TV Times

Swarna: The golden star of Sinhala cinema
By Susitha R. Fernando
Swarna Mallawarachchi, the versatile actress in Sri Lankan cinema is being felicitated with a retrospective film festival, now telecast on Sirasa TV.
She started her stunning debut while still a school girl in Siri Gunasinghe's Sath Samudura (1966) and ever consistent in her refusal to act in commercial films, she became one of Sri Lanka's leading actresses in the serious, artistic film making field.

Swarna's truly unique role as an actress is evident in films such as Vasantha Obeysekera's Dadayama (The Hunt) and Kadapathaka Chayava (Reflections in the Mirror), Dharmasiri Bandaranayake's Suddhilage Kathawa (The Story of Suddhi) and Bava Duka / Bava Karma, Sumithra Peries' Sagara Jalaya (Letter Written in the Sand) and Prasanna Vithanage's Anantha Rathriya (Dark Night of the Soul).

Completing nearly forty years in cinema this gifted actress in a brief chat with the TV Times. Asked whether she had completely given up cinema, Swarna, burst out in laughter and said ‘I am very much active in cinema’.

‘New directors are reluctant to invite me expecting that I will say no and I find it hard to get a script that suits me,’ she said giving reasons for her silence. ‘This problem was there even with Dr. Lester James Peries and I have never acted in his films,’ Swarna said, reminiscing her artistic career.

Dr. Peries writing about this omission wrote for a book issued at the Calcutta International Film Festival in 1997 when the renowned film festival celebrated its hundred years' anniversary. ‘Personally I feel sorry we have never worked in a film together-perhaps there has been no producer who thought it worthwhile-I hope that great roles with a fantastic array of great heroines in western cinema- e.g. Anna Karenina, Madam Bowary, St Joan of Arc, the list is endless, will come her way...’

At this festival Swarna was felicitated under the category of 'Spotlight on an Asian Actress' with the screening of Swarna's film for seven days.
Writing further about the significance of Swarna in Sinhala cinema Dr. Peries stated "Swarna Mallawarachchi is without question the finest dramatic actress in the Sinhala cinema. There are actresses who switch from commercial films to more serious ones but Swarna has been very particular about the roles she chooses…".

"She is sharp, incisive and succeeds in creating very strong characters. The pity is that in our Sinhala films there are so few female characters who are strong, rather than weak and passive. In the formula films, half their characterization is confined to smashing up herbaceous, polluting the scenery. Swarna has no such amorous dalliance with trees and flowers and public parks but subtly, stroke by stroke etched on celluloid some of the most powerful 'women' characters in Sinhala cinema-one had only to refer back to 'Dadayama' or 'Sagara Jalaya', 'Maya' or 'Suddilage Kathawa', not to mention the new films that will reveal a wider range" Dr. Peries further stated.

"She has also that indefinable quality that is called "Photogenic"- I always say it is a love affair between the artiste and the camera-it is far more important than an amorous dalliance with flower beds and public parks," the veteran film maker added.

When asked about the film festival that is been telecast "I am happy because I can watch all my films while being a part of the audience," Swarna said heartily. "I never got a chance to see a whole line up of my films and this film festival gives me that opportunity,"Swarna said.


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