Mahendra Perera: The actor who came from “Sakwithi Suwaya” | Sunday Observer

Mahendra Perera: The actor who came from “Sakwithi Suwaya”

26 September, 2021

Veteran actor Mahendra perera, known for both comedic and complex roles is a versatile actor. Born on August 17, 1956, he had his education at Thurstan College, Colombo. Mahendra who had a growing interest in music and art started to learn violin, Tabla and Xylophone under the guidance of a music teacher named Yogananda Wijesundara.

After his school life, he joined a rock band in Mt. Lavinia and worked as a guitarist. Later Mahendra joined the Lionel Wendt Theatre Workshop established by the veteran dramatist Dhamma Jagoda. He wanted to explore many salient areas under different Gurus. That is why his mind was bent towards following a drama course conducted by Dr. Soloman Fonseka to learn the theatrical techniques introduced by the Russian playwright Konstain Stanislavsky. Mahendra improved his skills in the art of mime under Dr. Solomon Fonseka.

His first stage drama was “ Ahimi Jeevithaya.” After “ Ahimi Jeewitha”, we could enjoy his mind blowing performances in many stage dramas such as “Julius Caesar”, “Gimhane Reyaka Sihinayak” produced by Tony Ranasinghe and “Yaksha Gamanaya.” He met Arisen Ahubudu who introduced him to veteran actor Dr. Gamini Fonseka. It is Gamini Fonseka who gave a cut and polish to this gem Mahendra. He was given an opportunity to play the role of Berty Malli in Gamini’s film “Sakvithi Suwaya.” As mentioned by Mahendra perera, there are many lessons that he learned from Dr. Gamini Fonseka. “I can remember, Gamini sir said , ‘ Live as a good person in the society.’ Gamini sir inspired me to play different roles with respect and dignity,” Mahendra said.

Current situation

Our good art culture is being eroded by mega teledramas and Sinhala dubbed foreign teledramas which revolve around interminable plots and crude themes.

When asked about the current situation, actor Perera said, “In those days we had to get the script approved. It was a long process. Now we don’t have a good system to monitor tele dramas and films. Artistes don’t have a respect for their professions. At present teledramas and films are found to be going off track.” True that foreign teledramas dubbed in Sinhala can deteriorate people’s minds. It is because such tele dramas have been based on crude ideas. Another prevailing issue is that we can’t expect that there will emerge good actors and actresses as a result of such teledramas. “I think that Sinhala dubbed foreign teledramas don’t inspire any upcoming artistes to come up with new ideas. We can’t anticipate that this system will produce talented actors.”

“In many countries such as India, China, Japan and America, there can be found standard theatre halls and drama schools. Regrettably in Sri Lanka, we cannot find standard drama schools. When I entered the field of films, there are workshops conducted by actor trainers from different countries such as German. Veteran dramatist Dhamma Jagoda had established the Lionel Wendt Ranga Shilpa Shalika.

Many renowned artistes such as Dr. Ravindra Randeniya, Jayantha Ranawaka, Wasantha Wittachchi had emerged thanks to the Ranga Shilpa Shalika. We feel that there prevails an irrepressible vacuum in the good art culture. There are no such standard drama schools and workshops now. But kaushalya Fernando and Sampath Jayaweera can be seen making a great effort to uphold the good drama culture. That is a positive move. But we can’t clap with one hand. We want the government to be involved in this task,” Mahendra said.

His acting

The factors which contribute to the success of his performances are delivery of his dialogues and mood and his voice modulation. He is an actor who does the maximum justice to comedic roles and complex roles. For example, we had a belly laugh by watching his performances in “ Bahu Buuthayo “ and “Kosthapal Punyasoma.” On the contrary, the characters such as “ Nimal” in Diya Suliya teledrama, Giri Goris in Kadulla teledrama, Sammy in Gini Avi Saha Gini Keli reveal the wide range of his acting. What propelled his rise to the stardom is the fact that he has a great respect for all his characters.

When asked his favourite character, his response was “ I can’t point out one character because all the characters that I portrayed are like my own children.” Gini Avi Saha Gini Keli directed by Udayakantha Warnakulasuriya is a Sri Lankan epic crime film based on a novel penned by Anura Horatious.

The film revolves around the demise of a netherworld leader named Padmasiri (Jackson Anthony.). Mahawaththa lokaya ( Sriyantha Mendis) is another drug tsar selling Heroin in Padme’s village. Sammy ( Mahendra perera ) has been brought out as the assistant leader of the same gang. But in the teledrama “Gini Avi Saha Gini Keli” directed by Saranga Mendis , telecast on Derana, Mahendra can be seen playing the role of ‘ Mahawatte Lokaya.’

“If you move , I will shoot you.” He delivered these lines in one sequence. The same actor who did the character of Kosthapal Punyasoma, played the role of ‘Lokaya’ one of a netherworld leaders. In “ Diya Suliya” directed by Udayakantha Warnakulasuriya, Sarojani (Nilmini) hails from a rural village and faces many difficulties due to her father’s misdemeanors and her mother’s arrogance. Sarojani falls in love with Parakrama (Palitha) despite her parents’ objection.

In this teleplay, Mahendra plays the role of Nimal. He is an opportunist exploiting Sarojani’s innocence and helplessness. Finally, Nimal (Mahendra) abandons Sarojani when she becomes permanently disabled. Mahendra plays this role (Nimal) so carefully that audience feels his opportunism and selfishness. Compared with other characters in the teleplay, Nimal neither delivers long dialogues nor makes movements, but he spontaneously portrays his inner thoughts and emotions through his expressions and voice modulation. Through his little movements and delivery of his expressions, he portrays his selfishness and jealousy.

Another good example is Kadulla teledrama directed by veteran director Dr. Dharmasena Pathiraja. It is regarded as a turning point in the Sri Lankan teledrama history because at the time when it was telecast, most teledrama directors and artistes had not known that teledramas can encompass deep sociocultural issues.

The music for this teleplay is by veteran musician Dr. Premasiri Kemadasa. The script was penned by Thilak Jayarathna. Characters are played by Jackson Anthony, Wasanthi Chathurani, Cyril wickramage , Priya Ranasinghe , Cletus Mendis , Mangala karunarathna , Yashodha Wimaladharma, Padmini Divithuragama, Luxman Mendis, Mahendra Perera, W. Jayasiri and Wijerathna Warakagoda.

Giri Goris is played by Mahendra perera. Anyone can see from the roles Mahendra was chosen for, he was cast in different moulds. Tthat is the indelible icon he had marked in his cinema journey. Mahendra won the Sarasaviya Award for the Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Ran Diya Dahara and the presidential film award for the Best Supporting Actor for Asani Warsha.

His message

“To be honest, before entering the field of Cinema and teledrama, it is mandatory to learn what acting is. Without a proper training and a proper knowledge, it is impossible to portray a character. We have to forget ourselves and get into the character,” Perera said. Actor Mahendra Perera who came from “Sakvithi Suwaya” has become an indelible icon.