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Tony Ranasinghe,in full flow

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By Uditha Devapriya

This is the third and final in a series of candid vignettes about Tony Ranasinghe.

Pauline Kael once observed of Marlon Brando that his characters suggested tragic force. Comparable as he would have been to Brando, Gamini Fonseka never epitomised this kind of force: the closest he ever came to embodying it in Parasathumal, as the well-meaning but wayward nobleman who thinks he can do and get away with anything. In that sense Tony Ranasinghe was closer to Brando than he may have realised: the romantic heroes he played clamoured after women they could never have. This was same of the husbands he played too. Filled with jealousy, Ranasinghe’s characters never fulfilled their hopes. And yet they didn’t lack the looks: there was nothing in their appearance that debarred them from their lovers. Due to some issue or the other, however, they remained frustrated.

By the end of the 1970s he had changed completely. Having played the lover for a decade, he had now played the husband for another decade. His profile and outline had altered, considerably: his face had wizened, his frown had sharpened, and his figure, which had once suggested youth if not fragility, now suggested a father-figure. In Ahasin Polawata in 1979, opposite Vasanthi Chathurani, he had played the brother-in-law. Barely a year later he was playing her father in Ganga Addara. The latter role is significant because it marks a turning point in his career: he had evolved, and at a time when the two biggest stars of the screen, Vijaya and Gamini, did all they could to remain young, he had let go.

Even as the lover and husband, Ranasinghe’s characters could barely conceal their rage: in the morning after the accident in Delovak Athara, he shouts at his servant-boy for asking him for the family car. In Maya, he is gentle and pliable at first with the journalist who wants to know about his wife’s and daughter’s murders. The very next moment, he is raising his voice, and screaming at the reporter to get out. In Ganga Addara he is friendly enough with his poor nephew; when he finds out his affair with his daughter, he hollers at him to move away. The thread that runs through all these characters is their lack of refinement and polished elegance: if they feel intimidated, they lose all sense of decorum. They may look dapper and polite, but they are incapable of controlling their anger.

Curiously enough, however, he never found a home in the New Wave that swept across the local cinema in the 1970s. In Walmath wuwo he is out of place as an unemployed graduate, opposing Cyril Wickramage. Not unlike Gamini Fonseka, he never found a part for himself in Dharmasena Pathiraja’s films. Dharmasena Pathiraja’s world is full of outcasts and outsiders, and neither Fonseka nor Ranasinghe found their calling in such roles: that was left to Vijaya Kumaratunga, who epitomised the kind of freewheeling youthful idealism that Ranasinghe had long forsaken. When Ranasinghe did play prominent parts in the films of the new wave directors, it was later, in more cynical roles: as the corrupt inspector in Sisila Gini Gani, the cynical prosecutor in Anantha Rathriya, and the father in Salelu Warama.

In the 1980s Ranasinghe began writing screenplays. Tony was a literary man, a thespian: unlike Gamini Fonseka and Vijaya Kumaratunga, he spent his time in the theatre before entering the cinema. Some of the screenplays he worked on at this time suggest the themes he wanted to explore – many of them have to do with familial relations – and the source material he preferred. Most of these screenplays were adaptations of contemporary Sinhala literature: both Awaragira and Duwata Mawaka Misa, for instance, are based on novels by G. B. Senananayake. These adaptations are interesting if not intriguing because they suggest a deeply literary sensibility. Moreover, adaptations though they are, there is a consistent attempt in them to translate the plot in its entirety to the screen. That is why Awaragira, and Duwata Mawaka Misa, looks and feels long. It bears out what Lester Peries observed of Awaragira: that it could have worked better as a television serial than a film.

The point I am trying to make or imply here is that Ranasinghe’s attitude to adaptations of literary texts and plays reflected his notions about acting. His critique of Marlon Brando’s performance as Mark Antony was essentially that Brando went beyond what he saw as permissible limits: he didn’t act, he “mumbled.” This was his critique of Richard Burton too: “as an actor he stood out in a way few among his generation did,” he told me. “But in later years he collapsed and deteriorated, to a point where, like Brando, he lost all sense of discipline.” In other words, an actor’s talent depends on his fidelity to his craft, just as his performance depends on its fidelity to the source. This attitude colours his screenplays as well: long as they are, they are marked out by their fidelity to the original text. They are, for the lack of a better way of putting it, quite literary in their conception.

An often-underrated aspect to Ranasinghe’s career, as a screenwriter, was his penchant for comedy. Every other person I know here has watched or at least heard of Nonawarune Mahathwarune, but few among them know that Ranasinghe wrote the series. In his tribute to Ranasinghe after his death in 2015, Chandran Rutnam remembered an aborted project for a comedy they had worked on: it was to star Joe Abeywickrema and it would have been set during the Japanese raid on Sri Lanka in World War II. Curiously enough, however, he never played a comic role: his temperament was obviously much too cynical and hardened for him to do so. His looks suggested a man capable of great refinement, but also insatiable anger: a quality he made much use of in one of his finest performances, cast against type, as Dabare the gang leader in H. D. Premaratne’s Saptha Kanya – a role for which he bagged top honours from the Sarasaviya, Swarna Sanka, and OCIC Awards.

In Saptha Kanya Ranasinghe loosens himself so well that when we see Gamini Fonseka in Loku Duwa we are immediately reminded of this earlier performance. He never lets out his anger: he keeps it in, preferring to draw the protagonist into a cat-and-mouse game that the ending refuses to resolve. This was a performance the likes of which Ranasinghe never got again, just as Fonseka never got a role like the one he played in Loku Duwa again. In it he reaches out as far as he can, outside his zone, and does wonders. It goes without saying that like Fonseka’s mudalali, Dabare suggests Ranasinghe’s comic potential: something he had only lightly touched in his earlier incarnation as a lover and a husband. Never again was he to replicate this comic finesse: he ended up playing the wise but often flawed grandfatherly or fatherly figure in subsequent roles, right until his passing away.

Tony Ranasinghe’s career, for me at least, represents the peak of the Sinhalese cinema. A product of a middle-class suburban Catholic family, Ranasinghe emerged in the immediate aftermath of 1956 and Sinhala Only. An admirer of Arisen Ahubudu, he was, not unlike Henry Jayasena and even Gamini Fonseka, well-read and quite literary. His contribution to the Sinhala theatre has not been as appreciated as his work in the cinema, partly because while he made the waves as a member of Sugathapala de Silva’s acting troupe in his early years, his later career in the theatre was as a translator: he never achieved the status that the likes of Dharmasiri Bandaranayake did. Yet these figure in as the most definitive Sinhala translations of the Bard’s plays, faithful as they are to the spirit of the original.

Not surprisingly, it is his acting career that has garnered and continues to garner interest. As a performer he stood away and apart from the trends that made up his day and age: as he himself told me in our interview, he found Method Acting too intellectualised, and he point-blank rejected any notion of acting that emphasised a separation between the cinema and the theatre. For him, no actor could emerge in film without having gone through the stage. Whether or not one agreed with this perspective, it is clear that to the best of his abilities, Ranasinghe stood by the principle underlying it. As an actor, a dramatist, and a screenwriter, he valued fidelity to the source text and material above almost everything else. This was his aesthetic, one he adhered to right until his last days. One can say that the Sinhalese cinema profited much from his elan and his attitude. The Sinhalese theatre, too.

The writer is an international relations analyst, researcher, and columnist who can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com



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Features

To recognise and reward Women Entrepreneur

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by Zanita Careem

WCIC “Prathibhabis-heka” national awards will be given to outstanding women entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka and the SAARC said Anoji de Silva, the chairperson of Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce WCIC at a press conference held at the Jetwing hotel Ward PlaceThis year the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by DFCS Aloka.This National Award which is recognised globally will help women to market their products to international buyers

“As a country we have faced many difficulties over the last few years. Now this is the time to reflect and ensure that local women can contribute and progress to be on par with international entrepreneurs She also noted that this award ceremony is a great opportunity for all since it’s an absolutely empowering platform. “You hear success stories of women from different walks of life and it’s very empowering and inspiring. I’m sure that the younger generation of women who will watch the ceremony wii be inspired to be sucessful entrepreneurs in the future S

“Our women entrepreneurs have the potential to help our economy to grow. They have made vast strides to build companies on a set of values and they have created diverse working environments.

The WCIC Prathibhabisheka Women Entrepreneur Awards will be held in January 22. To the question how financial records of small businesses headed by women could deter their ability to apply the chairperson said.

“We have a startup category which is under five years where they can submit documents for consideration. She responded “These women can apply but must submit proper records to back their applications or else they will be rejected wholeheartedly.The Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022

“Prathibha” depicts excellence in Sanskrit and WCIC will showcase the excellence of outstanding women entrepreneurs through WCIC Prathibhabisheka –

“The relaunched property is structured to assess the businesses in a holistic manner. We invite outstanding women entrepreneurs, especially the ones who have braved the challenges in the past years to share their story of resilience and achievements to compete for the coveted – WCIC Prathibhabisheka The Awards will honour women entrepreneurs for their tenacity to scale and grow, and for their contribution and impact on the economy. Whilst the competition is primarily for Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, we have also included an opportunity for women in the SAARC region to compete in a special category” stated Anoji De Silva, the Chairperson of the WCIC.

The members of WCIC Ramani Ponnambalam and Tusitha Kumarakul-asingam, said”. We will be accepting applications under the categories – Start-up, Micro, Small, Medium and Large. Each category will have a specified revenue for the year under review – 2021/22. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be presented for each category. With the view to identify and promote regional women entrepreneurs, we will encourage applications from all the provinces in the country and select the “Best of the Region” from each province.

The women will also be considered for the coveted special awards – Young Woman Entrepreneur, Outstanding Start- up, Most Positively Abled Woman Entrepreneur, The Most Outstanding Export Oriented Entrepreneur, The Best of the SAARC Region. The ceremony will culminate with the selection of the “Women Entrepreneur of the year -2022”.

“The entry kit can be downloaded from www.wcicsl.lk and completed and submitted to the WCIC along with all the material required to substantiate the applicant’s story. Entries close on the 31st of October.” stated Tusitha Kumarak-ulasingam.

WCIC Prathibabisheka – Woman Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by– DFCC Aloka, as the Platinum Sponsor, with Gold Sponsors – Mclarens Group, LOLL Holdings Plc, Hayleys Leisure Pic, and AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd (Exclusive Insurance Partner), Silver – Finez Capital Ventures Print and Social Media Partners will be the Wijeya Group and Electronic Media Partner–ABC Network with Triad as our Creative Partner and Ernst & Young as Knowledge Partner.

Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) is the premier organization supporting entrepreneurs and professional business-women. The membership is open to women who believe they can contribute to society as well as benefit from the many facilities the organization creates. WCIC Prathibhasheka is relaunched this year as a flagship property, to recognize and reward outstanding women enterpreneurs who make a contribution to the SL economy.

For further information Contact- Janitha Stephens – 0766848080

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Marmalade sandwich in Queen’s handbag!

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In this period of national mourning, it may seem frivolous to comment on the late Queen’s handbag. After seven decades of selfless service to the nation, fashion is but a footnote to Her Majesty’s glorious reign.And yet her style is something that helped to create the powerful majestic image of Queen Elizabeth II, and which made her instantly recognisable worldwide. A key part of that image, and a constant presence in her working life, was her black Launer handbag.

Launer London was Her Majesty’s handbag maker for more than 50 years and has held the Royal Warrant since 1968. Launer bags are formal and structured, and proved to be the ideal regal accessory for public engagements. Its first royal patronage came from HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the 1950s. Where others might have bought the latest ‘It’ bag, Queen Elizabeth exercised characteristic restraint with her handbags throughout her life, focusing on quality over quantity in her loyalty to Launer.

Her Majesty was known for her love of colour in her working wardrobe, wearing rainbow brights in order to be better seen by the public, but her accessories were always muted. Black mostly, sometimes beige or white in summer, gold or silver in the evening: neutrals that matched with every colour, allowing her to dress with ease. The timeless style of her trusty Traviata top-handle bag suited the Queen’s no-nonsense nature and symbolised her steadfast reign. The late Baroness Thatcher shared the Queen’s love of a strong top handle from classic British labels such as Launer and Asprey. These bags helped promote a look of someone in control. Like Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher’s handbags were such a part of her identity that they have earned their own special place in history and have been described as the former PM’s ‘secret weapon’. One such bag has been exhibited at the V&A alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s red despatch box. Both are artefacts of cultural and historic importance.

It has been said that there was another purpose to the Queen’s handbag on public engagements, namely that she used it as a secret signalling device. According to royal historian Hugo Vickers, Her Majesty would switch the bag from her left arm to her right to signal for an aide to come to her rescue if she tired of the conversation in which she was engaged. If she placed the bag on the table, this was a sign that she wanted to leave. Ever-practical, HM needed a bag that focused on functionality over fashion, choosing styles with slightly longer top handles that comfortably looped over the monarch’s arm, freeing her hands to accept bouquets and greet the public. Even in her final photograph, meeting her 15th prime minister in her sitting room at Balmoral Castle, just two days before her death last week, the Queen’s handbag can be seen on her left arm. Perhaps at this stage it was part armour, part comfort blanket.Even at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II did not lose her ability to surprise. She delighted the public by taking tea with Paddington Bear at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations and finally revealed what she keeps in her handbag: a marmalade sandwich, ‘for later’.

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Cinnamon Grand, Colombo welcomes You to the SEQUEL

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The next best thing in Colombo!

What would you get if you took the decadence of yesterday and paired it with the flavours of right now? Something bold and jazzy or rich and snazzy. Something we’d like to call the next best thing. All this and more at Cinnamon City Hotels to the SEQUEL at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo said a press release.

The release said the SEQUEL is where the old meets new, where charm meets sophistication and having a good time gets a new meaning. Colombo’s latest speakeasy cocktail bar is ready to welcome the discerning guest that is looking for that perfectly curated night.

“The SEQUEL will be a novel addition to Colombo’s nightlife catered to enthralling guests with our performances and showmanship,” said Kamal Munasinghe, Area Vice-President, Cinnamon City Hotels.

What do we mean when we say performance? It means that every little detail is tailored to those who appreciate elegance, and a bespoke experience like no other. Think walking into a vintage space accompanied by the sounds of Sinatra and Fitzgerald inviting you to do it your way or for once in your life. Think of the soul-searching and eclectic mix of Winehouse classics that you can drown your sorrows in.

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