Cargills Sarasaviya Film Awards | Sunday Observer

Cargills Sarasaviya Film Awards

1 July, 2018

The 34th Sarasaviya Film Awards ceremony will be held at the BMICH on August 3, 2018. The event named this year as “Cargills Sarasaviya Film Awards ceremony’ will be dedicated to the doyen of Sinhala cinema and internationally renowned filmmaker, Dr. Lester James Peries.

Nominated for honours will be films screened in 2016 and 2017 which awards will be given under 32 categories.

At a press conference in Colombo to announce the awards ceremony were Lake House (ANCL) Chairman, Krishantha Cooray, Cargills (CT Holdings) Managing Director, Sanjaya Nair, Group Marketing Manager, Malijini Jayathilaka, ANCL General Manager, Abhaya Amaradasa, Sarasaviya Chief Editor, Aruna Gunarathne and film celebrities, Ravindra Randeniya, Sriyani Amarasena, Sabeetha Perera and Damitha Abeyrathne.


Awards will be presented separately for 2016 and 2017. Among the award categories are the best film, best director, best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best screenplay, best cinematography, best editing, best art direction, best make up, best sound, best music, best lyrics, best male playback singer, best female playback singer, best upcoming actor and actress and six more merit awards.

In addition, a special jury award will be given to a debut filmmaker whose film had received the Public Performance Board Certificate but not screened in cinemas during the relevant years. The most popular film award will go to the creation that grossed the highest income. Two Rana Thisara Lifetime Achievement Awards and Ranapala Bodhinagoda Award for film literature will be presented this year. A special award titled, Dr. Lester James Peries Award will also be given.

Editor of the Sarasaviya journal, Aruna Gunarathne spoke about the award ceremony and its history. “This year for the first time in history, the award ceremony is especially dedicated to Dr. Lester James Peries, the father of Sri Lankan cinema. He was the first award winning director when the Sarasaviya Award ceremony was initiated. He has produced and directed many great films,” he said.

Lester James Peries (April 5, 1919 – April 29, 2018) was a veteran Sri Lankan film director, screenwriter, and film producer. Peries was involved in over 28 films since 1949, which included short films and documentaries. He received critical acclaim for directing Rekhava, Gamperaliya, Nidhanaya, Golu Hadawatha, Kaliyugaya, Avaragira and Yuganthaya. His movie Wekande Walauwa, starring Ravindra Randeniya and Malini Fonseka, was Sri Lanka’s first ever submission for the Academy Awards and the film Nidhanaya was included among the top 100 films of the century, by the Cinémathèque Française.

Peries’ films often deal with Sri Lankan family life in rural settings and conflicted characters. He helped create an authentic expression of Sinhala Cinema.

The Oscars

“Sarasaviya Awards is an award bestowed on distinguished individuals involved with the Sinhala cinema, each year, by the Sarasaviya weekly newspaper in collaboration with the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (Lake House) in recognition of the contributions by them to the Sri Lankan Film Industry.

The Sarasaviya ceremony is one of the oldest film events in Sri Lanka. The awards were first introduced in 1964.The Sarasaviya Awards have often been referred to as the Sinhala Cinema industry’s equivalent to The Oscars,” said Gunarathne.

Sarasaviya film awards ceremony began in 1964 at a time when the local cinema was trying to shed its South Indian orientation and establish an indigenous identity.

There was no need to go to India to make films and the era of Indian artistes too had ended.

The first Sarasaviya film festival was held on May 9, 1964 at the Asoka Cinema Hall, Colombo, 17 years after the first Sinhala film was screened. By then, a series of good Sinhala films such as, Podi Putha, Rekhawa, Sandeshaya, Ranmuthuduwa, Kurulubedda, Sikurutharuwa and Gamperaliya had appeared on the screen. Yet, the mainstream consisted of simulations of Indian productions.

The year 1960 is seen as the beginning of the golden era of Sinhala cinema. The first Sarasaviya Awards Festival had as entries films screened from 1960 to 1963.

The best film, best director, best script-writer, best actor and best actress were honoured that day. Gampereliya was regarded as the best film, for which its producer Anton Wickremasinghe received the award.

Lester James Peries and Regi Siriwardena won the awards for best director and best script-writer, respectively, and that too for Gamperaliya. D.R. Nanayakkara was awarded the best actor title for his performance in Sikuru Tharuwa, another popular film in the 1964 film festival.

The best actress award was received by Punya Heendeniya for her performance in Gamperaliya.


Cargills (as the main sponsor) and Sarasaviya tie-up signifies the bond between the two reputed organizations that have been in existence in the country for more than a century. The two organizations have passionately involved themselves in the movie industries too in terms of film production and film promotion, bringing people together through entertainment.

One of the first and oldest movie production companies in Sri Lanka, Ceylon Theatres has been closely associated with Sri Lankan cinema and the entertainment industry for over 85 years.

Albert A. Page, who took over the reins of Ceylon Theatres was positive of its purpose; to entertain the people. He truly believed that good entertainment united people and could bridge the gap between different cultures and regions. When the company embarked on the production of Sinhala films in 1945, there were no adequate facilities for filmmaking within the country.

Therefore, they were forced to produce them in neighbouring countries with a view to controlling costs. By 1959, the company had laid plans to instal a studio in Ceylon and Ceylon Studios was thereafter incorporated in 1956. Albert A. Page takes pride in the fact that they were instrumental in stopping remittances to India for film production. The first cinema in Sri Lanka, in what was then Ceylon, was called Empire Theatre, situated on the site where Regal Theatre stands today, in Colombo. On April 7, 1947 the company released its first national film titled, ‘Asokamala.’

It was a landmark film which is talked about even today. During the years that followed, Ceylon Theatres produced several more notable films, namely, ‘Nidhanaya’, ’Ada Rae’, ’Kusumalatha’ and ‘Akkara Paha.’Ceylon Theatres continued to produce films which progressively encouraged the production of more local films and helped upgrade local expertise in film production techniques.

Ceylon Theatres thus laid the foundation for the present day film industry, while its pioneering work paved the way for many others. Later in 1981, Ceylon Theatres diversified its portfolio and acquired Millers Ltd. and Cargills (Ceylon) Ltd.

The vision of Ceylon Theatres is closely intertwined with that of Cargills who is also a patron of the arts; to positively touch the lives of people in all parts of the country in a spirit of unity in 1983.

The company, together with its subsidiaries and associates promoted CT Land Development Ltd. for the creation of Majestic City where Majestic Cinema once stood. Today Majestic City houses the first Cineplex in Sri Lanka.

Although Ceylon Theatres does not produce movies today, the company boasts the largest number of movie screens in the country, with a strong presence across the island. This includes 15 screens in Colombo, Jaffna, Kandy, Negombo, Gampaha and Nuwara Eliya, with plans for 21 new screens across eight locations.