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Milstone in Sri Lankan Film History.

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1976 to 1986 era

When We are discus to 1976 to 1986 era, We can’t  forget 1970 to 1976 movements of sri lanka cinema. Because  National Film Coporation (NFC)  was established on 21st January ,1972. And with that ,a new era of professional film industry dawned. And with that, a new era of professional film industry dawned. Loans were given through NFC to competent film directors/producers after evaluating the quality of the script and the skill, knowledge and competency of the directors, artistes and technicians. Theatres also were ranked based on the standards of the equipment and environment. As a result, the development of the industry was unprecedented and it was measurable.

We are coming from 1976, We are face to very successful developing stages. The admission grew up. And number of cinemas around the country grew. When 1976, two distribution circuits in 1972 were increased to 5 allowing various types of movies to come,and the 5th circuit was dedicated only for artistically high standard movies. Screen time for local films rose from 20% to 58% .

Titus Thotawatte and Lester James Peries were the most prominent artists during this period making artistic films. Thotawatte directed such films as Hara Lakshe, Sihasuna, Sagarika and Mangala which united technical skill with themes that appealed to mainstream audiences. Lester James Peries was more successful in his work in this period, creating some of his most important work despite the restrictions instituted by the government.

Peries’ Nidhanaya, released in 1972, is considered his masterpiece and was adjusted the best Sri Lankan film of the first 50 years in 1997 by a government board. It was praised for its skillful direction by Peries’ and the inspired acting by Gamini and Malini Fonseka. It was another international success for Peries’ winning the Silver Lion of St. Mark award at the Venice International Film Festival and being selected one of the outstanding films of the year, receiving a Diploma, at the London Film Festival. His subsequent works of the period were also critical successes (Desa Nisa and Madol Duwa).

Dharmasena Pathiraja, who had worked on Yapa’s Hanthane Kathawa, emerged with his debut directorial effort, Ahas Gauwa, in 1974. It served to capture the spirit of the dissolute urban youth and provided a major artistic venture for actors like Cyril Wickremage to prosper in. Obeysekera pursued a similar theme in his work Valmathvuvo.

During the 1970s several talents came to the forefront while commercial cinema continued to steal storylines and plots from Indian films. These include Dr. D.B. Nihalsingha with “Weilkatara”- Sri Lanka’s first film in Cinemascope ratio wide screen in 1972;

 Vasantha Obeysekera who followed up his well-received debut Ves Gatho with a slew of successful films culminating with Palangetiyo in 1979. Another major director who stepped forward during this time is Dharmasena Pathiraja who examined the tensions of city youth in such works as Bambaru Awith and Ahas Gauwa. Artist and poet Mahagama Sekera’s sole film Thun Man Handiya is also an important film in Sri Lankan cinema released in 1970. Sumitra Peries, the wife of Lester James Peries, also struck out during the ’70s with work that looked at the conflicting roles of women in society. Her work include Gehenu Lamai and Ganga Addara.

Special movement of Sri Lanka cinema 1976 to 1986.

These are can Chatergarized more items.

There are Politically, Sociologically, Economically, Technology etc.

We are find main movement of these era.

01.       1978 – Economy, the doors open

02.       1979, 7982 – Enter the Television.

03.       1983 – Black July.

First movement on this era. (1976 to 1986)

It is a political and economy movement. it is pressures to Sri Lanka film industry. The county’s economy was transformed from closed to open in 1978. Since that transformation, the economic climate in the country changed drastically. Under theses liberalized conditions, many industries were made open to competition. No significant change however, recorded in cinema industry. Even under the regulation of NFC, the production and exhibition of films were under private ownership. NFC was the sole distributor of the films. This arrangement fitted fairly well with the existing conditions and cinema as an industry, remained a profitable one.

Unlike in other countries, exhibition was guaranteed for every film made in the country. When compared with that of other industries, moneys invested in producing films surely made profits. Under this situation, NFC relaxed the entry barrier by ignoring the ‘qualification’ requirement for potential filmmakers. Almost everybody was permitted and given loans to produce films. Inevitable result was the over-supply of films to the market making 5- 6 year long queues for the release, by 1982. Audience too lost their confidence about the quality of the film that they opted to watch.  

Second movement 1979,1982 – Enter the Television.

Dominance of cinema in the ‘moving image’ industry, was first challenged with the introduction of television to the country in 1979, with the inception of Independent Television Network (ITN) followed by the establishment of Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, with island-wide coverage in 1982. Television influenced greatly to change the life style in the country. It reduced (shrank ) the giant ‘heroic’ image of the protagonist, into a ‘smaller than life’ image in a magic box, because these two channels started screening movies. Exclusivity of cinema started to vanish.

Story was different with the TV. Images in the TV are smaller than life. That is why our actor friends, can’t be a Gamini even though they work-out hard to build their muscles.

Third movement on this era. It is a political and sociology movement.

1983 – Black July.

The communal violence unleashed against Tamils, in July 1983, inflicted a severe damage to the cinema industry. As most of the film industry personals were Tamils, properties that they owned were targeted and devastated during these riots.

 The largest film studio in the country, ( Vijaya Studio – Hendala ) together with the negatives of finished and unfinished films and filming equipment were burnt unto ashes. Theatres owned by Tamils were destroyed, reducing the number of theatres by nearly one third. The outbreak of civil war followed by the political unrest in the South, created a fear culture in the country towards the end of 80’s.

Highlight films of this time duration (1976 to 1986)

Madol Doowa, Walmath Uwwo, Diyamanthi, Duhul Malak, Hulawali,( 1976)

Pembara Madu, Siripala ha Ranmanika, Ege Adara Katawa, Maruwa Samaga Waase ( 1977)

Janaka Saha Manju, Gehenu Lmai, Weera Puran Appu, Bambaru Ewith, Apeksha, Ahasin Polowata, Anupama. (1978)

Samanmalee, Sarungalae, Palangetiyo, Podi Malli, Handaya,(1979)

Siribo Aiya, Sasaraka Pathum, Parithyagaya, Ganga Addara, Karumakkarayo.Hewaneli  Eda Minissu, Hansa Vilak, Paradige, (1980)

Sagarayak  Meda, Aradhana, Beddegama, Soldadu unnahe, Induta Mal Mitak, (1981)

Maha Gedara, Malata Noena Bambaru, Biththi Hathara, (1982)

Dadayama, Kaliyugaya, Hasthi Viyaruwa, Thunveni Yamaya, (1983)

Aadara Geethaya, Sasara Chethana, Wadula, Arunata pera, Maya, Jaya Sikurui, (1984)

Mihidum Salu, Suddilage Kathawa, Wathsala Akka, Obata Diura Kiyannam            , Yuganthaya, (1985)

Peralikarayo, Maldeniye Simiyon, Jaya Apatai,  Koti Waligaya, Pooja, Soora Saradiyel, Dinuma, Aadara Hasuna, (1986)

Leading Director’s of  1976 to 1986 era.

Lester James Peiries, Wasantha Obesekara, Dharmasena Pathiraja, Sugatapala Senetath Yapa, Amaranath Jayatilaka, K.A.W Perera, Titus Totawatta, Sumithra Peiries, Dayananda Gunawardana, Vijaya Dharma Sri, Yasapalita Nanayakkara, H.D Premarathna, Tissa Abesekara, Sunil AriyarathnaGmini Fonseka, Parakrama Silva, Dharmasiri Bandaranayake,

What are the another special incident’s in that era films

Sumitra Peries, Lester James Peries’ wife, made her directorial debut with Gehenu Lamai in 1978. It examined the effects of societal constraints on a rural girl and secured some critical applaud in addition to box office success being selected as an outstanding film of the year to be presented at the London Film Festival and receiving the Jury Award at the Carthage International Film Festival. In her first film appearance, Vasantha Chathurani was praised for her restrained portrayal of the lead role.

Peries’ next film Ganga Addara (1980) captured the imagination of Sri Lankan audiences becoming a huge box office hit and breaking earning records in the country. Critics were also impressed with the film as it went on to capture many of the national awards given to film in the country and was awarded a diploma at the South Asian Film Festival.

Pathiraja was most active in this period directing Eya Dan Loku Lamayek (1977), Bambaru Awith (1978), Ponmani and Soldadu Unnahe (1981). Bambaru Awith is widely held to be his pivotal work dealing with social tensions between fishing folk and city youth. Soldadu Unnahe followed the dreary lives of an old soldier, a prostitute, an alcoholic and a thief intending to cast light on their plight. Pathiraja went into hiatus following the making of the film.

Obeysekera made his most highly regarded film Palengetiyo in 1979. It dealt with the difficulties of urban youth. His next film Dadayama (1983) was also well received. The star of Palengetiyo, Dharmasiri Bandaranayake broke out as a director with his highly stylized debut Hansa Vilak in 1980.

D. B. Nihalsinghe’s Ridi Nimnaya (1983), Maldeniye Simiyon (1986). Maldeniye Simion” won the Silver Peacock for Anoja Weerasinghe at the 11th New Delhi International Film Festival in 1987.

Bambaru Awith 1978 Dr. Dharmasena Pathiraja
Dadayama 1983 Wasantha Obesekara


Palangatiyo 1979 Wasantha Obesekara
Ahasin Polawata 1978 Lester Jemes Pieris
Gahanu Lamai 1978 Sumithra Pieris
Sarungale 1979 Sunil Ariyarathne
Karumakkarayo 1980 Thissa Abesekara
Duhul Malak 1976 Vijaya Dharmasri
Para Dige 1980 Dr. Dharmasena Pathiraja
Ganga Addara 1980 Sumithra Pieris
Hansa Vilak 1980 Dharmasiri Bandaranayake
Maha Gedara 1980 Thissa Abesekara
Thunweni Yamaya 1983 Dharmasiri Bandaranayake
Baddegama 1981 Lester Jemes Pieris
Maldeniye Simiyon 1986 D. B Nihalsinhe
Suddilage Kathawa 1985 Dharmasiri Bandaranayake
Malata Noyena Bambarau 1982 Chandrarathne Mapitigama/ Shelton Payagala

References :

  • Deshapalana Cinamawata Lankawe Anagatayak Tibeda, Gunarathne Deepti Kumara, 14,2013 April  -Saptember.
  • Striya, Sinhala Cinemawa saha Lingikathwaya- Abesekara Sunila, 14,2011-July-Saptember.
  • A New Era of Sri Lankan Cinema mor than a Dream. – Handagama Asoka.
  • Photos, all film web sites.
  • Film corperation information ( Culturel bureau)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Geeth Asanka Saputhanthri
Geeth Asanka Saputhanthri
B-Tech of University of Vocational Technology, Sri Lanka Writer, Cinematographer, Political Analyser, Director and Screenplay Writer


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