Face2Face with Nuwan Bulathgama

by Tilak S. Fernando

Nuwan Bulathgama appeared on Sri Lanka television screens very recently through Sriyani Amarasena's second teledrama/film produced in London. Even prior to its telecast on Rupavahini Nuwan managed to enter the fast lane of his new found ambition/career by not only acting in teledrama but by becoming a producer too. He intends to spread his wings far and wide in this field in the near future in a big way. Having embarked on medical studies at the beginning, providence has changed his course of direction in life completely He says his life is full of coincidences - up to the latest ideas and opportunities that have virtually fallen on his lap! He hails from a prominent 'guru' family in Kegalle, which has earned a reputation of being involved in Arts, Journalism, and drama. Being the only son in the family, Nuwan has been blessed with all the hereditary talents, which had been latent for too long and only now they have started to unfold in London. Having acted in his own production as a Buddhist monk in " Hengimuttam" last year in Sri Lanka, he feels and believes that film producers should not endeavour to tempt real Buddhist monks into cinematic roles wherever a film script dictates such a role and such a role should always be given to a layman in yellow robes as otherwise it might be seen as, Buddhists, we are going against the very grain of Lord Buddha' teaching.

Q. Your Surname Bulathgama prompts something in my ear. Have any Bulathgamas in your family been involved aesthetically in Sri Lanka?

A. Yes Tilak, I hail from the second generation of Bulathgamas. Apart from my ancestors, my parents Chandrasiri Bulathgama and Himali Bulathgama were Head Teachers in Kegalle and they were involved a great deal in Arts and journalism, and my uncle was associated with the Sri Lankan dramatics.

Q. Where did you study in Sri Lanka?

A. My first phase of education commenced at Kegalle Vidyalala. After my GCE A level I was selected and sent to Bulgaria on a scholarship to study medicine in 1983.

Q. How did you end up in London? Are you a qualified doctor now?

A Unfortunately No!. However, it's a fascinating story. To cut it short, may I put it as a stroke of misfortune and fortune as well, when I look back on it.

Q. How do you mean?

A. When I was in the second year faculty of medicine in Bulgaria the unfortunate political upheaval that shook within Bulgaria, after the so-called fall of Russia, affected my studies. Overnight the Bulgarian authorities cancelled all scholarship of students who did medicine and engineering and I, among many, had to stand on our own financial feet to study and support ourselves, which became impossible.

Q. After that, how did you end up in London?

A. Having had to endure a sledgehammer blow on my finances after the abolition of the scholarship I had to find alternative means to continue my studies. So I communicated with the British centres of learning.

Q. Tell me more about it, if you don't mind.

A. In this instance I call myself extra ordinarily lucky because as I arrived in London and when I was looking out for a job where a student could earn a little money for his survival, a worthy job fell on my lap, so to speak, with Tesco, the multimillion super food giant in England. Not only they offered me a job, but amazingly enough though, they sponsored financially for me to study here.

Q. Lucky indeed! So, did you continue with your medicine in London?

A. No! I read a degree in Retail Management instead, attached to the University of North London to suit Tesco requirements. I was later promoted to the Management level of the Company and today I am still working there as a member of the Senior Management.

Q. Very interesting indeed! Now let us discuss about your aesthetic talents. You came to this area very recently, haven't you? How did all that come about?

A. No Tilak, I always had that element in my blood stream from the days I was very young. May be it was hereditary. I showed a keen interest in music and my mother encouraged me to learn how to play the violin. As a pupil, I mastered the violin and was selected to the third position in a national competition. I suppose other areas have been latent at the time, which started to unfold quite late in London.

Q. But it was not so long ago that you took part in a Sri Lankan tele-drama film which was produced in London, and ever since you seem to be going on a fast lane in this area?

A. (Laughter) this is also coincidental, if I may say so. When Sriyani Amarasena wanted to produce her second teledrama/film ,in London "Hemanthaye Wasanthayak," Wimal Alahakoon and his wife, Kanthi introduced me to Sriyani and I was offered a very small role in that at the beginning. Later in " Monalisa", the teledrama produced by, Lilani Perera and Tissa Madawela, I did a prominent role. I understand it is due to be completed in the near future and you may have already read about it in the newspapers recently. I must take this opportunity to thank Sugath Samarakoon and Palitha Silva who guided me in the direction of television acting.

Q. Didn't you upgrade yourself from acting to film production after that?

A. Yes, you are correct. I was in Sri Lanka last year to produce on my own tele-drama, " (Nettra Productions).. Actually as a mark of gratitude, I went on a joint production venture with my guru in this field, Sriyani Amarasena. It is called " Hengimuttam", focussing mainly on young children. We hired quite a few well-known names in Sri Lanka for this production, such as Sriyani Amarasena, Robin Fernando,Visaka Siriwardena, Milinda Perera, Samanthi Lanerolle, Wasantha Kumarasiri etc. It is due to be telecast very soon on Rupavahini. Here, I had to play the role of a Buddhist monk.

Q. Now you adopt a new outlook in appearance by shaving your head completely. Are you being influenced by the Buddhist monk's role you played in " Hengimuttam" or is it a matter of you being with the latest vogue of shaving one's head?

A. (Laughter). Don't you think that suits me? Actually,, I had to play the role of a London based mod-Sri Lankan in the film Monalisa .For that role I had to cut my hair very short. This was followed by the Buddhist monk's role in " Hengimuttam". So, I have got used to it now.; I have another role to play soon, as a Buddhist monk. This is classified information, of course, at present.

Q. Anything else in the pipeline in the near future?

A. Last month (October) I took part in Sriyani Amarasena's third Lanka-London production, which finished filming on location only on 27 October 2001. Here I had the opportunity to act with Wimal Alahakoon, Lilani Perera, Tilak Fernando, Karuni Ramanayake (Bodhinayake), Ramesh Ekanayake, Diana Rajapakse, Prema Ganegoda etc. Its final scenes will be completed in Sri Lanka within the next 2-3 weeks and the premiere is scheduled to take place in London in the Spring of 2002, before it goes on Sri Lankan television..

Q Have you any proposed ventures on the drawing board for the future?

A I am scheduled to fly out to Sri Lanka again towards the early part of 2002 to launch a new teledrama production. This will be a co-production with Lilani Perera, Tilak Fernando and myself. Robin Fernando has been assigned to direct the film. A special feature here would be that all three producers would be playing three main roles in the film. The plot of this is based on a 1945 era story and main part of the film will be shot in Southern part of Sri Lanka. In addition, I am planning to spread my tentacles far and wide on this newfound field of tele-drama. In the very near future Sri Lankans can expect continuous productions under TNL Productions for which I invite ideas and suggestions and the co-operation of all Sri Lankans.

Q. How do you manage and find spare time to involve in this manner while you are doing a responsible job in a management capacity at present ?

A. Well, one has to find time if one needs to achieve anything. That has been my motto all along. Film shooting takes mostly a month and I make sure that within four weeks my responsibilities in acting comes to an end. I utilise my full annual holiday quota from work at present for this purpose. As long as I have a good team when it comes to a production, I should be able to delegate responsibilities rather than trying to pork my finger in every pie!. On this point I must mention my dear wife Ann Bulathgama, here, who has been a tower of strength to me in every respect by supporting me all the way without any hesitation or reservation.. She has been a wonderful wife and a remarkable hostess and those film crews who visited our home in London would vouch no doubt how wonderfully they were received on occasion and to what extent she has been extending her typical Sri Lankan hospitality to them. As you know Ann is a well-known name within the Sri Lankan circles in London for her catering skills.