From humble beginnings to great heights

Right this minute, the Sinhala film world seems to be in a Palitha Silva grip. His smart disposition, unconventional looks and a smouldering performance has brought him to the top.

He is a versatile actor goes the buzz. I meet him for a interview and he goes on "I don’t want to play the role of a super hero I want to be a good actor and a good director I want to reach my goal of satisfying my filmfans" says the young budding actor.

by Sanjeevi Jayasuriya
He’s the proverbial tortoise, wooing success at his own sweet pace. Palitha Silva’s been around for several years and the big moments have come at long intervals.

"Sihina Deshaya", "Keshima Bhoomiya", "Sudu Kaluwara", "Giniavi Saha Ginikeli", "Maruthaya" earned him critical acclaim but it was "Nohadan Landune", "Swami Bhakthiya", "Sanda Yahanata", which gave him that much needed commercial boost.

When I met him recently for an interview he began "Acting is what I am consciously putting my efforts into", he said. The sheer confidence without any element of conceit is impressive.

He began with a small part in a stage role where he got himself noticed in spite of the presence of stalwarts.

Musing on the success of his career so far, he related what I soon realised as being his life’s credo.

His entry into films was somewhat accidental despite his acting in some stage dramas, was no novice to the camera.

His contributions in stage dramas such as "Sergeant Nallatambi", "Neinage Suduwa" and "Kaspa" are unforgettable.

"I love to act in stage dramas as the audience response is great. There is a lot of scope and range for improvising. I wanted people to sit up and notice my talents not my looks.

Talking about teledramas, they has to go a long way observes Palitha. The producers should be conscious of not only the quantity but also of quality he says.

There are many teledramas to his credit including "Diya Suliya", "Wanawadule Wasanthaya and "Keetaya".

Does he have any dream role in mind which he would like to enact some time in his career.

I can say that I am very selective about my roles. I don’t want to cater to any particular image. I would like to do a variety of roles — comedian, villain etc.

Faced with the situation where academic qualifications hasn’t helped him to be gainfully employed though dispirited is not disappointed. Palitha Silva is trying hard to get a breakthrough in directing too.

The National Film Corporation (NFC) set up with the objective of assisting our local artistes and producers is now a white elephant today.

The lack of a national policy on the film industry has made this situation even worse with the many policy decisions taken by successive govern ments adding fuel to the already spreading fire.

According to Palitha, the with drawal of the loan facility given to film directors by the NFC is a big blow for budding directors.

The reasons for this action according to authorities is the irregular repayment of loans and Treasury not funding the loan scheme.

It is the policy makers who are responsible for the withdrawal of the loan scheme as the film industry is not their private property.

Film makers are now sandwiched between the politicians and changing policies. The re-functioning of this facility would greatly benefit up and coming directors who will be greatly encouraged to help boost the flagging film industry. "It is the first film that matters and thereafter film making would be much easier" says Palitha reminding of the saying that a "journey begins with the first step".

Most of the artistes have sacrificed many things to continue with their acting career. Palitha started his career as a stage actor performing mostly in comedies.

"This is a field I like most to perform. As we get the viewers response instantly unlike in films or teledramas" says Palitha.

The films in which he per formed the main character are ‘Sihina Deshaya’, ‘Kshema Bhoomiya’, ‘Sudu Kaluwara’, ‘Gini Avi Saha Ginikeli’ and ‘Maruthaya’ and commercial films as ‘Nohadan Landune’, ‘Swami Bhakthiya’ ‘Sanda Yahanata’.

‘In a way I prefer to act in films, because it could be viewed even after so many years, unlike stage dramas says Palitha. But, teledramas are the avenue you could reach fast a large audience.

Actors live in the memory of viewers depending on the character they perform.

Palitha now concentrates on directing having acquired certificates after following a course in film appreciation in 1996 in India.

There are drawbacks and lack of finances is one of them.

When asked why he prefers directing to acting, Palitha says that there are many to perform but producers are few.

"The film industry could be uplifted with quality productions and that is what I am trying to do. But the assistance from the state is not forthcoming and it is frustrating".

The film industry belongs to the people who love the world of art, to artistes and viewers. But there is a powerful third force, politicians who try to influence the industry. This is why it is in a pathetic situation today, Palitha lamented. Our film directors are not properly recognised. It is a field that has been neglected. We need a school of acting and films and also a course to educate our directing, which could be considered as the most difficult task in world of arts", says Palitha.

What is the most memorable moment in his life? It is yet to come is his answer — To become a director of the calibre of Lester James Peiris. His hopes for a better tomorrow for the film industry should not be only a dream, but a reality.