Koombiyo | Sunday Observer


“If you want to be a good actor then you should have excellent reading and interpretation skills. you should be able to use intelligence to research roles and impart that knowledge into your acting to develop more convincing attributes of the character,” says Kalana Gunasekara. Kalana is best known for the role he plays in Koombiyo - Priyantha Maha Ulpathagama in Koombiyo. This week we bring you his story - of how he became an actor, his thoughts on what an actor should possess and issues related to the field of drama and theatre.

Q: How interested were you in taking part in stage dramas when you were a kid? Was it a coincidence that you became an actor or did you always want to be one?

In my childhood I had no idea as to what I wanted to be when I grew up. I got bored in the classroom. I did not actually like studies. So when I was in the seventh grade, I joined Muthuhara Lama Samajaya in school. Then later I got involved in stage dramas. After leaving school I worked with Mr. Premakumara Karunaratne and then with Mr. Dharmappriya Dias. I started liking what I was doing and I enjoyed it. I met a lot of likeminded people. But I had no intention or a goal thinking that I wanted to be an actor one day. I still do not have a goal like that. I am addicted to art. So within that addiction I am working and enjoying what I am doing.

Q: Did your family support your decision when you wanted to take up acting as a career? How was their response?

They were dead against my decision. But it is understandable because in Sri Lanka no parent would try to make their child an actor. Because they have this notion that an artiste is not someone who can earn nor has a social status. It is true. But it is not the fault of the artistes. There is no market for the artistes to reach the level given to other professions. In this county an actor is not someone who is accepted by society. They are just there without any recognition. So my parents also did not like it. Still they are not so happy about it. However after seeing my work, especially Koombiyo, I think they are less unhappy about it.

Normally a lot of artistes come from middle class families. Because they only can invest so much of time in to this kind of a field. They can manage to waste time like that. Poor people cannot invest in this industry in a country like Sri Lanka. They never take this field seriously. They think we are just fooling around and not actually putting a lot of energy, hard work into our creations. For that there has to be some kind of financial support.

Q: There is this notion in society that a person should have the outward appearance which is fit for an actor if he/she is to become one. What are your thoughts on that?

If someone wants to be an actor then it should not be determined by his appearance. For example some people think an actor should be tall, fair and good looking. People do not say that about other professions. They do not say you have to look like this if you want to be a doctor or an engineer. Likewise there are no physical attributes which can determine whether a person can be an actor or not. A lot of good actors are not the ones who have the perfect appearance as society thinks. To be an actor you have to have the talent, the passion, the addiction. This is a subject. It is only in Sri Lanka that they treat artistes like this. An artiste is a person who damages his mental situation for other people. He gets paid for that damage and that is why he gets appreciated or respected. That is why people love actors so much. This is a vast subject. This is a science.

Q: What would be your advice to a teenager who is willing to take up acting as a profession? What should they possess?

Be it any subject, first you have to like it and need to make it a habit. Then it has to turn in to an addiction. So once you are addicted then you will continue to work towards your goals no matter what hurdles comes your way. Art can only be done if you are addicted to it. You can market yourself once your addiction has reached a point where it is of a good quality. If I am making a song then my sole intention should be to do the best I can to make it a good creation to the best of my ability. But if you are thinking about the money you are hoping to make by selling your song then you are doing a business and that is not art.

Q: How valuable is it for a person who wishes to be an actor to have knowledge on what is happening in society?

Reading is one of the most important things one should practice. In Sri Lanka there are very less chances where you actually get to learn drama. My advice would be, get to know and read about other fields which go hand in hand with drama. Those will make you understand more about art and it will help you to get a good insight about things happening around you. Be alert; be sensitive to issues in society. And you can use those in your art and be a better actor. Analyse people, observe how people deal with each other. There is a lot to learn from those. But most importantly you have to have the urge to learn and think.

Q: Koombiyo has become one of the favourites of viewers of all ages. How was that experience? In future, what can the audience expect in the storyline?

“When I was invited to work in Koombiyo I was actually really thrilled, because almost all the people involved in the drama are quite special and have unique talents. The moment I got the script to my hands I realised that this will be a huge learning experience for all of us. We had a lot of homework to do, to research to get into the character and to get to know it better. We had to build our characters little by little.

If you are someone who is watching Koombiyo then expect something unexpected in the storyline. That is going to be something no one could have predicted. There will be a plot twist. And that is the wonder of this drama. The way the writers are writing the story and creating it is unbelievable. I am also a writer and I myself cannot believe the way the story is going to change. It is that surprising. Keep watching Koombiyo to see whether what I say is true or not.