In conversation with upcoming actress Dinara Punchihewa | Sunday Observer

In conversation with upcoming actress Dinara Punchihewa

29 January, 2023

Prasanna Vithanage’s latest cinematic masterpiece ‘Gaadi- Children of the Sun’, co-produced as a Sri Lankan-Indian joint production by H.D. Premasiri, Sandya Salgado for Film Island, opened in cinemas recently.

The electrifying storyline together with the incredible performances stand out as this cinematic journey takes to the screen. Together with Sajitha Anthony and veteran actors Shyam Fernando and Ravindra Randeniya, Dinara Punchihewa makes her debut in film through ‘Gaadi’.

Dinara Punchihewa, studied at Ladies’ College, Colombo and moved to England to pursue her higher education in Theatre and Drama where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Queen Mary University of London in 2016.

Since then, she has been acting in theatre in Colombo, Mumbai and London. She directed and acted in her short film ‘Maala’ in 2018 and also worked as a production assistant for Season 2 of the British TV series ‘The Good Karma Hospital’. She also completed a course in Method Acting at the Jeff Goldberg Studio in Mumbai as well.

It is through ‘Maala’, she was discovered by director Prasanna Vithanage and was cast in the lead role in his latest film ‘Gaadi - Children of the Sun’. This movie premiered at Busan International Film Festival in 2019 and entered the list of “100 Asian films not to be missed for 2019”.

Thereafter she went on to star in the movies, ‘Saho’ directed by Professor Ariyrathna Athugala, ‘Asu’ directed by Sanjeewa Pushpakumara which premiered at Tokyo International Film Festival 2021 and ‘Peacock Lament’ also directed by Sanjeewa Pushpakumara. She also starred in an Indian short film named ‘Raksa’ directed by Shubhalekha in 2019 and became a cast member in season 4 of ITV’s British TV series ‘The Good Karma Hospital’.

Dinara is also a part of non-profit organisation called ‘Punchi Actors’ together with a few like-minded volunteers and conducts performing art workshops for young children.

We reached out to Dinara to talk about her dreams, inspirations and what makes her tick and here’s what we found out;

Q: What was your experience with ‘Gaadi’?

A: ‘Gaadi’ was a great opportunity for me. We equipped all the required skills before we dived into the film. ‘Gaadi’ was a movie that was created or rather birthed in the great mind of Prassana Vithanage in 1991 and I wasn’t even born then. I consider myself to be privileged to be able to be a part of it. It was in fact a magical experience.

We had eight months of rehearsal and then 3 months of shooting. We were shooting in the jungle for days and moving from different locations in the country, the cast worked extremely hard and everyone was so understanding.

Q: How did you take to your role, ‘Tikkiri’ in Gaadi?

A: My character was this very strong willed, challenging person and I felt Tikkiri in my heart. I felt myself becoming her as the shooting proceeded. I was given a lot of creative freedom to make her my own and I greatly appreciate this. My director was wonderful, he guided me to be the best I can and it was just a surreal experience.

Q: What was your favourite thing about being on set?

A: Every day was different. I loved the different locations, the wonderful support and also the food on set. I am a big fan of Sri Lankan food, so I enjoyed it too much.

Q: Let us tell the audience why they should see the film?

A: ‘Gaadi’ is a cinematic masterpiece that was created as an eye-opener on social issues that divide people. It may be a historical drama however, these social issues remain the divide among today as they did then. So it is a wonderful portrayal of these issues. Further we have worked so hard on this movie and simply watch and show your support.

Q: Tell us things you have learnt in your career as an actress?

A: I have learnt that hard work pays off and that a good script goes a long way and one of the main things I learnt, while filming with Prasana Vithanage is that, in acting emotions can be evoked through your eyes. He gives a lot of prominence to actors’ eyes in his films and it makes it so much more emotional and heartfelt.

Q: What is it about movies that makes you fall in love with them?

A: As an actor, I like that movies allow me to be anything or anyone I want. I can be a doctor, a mother, a firefighter, literally anyone I want. In fact the most important thing about movies is a good gripping script and after that everything else will follow, like good direction and acting.

Q: Tell us about the support and reception of your work from your family and friends?

A: The support was overwhelming, especially from my parents. My parents are both professionals and so is everyone else in my family. When I chose my career, there were a lot of opinions thrown my way, a lot of people did not have confidence in what I wanted to do and a lot didn’t understand it, but my family stood by my side. They wanted me to do what I wanted to do and what I was passionate about. It was so important to me that I had their blessing, it helped me succeed.

Q: Are there any other directors you would like to work with?

A: I have worked with Sanjeewa Pushpakumara after ‘Gaadi’ and I enjoyed it very much. I appreciate the work of a good director and a good script. So if I am provided a good script, I will consider taking up a project.

Q: What is new this year?

A: I am working on a few projects that I am excited about, let’s see how they pan out. I am working on a project in India as well.