Malini ….up above…
Edited by Ashley Ratnavibhushana Dr. Dhammika Dissanayaka
Published by Fast Publishing (Pvt) Ltd. Colombo (2018)
Introduction by Professor Wimal Dissanayake
Malini Fonseka is unquestionably the greatest living film actress in Sri Lanka. Over the past half a century she has succeeded in exercising a profound and far-reaching influence on the cinematic imagination of the country. There is no doubt that she has left an indelible mark on the history of Sri Lankan cinema. To mark this occasion, to celebrate her indubitable achievement, film critics, scholars, commentators, fellow artistes friends and well-wishers have joined hands to produce this lavishly illustrated book. It captures memorably many important facets of Malini Fonseka’s illustrious achievement.
In the introduction I would like to make a few brief observations on the art of cinematic acting for which Malini gained recognition and admiration of the movie-going public. Malini Fonseka began her acting career as a stage actress playing diverse roles in such plays as Noratha Ratha and Akal Vassa. Subsequently she moved on to the domain of cinema. It was in Tissa Liyanasuriya’s Punchi Baba that she first emerged as a film actress. Since then she went on to act in such well-known films as Siripala ha Ranmenika, Dahasak Sithuvili, Adarawanthayo, Baddegama, Siri Medura, Bambaru Avith and Akasa Kusum. It is an incontrovertible fact that as an actress she was versatile, disciplined and was able to carve out new and complex forms of emotional expression.
For purposes of analysis, I would like to divide her acting style into three broad categories. The first is what can be designated as melodramatic acting. She has acted in several films that are animated by vibrant song and dance sequences that remind one of popular Hindi films.in these films she had to forge an acting style that was marked by hyperbole and which forwarded a cinematic poetics of excess.
Second, she practiced what can be designated as realistic style. Anyone familiar with films such as Nidhanaya, Siripala ha Ranmenika, Baddegama, Wekande Walauwa would immediately recognize the distinctive traits of this form of acting. Third, I would like to identify as a mode of acting that characterizes some of her later films such as Akasa Kusum and Bambaru Avith that can be described by the phrase critical acting. The power and challenges posed by this mode of acting can be seen in her roles in films such as Akasa Kusum. Here, Malini Fonseka as an actress is able to secure a critical distance from the character she is playing so as to reflect on the character critically.
One significant facet of Malini Fonseka’s acting is that she is able to strike a balance between naturalness and artifice, spontaneity and constructedness. It is my firm belief that if we are to attain a deeper understanding of Malini Fonseka’s strengths and merits as an actress we need to pay attention to these categories that I have briefly delineated.
In conclusion, I wish to state that this volume is a timely and significant reminder of the profound influence that Malini Fonseka has had on Sri Lankan cinema. The range and diversity of her achievement is well captured in this volume. Here, her trajectories of growth, arcs of development, personal memories and reminiscences, critical analyses of specific films, historical developments are offered as a complex mosaic that is at once inspiring and thought- provoking. The contributors to this Felicitation Volume pay homage, readily and admiringly, to an actress of international stature. Let us wish her a long and productive life ahead of her.