent, calm and has an answer and solution for every
problem that crops up in life,” says Upali getting frank about his wife.
Don Upali Jayasinghe, a well known business guy; the present owner of
his family business, D.P. Jayasinghe and Company; the luckiest of the
luckiest to win one of the most ravishing stars in Sri Lanka begins to
unfold his story of life with her.
Don Piyadasa Jayasinghe from Mathugama and Jayasekara Witharanage
Leelawathie from Weligama were his parents.
“I was born on September 9 in Colombo, lived at Kotahena, Dehiwala
and then at Mount Lavinia. We shifted into our nest at Sri
Jayawardanapura after our marriage,” he says cleverly hiding his `year
of birth’, but reveals the date of birth as he does not mind receiving a
bouquet of flowers on his `birthday’. When an owner has such an
enchantingly beauty wife who likes to reveal his real age? Better not!
But, all what we see from one’s outer appearance is not their real
life, and could be totally different to what we imagine of them,
Sabeetha and Upali; Touch Wood! May not any evil force affect them are
living happily a contented life. Their eight year old son, Chandupa who
studies at the British School, Colombo has a little idea of his Mum as a
star and his father as a top businessman. What he experiences is their
extreme love and warmth only.
“I’m the oldest of the four boys in our family. My brothers; Mangala,
Ranjan and Pradeep are also running their own businesses,” begins Upali.
“I studied at Ananda College, Colombo. Played Cricket for Under 13, and
later was a Committee Member of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board from 1996 to
1999,” he says.
Question: We’ve heard you were among the mischievous lot at
Upali: (Laughs) I was. With the intention of disciplining me,
once I was given the Class Prefectship for a month when in the O/L
class. But, that I could keep only for one week. The shot I gave on
another brat’s face over an unjustified act, made my Masters to remove
my Prefect Badge from my uniform.
The brother next to me was born when I was ten years. So, until then,
I was on my Mum’s lap. I relished the fullest love of my parents. My
father has been a quiet and calm person. But, my Mum was an out-going
Question: Are you still the same `imp’?
Upali: (Laughs) Mmmm.. I’m a matured guy now. However, we’ve
got a Buddhist environment since we were kids. Both my parents were pure
vegetarians. They even first met each other at Sri Pada when they went
there on a pilgrimage. This background assisted us to lead a charitable
life throughout. Though I was the favourite of my Mum, all four of us
got equal love and care from our parents.
Question: Do you see `you as a boy’ in your son?
Upali: No. He is quite different. A kind hearted and
compassionate child. The first thing he does in the morning is that to
find out about all the assistants at home. He goes to the watcher and
asks whether he has had his morning tea. Sabeetha’s influence is on him
After doing A/Ls in the Commerce stream, Upali followed an
Auto-mobile Engineering course in the Colombo Technical College, and
then entered to the Hammersmith Technical College in UK to do a higher
“My father had come to Colombo from Mathugama with a lump sum of
Rs,5000. He was in the transport business, and had bought his first
lorry for Rs,1000. I still remember the lorry; `Carbery Ford’ which was
a world famous brand during the second world war. We kept it until
recently as a souvenir until it got rusted and wrecked down. My father
diverted his Tours and Transport company to exclusive government
At present we deal with Constructions and Property Developments too.
We have more than a 300 staff working with us,” says Upali.
Question: How did you first meet Sabeetha?
Upali: I once got involved in a Co-production of a Pakistan
film called `Saath Sahiliya’ (Seven Girl Friends). actually, Bangladesh
and India were too involved in it. But, I failed to get a copy for the
screening in Sri Lanka. It was a loss of one Million. I tried to contact
the Pakistani party. For this purpose, somebody asked me to get at
Sabeetha as she had been involved in Pakistan films during that time. It
was the first time I called her, in 1990.
Warnakulasuriya Oswatta Liyanage Sabeetha Perera was born on December
1 to the famous actor and actress W.O.L.Stanley Perera and Shri
Kavilakshana Panditha Koralage Girlie Gunewardane. Sabeetha was the
third of the four daughters of the famous duo. Sabeetha’s family first
lived in Mount Lavinia, her mother’s home town, during which time she
went to Visakha Montessori and then to Visakha Vidyalaya Colombo. Later,
they shifted to her father’s home town,
Wennappuwa and Sabeetha continued her studies at Holy Family Convent,
Sabeetha’s first and second appearance on the Silver Screen occurred
simultaneously, when she was three years old, as the daughter of her own
father, Stanley Perera in the film `Ivasana Dana’, and then as the
daughter of her Mum, Girlie in the film, `Hathara Kendaraya’. However,
Jayavilal Vilegoda in his film critique mentioned that the best acting
that he could point out in both films were that of the small actress,
and that person was none else, but little Sabeetha.
Her father became a Director with his first film `Tom Pachaya’ which
he did with Roy de Silva. Sabeetha who was about 12 - 13 years were
among the spectators at the shooting of the film. J.Selvaratnam who saw
the charming teenager, determined to get her for his next film which was
based on a teenage love. Though she was in her mid teenage, Sabeetha
looked quite well built to her age. Her parents who had a hidden desire
to see one of their daughters on the Silver Screen encouraged Sabeetha
to accept it. After going through a hectic schedule to get permission
from her Convent school which had imposed strict rules on its girls,
Sabeetha faced the camera with her first lover on the screen, Jagath
Rohan. Jagath was the son of veteran actor Prem Jayanth and was his
first film as well.
The first shot before the cinematography camera was a nightmare as
she still remembered how she heard the `lub dub’ beat of her own heart
which she had to control with great endeavour obeying to the command
given by the Director. She just did what he asked her to do. However,
acting, shooting and films had been in her world ever since she was
tiny. The Cat’s eyed teenage school girl’s inborn talents which she
inherited from her parents made the film a great success. The Director
who instinctively predicted his newest film was going to be a box office
breaker named the film by the main actress’ name, `Sabeetha’.... And
that was how another star queen was introduced to the Silver Screen. The
film which was full of love scenes, however did not affect Sabeetha’s
personal life as a school girl. She continued her studies while playing
a role in her father’s second direction, `Sanda’. Sabeetha, was a
friendly, refined and quiet bookworm who concentrated on her studies.
After sitting for the A/Ls in the Commerce stream, she wanted to go for
her higher studies. But, it was at this point that fate diverted her to
another route. Invitations for Commercial films started flooding.
Sabeetha who had learnt dancing ; ballet under Channa Wijewardane,
Bharatha dancing from Padmini Dahanaike and Kandyan dancing from Rajini
Selvanayagam became the most indispensable actress in the Lankan filmdom
Yasapalitha Nanayakkara’s film `Rosy’ turned a new leaf in her life
when a Pakistan film crew who was shooting in Sri Lanka saw her and
invited her to do the co-main role meant for a Sri Lankan actress in it.
`Sadaakal Randeva’ (Sinhala title with the meaning of `May you live
long’) based on the famous novel `Never say Good Bye’ screened in
Pakistan as `Kabi Al Vidana Kena’ was the super hit both in Sri Lanka
and Pakistan that year. Pakistani Director Nazar Shabab who knew it was
the Sri Lankan actress that made his film the success it was almost
forced Sabeetha to continue to take part in Pakistan films. This was how
she ended up in acting the main roles in 17 Urdu films. Her parents,
sisters, fiends and relatives who have been behind her throughout her
journey shed tears of joy at her success and lamented with her when she
was down and out, especially when she faced failures in her personal
life. “No one is perfect. No one’s life is perfect. I’m sensitive, and
would weep over the things that would fall out from my hands. But that’s
all. The next minute I could stand up, close that chapter completely,
and start my life again. That way, I’m a strong character. I accept all
such problems as disguised blessings in life,” said Sabeetha.
“What she has said is true. She is a strong personality. I admire
that a lot. Apart from that she is very sincere and caring,” approves
Upali butting in. “I first met her in 1996, when she advertised her
Pajero. We got to know each other for three years and got married on
August 4 in 1999. I didn’t fall only for her beauty, but for her
intelligence. She reads a lot, especially on Buddhism. She is an ardent
Buddhist, and always says that we should not get attached to things too
much. More we get attached more we invite suffering. And I too believe
in that. She says that there’s a solution to every question and problem
as according to the Buddhist Doctrine,” explains Upali.
`Sarasaviya’, Presidential’, `OCIC’ and `Swarna Shanka’; every film
award festival has rewarded Sabeetha since the time she stepped into the
Cinema. She was awarded with a Merit Award in 1980 for her role in `Aadara
Geethaya’ directed by Amaranath Jayathilaka, Best Actress Award for
H.D.Premaratne’s `Deveni Gamana’, the Presidential Award for the Up and
Coming Actress in mid 1980s, Best Actress Awards for both `Sisila Gini
Gani’ and `Podi Wije’. Sabeetha earned fame eminently in her career
mainly for her enchanting acting in the Commercial films. But, Tissa
Abeysekara’s `Viragaya’, Daya Wimalaweera’s `Sujatha’ and `Chaaya’ are
among the films that proved her skills and talents in artistic acting
which rewarded her with popular as well as critics’ awards. Apart from
over hundred films she acted, Sabeetha won the Best Supporting Actress’
Award for the teledrama `Pitagamkarayo’ in the end of 1990s. In addition
to them Sabeetha’s role in `Blending’, bilingual (English and Sinhala)
film directed by Mohan Niyas and the two Tamil films, `Nanguram’
(Anchor) and `Isai Payanam’ (A musical Journey) are among the films that
still live in the memory lane of film goers.A busy life with films was
the only subject with her since she was a teenager. Once, Sabeetha said,
when looked back she hadn’t had a normal life which a 15-20 year-old
girl would have had. “I missed most of the things I intended to do. Not
merely the higher education, but subjects like cookery, dress making,
Finishing School and Interior designing which I, as an impassioned young
woman liked to do. I had not even had much time to go on a trip with my
family. When I see love couples walking on the street holding their
hands I tend to think how I’ve missed all that free life. I had some
life like that only in films. I had become a bride more than fifty times
in films, but in real life only with Upali,” she once said to the Sunday
Question: After the marriage Sabeetha has been devoting her life
and time for herself and family. Is she contented about her life now?
Upali: I think so. She has had all the glamour since she was a
teenager. Then she wanted to lead a normal life with a good marriage.
Now she is a wife and a mother. She knows her responsibilities and tries
her best to devote herself for the family. Her mother is with us now.
Sabeetha’s father is mostly with her eldest sister in Matara as she has
needed the family support since her husband’s death. Sabeetha accepted
the Unmada Chitra’s role in Jackson Anthony’s `Aba’ only after nine
years. It was her decision to limit her career and not mine. I have
given her freedom (smiles).