28th death anniversary of Vijaya Kumaratunga fell on February 16: Vijaya among the colossi to a cinematic artistry | Sunday Observer

28th death anniversary of Vijaya Kumaratunga fell on February 16: Vijaya among the colossi to a cinematic artistry

26 February, 2017

The 28th death anniversary of the late Vijaya Kumaratunga fell on February 16th. The memory of the late Vijaya Kumaratunga is etched in the hearts of Sri Lankan fans as an able cinematic actor and a singer. Vijaya was a great humanist who acted in films which helped him to nurture a mature political vision and made himself inclusive as a colossi in cinematic artistry. Vijaya had his cinematic debut as a film star in Sugathapala Senarath Yapa’s film ‘Hanthane Kathawa’. It made a generous contribution towards the betterment of the cinema in Sri Lanka for nearly two decades. The late Kumaratunga played an exceptional role in the social, economic, cultural and political mainstream of this country as an eminent film artiste and a political thinker.

He was born and baptised in Seeduwa as a Roman Catholic who was a devout churchgoer and later on he was educated at St.Benedict’s College, Colombo. Here he grabed the attention of all and was the cynosure as he took part in all Sinhala literary, dramatic and singing competitions more than in intellectual pursuits. In the decade of the sixties as a heartthrob and a handsome young man he faced the doubt of direction either to be a probationary sub inspector of Police or an actor in films. After the success of the film ‘Hantane Kathawa’, Vijaya’s winsome smile and trimmed hairstyle shot him into prominence and he rose from cinematic obscurity to unprecedented fame and made a name for himself. Soon he was fortunate to sign for 13 new films due to sheer born talents that were inherent in himself. In the film ‘Thushara’ of Yasapalitha Nanayakkara, Vijaya was competent enough to break box office records of the 1970 decade. When our country was flooded with imported films with the introduction of television, cassettes, and video, it had a adverse impact on our local Sinhala cinema. This resulted in the decline of the Sinhala film industry and those numbers visiting the cinema grew less.

Vijaya acted in more than 110 films before his demise. He is created with reviving the Sinhala cinema. ‘Nawatha Hamuwemu’ although a Sinhala film with a Hindi background was an impetus to that revival. Vijaya contributed towards box office films such as ‘Peralikarayo’, Jayasikurui, Ranaderana, Jaya Apatai, Sakvithi Suwaya, Obatai Priye Adare, Geethika, Anjana Yasaissuru, Mihidum Sihina, Rajawedakaraya and Mamai Raja. In his cinematic career as an actor he stood for justice and fairplay and never lost his head. Vijaya Kumaratunga also acted in twenty three artistic films in the 1980s such as ‘Ketapathaka Chaya, Ganga Addara, Kawuluwa, Mahagedara and Madu Samaya.

His futuristic vision made him enter politics by joining the LSSP in the 1970 decade. By 1977 he entered politics by joining the SLFP. As Katana SLFP organiser he contested the 1977 general elections and gave an able leadership to the SLFP in Katana. He worked tirelessly to safeguard the SLFP from dissident forces when it faced a crisis following Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s deprivation of civic rights. Vijaya received a massive mandate when he contested the Mahara by election in 1982. But the opportunity he got to enter Parliament was fruitless. When he subsequently contested the Minneriya by election in 1986 he came second by even beating the SLFP candidate.

Vijaya Kumaratunga signed to perform free in about 13 films. He had the trait of humility in his character. From 1982 onwards he was adjudged the most popular actor in quick succession by wining the ‘Sarasaviya’ award. When he posthumously won the award for the best actor for his role in the ‘Kedapathaka Chaya’ film he was not in the world of the living. His main role in the film ‘The life of Lord Jesus Christ’ was in a class by itself. In eulogy it was represented in Vijaya that if he was born in Hollywood he would have been undoubtedly acclaimed as the most popular actor in the world.

The most significant feature in Vijaya’s active political life was the setting up of his Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya in 1984. the formation of the SLMP in league with longstanding SLFPers like late T.B. Illangarathna was a significant development when left forces joined the SLFP and left its government at various intervals. Vijaya laid the foundation towards bringing them to a single platform.

The film in which Wijaya Kumaratunga appeared to have remained popular. Among them are ‘Village in the jungle’ (an anti colonial picture), Heaven is near, younger Brother, By the roadside, and the film of Jesus Christ. Vijaya visited the Soviet Union in 1985 when Moscow was the host to the World Youth festival. He presented himself to Radio Moscow and took part in broadcasting the Sinhala program to Sri Lanka.

Among the few of the colossi, his cinematic artistry is evident in almost all his films which crowned him with both national and international acclaim. Sadly this much acclaimed actor and politician was murdered on February 16th 1989, depriving the cinematic and political fraternity of this country an able talented actor and a much popular politician.

- Miran Perera.