Tony the Titan : Stenographer to Stardom
For last five decades Tony Ranasinghe has excelled
as an actor-on stage, on screen as well as the small screen. Tony
showed his talent as a writer when he did the film script of 'Koti
Waligaya' following up with the Sinhala version of 'Twelfth Night',
'Merchant of Venice' and 'Julius Caesar for the stage and many scripts
for the miniscreen.
He has shows that he is a gifted author and translator
with the Sinhala version of Indian journalist Bunny Reuben's 'Dilip
Kumar-The Definitive Biography'.
TV Times visiting Tony the titan to speak about
his journey in to the stardom met with the words "the noble
profession of acting can not be taught but was a gift from God".
Second in the family of eight Ranasinghe Hettiarachchige
Ignatius Tony Ranasinghe was brought up by his aunt and uncle who
had no children. They lived just a stone's throw away in Modera.
‘My parents were devout Catholics. They
led the church choir and they attended daily masses. I as a young
churchgoer was an altar boy then," says Tony reminiscing his
childhood. "At one point I hoped to join a seminary and become
a priest, but later gave up the idea realizing that I was not suitable’.
Tony studied at De LaSalle College, Modera. During this time he
was crazy at watching movies first Hindi and then Cowboy film. Leaving
College, Tony started life as a public servant attached to the Ministry
of Information. Asked as to who influenced him to join the movies,
Tony said it was his brother Ralex Ranasinghe who was a staff photographer
for the then Daily Mirror newspaper. "He was always behind
me encouraging and insisting that I should take up acting."
"A young stenographer attached to the Ministry
of Information, the movie bug bit me severely making me crazy to
join the film scene" said Tony recalling his entry to cinema.
But soon this young man realised making an appearance
in the big screen was not an easy task. Tony Ranasinghe's first
role was a lead in Sirisena Wimalaweera's 'Punchi Amma' in 1957.
But the film was not completed. His second attempt to act in 'Rodi
Kella' too became a failure.
‘So my two attempts in cinema failed and
what do you think Putha, a young man with a driving ambition would
do next?," questioned the experienced actor.
"I went to Lester James Peries, who was then
doing 'Gamperaliya' but returned empty handed as the casting was
Then Ranasinghe received an invitation to join
the stage by well-known dramatist Sugathapala de Silva, who was
getting ready for his 'Bodingkarayo'. It was this drama that gave
Tony the much needed boost to join the cinema.
"One day when we were practicing the play
Lester walked in. Seeing us rehearsing the play Lester offered me
the role of Baladasa in Gamperaliya" Since then Tony's journey
in Sri Lankan cinema was history.
Film offers started coming on his way and Tony
then a young family man had to give up his permanent job as a government
servant, which was a real risk then. "Helping me to make that
decision while assuring me to find my future with films the people
who gave great gesture of encouragement were Dr. Peries and Gamini
Fonseka," says Tony with gratitude.
"There isn't anything called small roles
and big roles in cinema. And every film is important as long as
it carries a good, simple, straightforward story without crossword
puzzles," says Tony whose acting talent has been recognized
for the last fifty years.
It was not only obtaining acting roles but also
in his attempts at script writing for Tony was awarded began with
repeated failures. On the invitation of Gamini Fonseka the script
he wrote for 'Angulimala' based on the Jathaka story and this followed
a script for "Sayuru Thera". The film made on these script
was never completed.
The thrust for writing became a success when Tony
Ranasinghe wrote the scripts for Gamini Fonseka's "Koti Waligaya".
This was followed by Dr. Lester James Peries' 'Avaragira', D. B.,
Nihalsinghe's 'Kelimadala', Sumithra Peris's 'Duwata Mawaka Misa',
Sudath Devapriya's 'Tharanaya' and Prasanna Vithanage's internationally
acclaimed direction "Pawuru Walalu".
"The unique feature of these films was that
almost in all the films the lead female roles received awards in
the festival both locally and internationally," the award winning
script writer said in a confident tone.
"Was their any amusing memories in your long
and colourful journey?" I asked. "The whole of my life
in movies had been one of amusing scenes. I was a dead rope king
then. Except for a few sad incidents I had a smooth sailing in a
stormy sea," said Tony. "I had the opportunity in playing
along with well-known names in Sri Lankan cinema like Rukmani Devi,
Clarice de Silva, Rita Ratnayake, Jeewarani, Sandaya Kumari and
As I was leaving his residence at Diyawanna
Udyanaya Mawatha, Pelawatta, this giant of the Sinhala cinema said
‘I personally happy that liquor and smoking are to be banned,
These are vices that ruin your life. I have wasted lot of time which
I should have used for reading and studying more. My advice to the
younger generation is to read and study in any field you are involved
‘Tony Ranga Soba’, an evening
to felicitate veteran actor Tony Ranasinghe's fifty years
in acting and to celebrate his 70th birthday, will be held
at 6.30 pm on July 31 at BMICH.
The evening will bring back memories of golden era of Sri
Lankan cinema where Tony starred along with many leading players
of yesteryear. Film songs in which Tony made his performances
will be enacted by the younger generation of Sri Lankan cinema
and the dancers of Budhawatte Dancing Academy will join the
A special song dedicated to Tony Ranasinghe will be sung
and performed at this evening.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa will deliver a speech honouring
Tony for his service to the stage, cinema and the miniscreen
over last fifty years.
Another important event this evening will be the release
of 'Tony Nam Ohu', a book written on the
life of this gifted actor which highlights the special features
in Tony's stage and cinema performance. The book contains
rare pictures of Tony.
‘Tony Ranga Soba' will be telecast at 10 .10
pm on Rupavahini the same night.