It is rare for a country leader to stroll to the seat of an award-winner at a film festival. In a heartwarming gesture, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, on November 14, at Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, took a nostalgic stroll from his seat to where the veteran songstress Nanda Malini was seated and personally presented her with the Best Singer award 2022 at the Presidential Film Awards 2023.
The Award was presented for her vocal rendition of the theme song of the movie The Newspaper.
Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne received a Presidential Award for the lyrics of Gayathri Kemadasa for music composition and direction. This was the first time a film song was awarded for singing, lyrics, and music direction.
Despite receiving medical treatment, Nanda Malini graced the ceremony to express her gratitude.
State Minister Shantha Bandara and Puraka Saman Athavudahetti were carrying the Award to her when President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who presided over the Awards ceremony, rose from his seat and joined them. Meeting the artiste, he greeted her with the Award.
The President recounted his memories of the first Sarasaviya film festival in 1964. Reflecting on Nanda Malini’s earlier triumphs, he stressed on the enduring impact of her artistry.
“I was a student of fifteen at the time. I remember Nanda Malini winning the best singer award for the first time,” he said.
He had come to watch the Sarasaviya Film Awards with his mother, Nalini Wickresamasinghe a Director at Lake House. Wickremesinghe’s uncle Ranjith Wijewardene was the Chairman of Lake House at that time.
When the President congratulated the artist, the guests rose and honoured the artiste. Many new young artistes in cinema received awards for their talents during that star-studded, colourful Awards ceremony.
“Evaluation of artistes is an investment for the progress of the cinema,” the message written by Mass Media Ministry Secretary Anusha Palpita to the souvenir, must have implied the success to be achieved by the new generation of award-winning young artistes.
Lalith Ratnayake’s directorial debut, “Vishama Bhaga,” garnered over fifty international awards.
The film received four awards at the Asian Cinema Festival in Manila, Philippines. The four awards include the Award for best movie in the region. Titled The Other Half, the movie received awards for best direction, script, and supporting character.
The film The Newspaper was directed by Sarath Kothalawala and Kumara Thirimadura and produced by Dr Bandula Gunawardena, along with Ravindra Guruge and H.D Premasiri. The film, since being released in 2020, won awards at the 23rd Rainbow Film Festival held in London, the 18th Kazan International Musling Film Festival, one of the world’s leading film festivals held recently in Russia, and the 13th Bengaluru International Film Festival in India. Sarath Kothalawala and Kumara Thirimadura also bagged the best director and actor awards for The Newspaper at the Kazan Film Festival.
Film director Chandran Ratnam, who made Sri Lanka’s mark in international cinema, received a Presidential cinema award. Cyril Wickramage received the Best Character Actor award, while Suvineetha Weerasinghe bagged the Swarnasinghe award for acting.
The jury of Presidential Film Awards (2023) included Dr. Sharmal Wijewardene, Buddhadasa Galappatti, Piyal Kariyawasam, Dr. Hansamala Ritigahapola, Chatura Jayathilaka, Deepthi Kumara Gunaratne and Ranga Dasanayake.
Breaking new ground, Cabinet Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena received the Best Producer award for The Newspaper, marking the first time a Cabinet minister has been honored at the Presidential Film Awards. Dr. Gunawardena’s lifelong commitment to cinema was celebrated with his previous producer awards for Suddilage Kathawa (1985) and Sirimadura (1990). Transport, Highways, and Mass Media Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena received the Award with the movie’s co-producers, H. D. With Preramasiri and Ravindra Guruge.
The Presidential Cinema Awards ceremony commenced with three bells ringing as a movie would commence in the olden days in a cinema, reminiscing about the humble beginnings of Sri Lanka’s cinematic culture with old film comedy songs, love songs and musical performances, and foreign films that were shot in Sri Lanka.
President Wickremesinghe presented the prominent film awards. He congratulated Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, saying that cinema is a part of Dr. Gunawardena’s life.
Sri Lanka National Film Corporation Chairman lawyer Deepal Chandraratne said that the Awards created a festival of arts with a rain of stars (Tharu Waruna).