Sanath's second coming
After nearly four decade of being a 'bona fide super star' and six
years donning the director's cap, Sanath Gunathilaka is back in the
limelight, this time, with his second cinematic venture Sinahawa Atharin,
proving he has still got his box office mojo, both as an actor and as a
His pre-eminence as an actor has never been disputed, but in his
evocative portrayal of 'Wimal' in Sinahawa Atharin, he delves deep to
recapture the essence of what sets him apart from the rest. In fact,
Sanath identifies his character 'Wimal' as his best performance after
his most admirable character 'Aravinda' in the film 'Viragaya' the
screen adaption of Martin Wickramasinghe's opus by veteran
writer/director Tissa Abeysekara.
The story idea of 'Sinahawa Atharin' came from Chaminda Perera, a
film producer friend living in Canada, who he met during the screening
of Prasanna Vithanage's 'Sisila Gini Gani' in Canada years ago. That was
even before Sanath penned his debut film 'Ekamath Eka Rataka'.
Looking back, Sanath believes Chaminda influenced him to dramatise
the true story after watching 'Sisila Gini Gani', because it also
carried a similar love triangle story line.
acknowledges Chaminda's continuous assistance as being major throughout
the long writing process as well as the production. "His true
experiences truly molded the story," says Sanath, explaining that
although the true incident happened in Canada, Chaminda's generosity in
sharing that experience helped Sanath adjust the story to suit the local
environment, while remaining true to the story line.
"I never had hidden agendas when producing the film. I was honest
with my feelings and creativity. I only wanted to do my best with great
respect for the story that Chaminda shared with me," he says adding that
although the story has an adult theme, which has a limited audience, he
never wanted to create anything beyond the true story line to grab the
"I am grateful to the producer of the film Sunil T, without whose
generosity 'Sinahawa Atharin' would be just another dream, which may
faded away with the time," he expounds.
'Sinahawa Atharin' is based on three main characters (Sanath
Gunathilaka as Wimal, Semini Iddamalgoda as Kumari and Chris Henry as
Richard) whose lives are trapped in a love triangle, attached to each
other, consequently linking each one's destiny to the decision of the
other. The film reveals the complexities and sometimes tragedies of
As Sanath explains, he had been specific in his requirements when
selecting the cast. Although he could have cast one of the more popular
star figures, more glamorous than Semini, he opted for Semini getting
involved with the character was the most important thing in his mind.
The thirst that Semini showed to portray a good character in cinema was
something that Sanath appreciated as being something rare in the
"It's hard to find actors or actresses who have the thirst to portray
good characters on screen. For me, acting is living in another life and
it is not just parroting dialogues. It is a continuous process where the
actor forgets about his or her realities and gets under someone's skin,"
he says, explaining that he saw that rare quality in Semini, and that
when considering the positive response he gets from the audience, he is
convinced it was a wise decision to select her as the main female
Sanath is satisfied with his cast and says they have never let him
down during the process. His faith in them has been reaffirmed by the
As an actor who was lucky enough to be in his peak during the 80s and
90s, deemed golden era of Sinhala cinema, Sanath also has the nostalgic
feeling of recalling the time where the cinema halls were packed to
capacity with cinema-goers.
speaking, although there were times enthusiasm for films were overtaken
by other mediums, that situation has changed. It is, however pathetic
that Sri Lanka has not been able to recover the loss created by the
advent of television, internet and other advanced mediums for Sinhala
cinema yet," he says, pointing out that the Sinhala cinema hasn't been
able to develop or transform with the technology as has been happening
in other part of the world.
He holds the authorities responsible for the downfall of the Sinhala
cinema, but believes that as artiste they also cannot absolve themselves
of the responsibilities. "I'm quite keen on the creativity shown in
cinema by the new generation. They have ideas and concepts which can
match with what the rest of the world has to offer," he says, adding
that it is paramount important to re-establish the mechanism to help
these youngsters showcase their creativity. "Only then can we expect a
real change in the Sinhala cinema and re-gain the loss audience."