‘The Newspaper’ brings cinema glory to Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

‘The Newspaper’ brings cinema glory to Sri Lanka

18 September, 2022
Media Minster Dr. Bandula Gunawardena  presents the award to the two Actors.
Media Minster Dr. Bandula Gunawardena presents the award to the two Actors.

Sri Lanka has achieved many victories that brought glory to the country in recent days including the awards won by ‘The Newspaper’ film. The main actors of the film, Sarath Kotalawala and Kumara Thirimadura won the best actor award at Russia’s Kazan film festival recently.

For many years Sri Lanka was battered by a long-drawn battle against terrorism while the people faced direct and indirect effects of it as a result. When terrorists set off bombs, some of those who were responsible were arrested while at other times only those suspected of committing these acts were arrested. Today there is no more a terrorist battle but we continue to experience the horrors of the past through stories connected to it.

The film begins with a newspaper headline which says ‘My brother is not a Tiger!’ in reference to the brother of the character Guna.

Fellow villagers

However, Guna who is differently-able is beaten at the hands of his fellow villagers after a news report is published accusing his brother of carrying out a bomb attack. His mother too faced various forms of harassment. In the end, Guna and his mother become isolated in their own village.

To prove his claim that his brother is not a terrorist, all Guna is left with a torn scrap of the newspaper that carried the report and that too nearly nine years later. The only person supporting Guna is an innocent and uneducated village cattle herder called Luiyya.

Despite his many pleas, the incumbent of the temple and other villagers refuse to help him to correct the news about his brother. Guna leaving the village behind along with Luiyya goes in search of justice for his brother. He steps into a newspaper publisher’s office. While the film builds on this storyline, the film in fact has many angles and stories with deep symbolism. The characters of Guna and Luiyya are portrayed by actors Kumara Thirimadura and Sarath Kotalawala.


To date ‘The Newspaper’ has won eight awards since being released in 2020. The latest of those long lines of awards is the Best Actor award won by Kotalawala and Thirimadura at the 8th Kazan International Muslim Film Festival, one of the world’s leading film festivals held recently in Russia.

The glitzy event was held on September 11 at the Pyramid of Kazan complex. Films that represented the film festivals of Cannes, London and Busan as well as 10 films that won international acclaim in the past two years had been submitted for awards. The award presented to the film was accepted by its producer, Minister of Media, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena.

“My journey in films began with Suddhilage Kathawa in 1982. Later I produced the films Sirimedura and Ayoma. All these films won acclaim and awards. Many years later Sarath Kotalawala, once a student of mine along with Kumara Thirimadura presented me with a script. They had sought my help in finding a producer and director for the film” Gunawardene said.

“Reading the script I said I would produce the film together. I also invited H.D Premasiri and Ravindra Guruge to join the project. They too joined without the expectation of any benefit or profit in return” he said.

Gunawardena says the film was made with the support of many others. “What is significant about the film is that the scriptwriters ended up as the lead actors in the film. I believe no such film has been created anywhere else in the world. The film that has won seven awards was able to win one more in Kazan recently. This is perhaps the highlight of my career as a film producer.” he said.


Award winner, Kumara Thirmadura who played many roles in making the film says he doesn’t like to refer to the award as one won by himself and Kotalawala. However, Thirmadura also expressed his dismay at the situation in the country where award-winning films are not given their due recognition.

“The film won the award on the same day Sri Lanka won the Asia cup in cricket and netball. However, it was not highlighted as sports events were. This is unfortunate” he said.

Thirimadura says the film award has empowered him and it is an honour to the country as it was awarded by a country such as Russia.

Among the awards won by the film is the second best film in Asia award at the Bangalore International Film Festival approved by FIAPF. It also won the best director award at the 23rd Rainbow film award festival in the UK.

It is also significant that the film was nominated for eight awards at the Ceylon International Film Festival held in the US and managed to bag five of them. Here Sarath Kothalawala was awarded as the best actor while Kumara Thirimadura was awarded as the best supporting actor. The Newspaper also won the awards for Best Feature Film, Best Director and Best Music Director at the awards ceremony.

The film is the fourth Sri Lankan film to entere the Kazan film festival that began in 2005.

Kotalwala who created the filming masterpiece said he was overjoyed by the win. “This is not a personal win. The competition was tough in Kazan. That is why this win is significant. We are proud of this achievement” he said.


“The people love and value us but still art of any form is not given its due value in Sri Lanka such as the prominence given to sports. Kumara and I made great sacrifices to make this film” he said.

Kotalawala also expressed his gratitude to his many teachers including Jayalal Rohana and Shelton Payagala. “They gave away their knowledge freely. One cannot be taught to act. It must come from within,” he said, adding that they have studied scientific methods of acting.

Noting that the country is now in turmoil, Kotalawala said some claim history is no longer relevant. “But history is now repeating itself and we have connections to that past. All I know is the art of film and that is how we are portraying this past. Many people supported us in creating this film from the former President to the common man of this country. We see this as teamwork and achievement,” he said.

Kotalawala said that Gunawardena seeing the script had challenged him by asking Kumara and himself to direct the film. “This was in fact a challenge because we had not made films before. But we accepted it and executed it. We are thrilled by this win,” he added.

According to the actor, the film song was written by Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne, and sung by veteran songstress Nanda Malini. “Neither of them charged a dime from us. The actors also acted in the film without being paid. Only their transport costs were covered”, he added.

Ravindra Guruge and H.D Premasiri bore the costs of the film. “We were pleased to support this venture and expected no profit from it. However, we never imagined it would win so many awards. Kumara and Sarath have proved themselves through this film. We wish our best to the film” he said.

Returning with the award on September 15, Gunawardena handed over the award to the actors at the airport in Colombo saying, “Despite bringing this, the real owners of the award are Sarath and Kumara”.