Birthday Queen optimistic after shadows of terror:
Trending along the path on reel she reached out
to the hearts and minds of the public as no other in our course of life.
Her school-girlish beauty robed in innocence and charm, coupled with
modesty and an attractive smile drew millions to the theatres and
established a Sri Lankan identity to local creations which would have
been mere copies of Indian productions. Though many years have flown by,
she had not lost her magical touch to thrill and tug at the heartstrings
of the public.
More than four decades have passed since Wanni Arachchige Malani
Senehelatha Fonseka took the industry by storm. With 150 movies to her
credit Malani recently reached the zenith of glory with Prasanna
Vithanage’s Aakasa Kusum which won her the silver peacock award at the
39th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) last year. The gifted
actress, dubbed ‘Queen of Sri Lankan Cinema’, will pass another hallmark
in her life as she turns 62 on April 30.
Malani Fonseka. Picture by Tennyson Edirisinghe
“I am content with my accomplishments but I feel that I have much
more to offer. It all depends on the script and the characters which are
presented to me. I do not mind taking up a role in a single shot as long
as the character is of interest to me and proves to be a challenge,”
expressed the evergreen star who had excelled in artistic and commercial
cinema as well as bagged a number of national and international
Her days are spent working towards incepting an Art Center in Jaffna,
a project which she spearheads together with her fellow artistes and the
National Film Corporation.
The group set the first step in collecting funds for the project by
setting aside a date for movie buffs to contribute by visiting one of
their neighbouring theatres and watching a movie. All the profits from
theatres on March 22 were put to use in establishing the Art Center in
Their next fundraising event will take form at the Viharamaha Devi
Park on May 16. A New Year festival titled Bakmaha Cinemava, organized
by Sarasaviya cinema weekly, will provide a novel experience to the
public as all the leading artistes are expected to take part in the
event. Fans would be able to meet their favourites and join them in some
of the thrilling Avurudu games.
''Each period was
special in its own way. I always looked towards the
brighter side of life and the experiences it brought''
“We hope to hold a fashion show with around 50 popular fashion
designers in the island in the future. Both artistes and professional
models will take part in the show,” Malani noted.
Queried which period in her career she holds dearest to her heart the
screen queen commented that she willingly bore with the misfortunes as
well as the glories of the past.
“Each period was special in its own way. I always looked towards the
brighter side of life and the experiences it brought,” she remarked.
Which profession would she have taken if she had not ventured into
acting? “It’s too late for me to contemplate that question but I wanted
to become a doctor during my school days. I was also interested in
agriculture so I dare say I would have picked a profession in one of
those sectors,” she smiled.
Playing her life back in rewind she recalled how she made her debut
in acting with the stage play Noratha Ratha in 1963 before turning to
the wide screen with Tissa Liyanasuriya’s Punchi Baba (alongside Joe
Abeywickrema and Anthony C. Perera) in 1967.
“My father, Gilbert Fonseka, was not quite taken up with the idea of
me joining the movies but my mother, Seelawathie, was very supportive.
Both my parents were pleased with my success. I feel proud that so many
members of my family have joined the scene for it would have brought
great happiness to my mother,” she humbly added.
She confessed that though she had started off on stage, her success
on screen took her away from the stage dramas. However, she admitted
that her passion for the stage had lasted throughout the years as she
would not hesitate to take up a role in a play if the character caught
Among the many characters she had taken up on the reel, Irene of
Nidhanaya is among those which she holds close to her heart. She
expressed her sorrow towards the untimely death of Nidhanaya
scriptwriter Dr. Tissa Abeysekara adding that she also cherished her
role, Emma Nona, in his teledrama Pitagamkarayo.
“He was very clear and precise on what he expected from us and it was
very easy to work with him. His scripts were exceptional and he had left
a vacuum which will not be easy to fill,” she said.
Though new blood is instilled to cinema each passing year the public
still dote on the faces which adorned the silver screen in the bygone
Thus many young directors tend to offer minor roles to the veterans
as a means of including their names to the cast.
“Such offers have come my way but I have declined them as I was not
satisfied with the roles,” she said adding that except for Aakasa Kusum,
which will be screened in July, no other creations are on the way.
She hopes to compile a book on her experiences in the field but, she
adds that it is something she does not hope to pursue immediately.
Another project she hopes to take up is another teledrama to follow her
last production, Doni.
“It is pleasing that the conflict period is coming to a close. We
have suffered for nearly 33 years under the shadows of terror and
finally there are rays of hope. Now our mind should turn towards
rebuilding the country. You need a lot patience,” she noted adding that
she hopes to spend her birthday with the war heroes of Ragama Ranaviru