“There will never be another Tony Ranasinghe” | Sunday Observer

“There will never be another Tony Ranasinghe”

21 August, 2022

“Tony Ranasinghe is one of few actors in our country who uses facial expressions in whatever role he plays in the most natural way.”Veteran dramatist Sugathapala de Silva once said thus.

Most veteran actors and actresses who shaped, rebuilt and enriched our Sinhala cinema are not among the living now.

We still love to recall the fragrance of that golden era. This piece of writing is about such a multifaceted veteran artiste, debonair actor Tony Ranasinghe who is regarded as one of the three greatest in the Sinhala cinema.

Sadly, we have lost all of them. Born on July 31, 1937 in Modera, Ranasinghe Hettiarachchilage Ignatius Anthony de Silva was the second in the family of eight siblings.

Winding the clock back to his school days, he had his education at St. Anthony’s College, Wattala and De La Salle College, Colombo.

During his school days, friends used to call him Anta because he was better known as Anthony.

Being a shy student, he did not act in any school drama but was a voracious reader. Perhaps, that is why he was enamoured of being a writer. On one hand , he had an enthusiasm in cricket as well.

As time passed, in Tony’s mind, the seed of being an actor began to grow. One of his brothers named Ralex supported him to achieve his goal. Ralex had a close relationship with veteran dramatist Sugathapala De Silva’s drama group Apey Kattiya. Unexpectedly, at that time Sugathapala was writing the script for a stage play titled ‘Boarding Karayo’.

Ralex gave Tony an opportunity to act in the play. Even at that time Ralex had changed his name(Ralex de Silva) to Ralex Ranasinghe. Therefore, he might have felt that his brother Tony would be able to make a name for himself in acting life under a new name. Ralex persuaded Tony to change his name (Anthony de Silva) to Tony Ranasinghe. That is how he came to be known as Tony Ranasinghe.

Dr. Lester’s Gam Peraliya

Undoubtedly, the Gam Peraliya film directed by Dr. Lester James Peries became a turning point in Tony’s acting life. When Tony heard that Dr. Lester was looking for new actors for his film Gamperaliya based on Martin Wickremesinghe’s novel, he together with his friend Arthur Amarasena (Sriyani Amarasena’s husband) went for the interview.

Unfortunately, both of them were too late because Dr. Lester had chosen the actors. Tony’s sky-high hopes might have shattered into pieces. Wickrema Bogoda who had been selected for Gam Peraliya had invited Dr. Lester, Sumitra and Gamini to see the play Bodim Karayo in which Tony too was playing a role.

Impressed and bewitched by their performances Dr. Lester James Peries decided to select some of artistes of the Apey Kattiya drama group for minor roles in Gam Peraliya. Eventually, Tony got an opportunity to act in Gam Peraliya. Dr. Lester had cast him in his films such as Delowak Athara and Ran Salu after Gam Peraliya. In Delowak Athara Tony plays the main role of Nissanka.

Facial expressions

As noted by Sugathapala de Silva , what makes Tony unique is his natural facial expressions with which we can empathise. We feel the seriousness of Nissanka’s secret through his facial expressions. In Ran Salu the main role of Cyril played by Tony is a womaniser who impregnated Sarojani (Anula Karunatilleke) and left her shattered and hopeless. Surprisingly, in Hanthane Kathawa Sugathapala Senarath Yapa cast Tony as an innocent lover brimming with pure feelings.

Apart from these films, with a career spanning more than 40 years, he has acted in 115 films. As an author, Tony Ranasinghe has authored many books such as Adaraneeya Ayra, Jogi Hamarai, Doloswana Rathriya, Haemadama Oba Mage, Mata Kawuruth Adare Na.

Audiences have seen him not only on the silver screen but also on the small screen and in stage plays such as Bodim Karayo, Thattu Gewal, Waguru Bima, Virupi Muhuna, Harima Badu Hayak, Julius Caesar and Veniciye Velenda.

Sadly, that era is no more. Our much loved actor Tony Ranasinghe departed from our midst on June 16 2015. “I tremendously enjoyed watching Tony Aiya on screen. I find him to be the most romantic lover we have ever seen in our films. There will never be another Tony.” To be honest, as noted by the Queen of Sinhala Cinema Malini Fonseka, there will never be another Tony Ranasinghe again.