Face2Face with Daya Alwis

by Tilak S. Fernando

Performing Arts is a difficult discipline, which demands a lot of talent, charisma, and magnetism in a personality. Once engaged in this highly competitive profession it is equally difficult to remain on the peak for too long. To survive twenty-five years in such an industry and still to be counted as one of the popular artistes by television and cinema audiences one needs tremendous ability and an equal measure of luck too. Daya Alwis is one of such rare specimens in the world of Performing Arts in Sri Lanka. Having stepped into the entertainment arena from the Stage, Daya Alwis has been hob knobbing equally in the Sinhala cinema and subsequently in tele-drama, which has become an obsession to millions of Sri Lankan television viewers today. As an actor, scriptwriter, and a director in this field, Daya Alwis has been shining as a sparkle no doubt. Having written more than sixty tele-dramas to Rupavahini he has gone on history as the person who wrote and acted in the very first drama, which was televised, in Sri Lankan television. Research into new ideas and new experiences, he says, is his hobby, and he wants to bring results and experiences of his human research into the society through the television medium and cinema screens. He is.a determined man who says that 'Art is his doctrine' and his ambition is to be involved in Arts until his faculties become sans. Sri Lankan audiences can expect many of his new creations in the future - be it on the television or on the silver screen. He is very much looking forward to producing his own film in the year 2002. Last month he was in London and Sweden exhibiting one of his latest productions 'Dalpadadu' to the Sri Lankan expatriates telescoping them into an area of nostalgia out of Sri Lankan life.

Q. How long have you been involved in the filed of performing arts in Sri Lanka?

A. Over twenty five years

Q. What are your favourite areas or a particular section in this field, which is close to your heart?

A. I have been an actor, script writer and also a Director covering Stage Drama, Cinema and Teledrama

Q. Out of these three fields, do you have a preference at all to any particular one?

A. I entered the cultural world as a Stage actor at the start and do still prefer this area of stage acting and dramatising to any other. I believe that stage play is the only solid foundation or the basic training for any one who wants to be a professional thespian.

Q. Can you name some of the stage plays in which you have taken part?

A. Dr.Sarathchandra's Premathi Jayathi Soko and Kalu Walalu; Gunasena Galapththi's Muhudu Puttu; Henry Jayasena's MakarŃ Saha Gamanak; Dharmasiri Bandara's Kakarasaya, Dawala Beehishana; Somalatha Subasinghe's Vikurthi and Jayantha Chandrasiri's M˘ra

Q. Why have you distanced yourself now from stage plays?

A. Because I find that, the standard of present day stage drama is deteriorating.

Q How do you mean?

A. Today, many talented, professional, and capable stage-drama-producers are reigning silence while commercialism is seemingly encroaching upon the industry and I have no inclination whatsoever to participate in ' cheap' dramas, if I may use that expression here.

Q. If you were invited to take part in so-called ' cheap' theatre, what would be your reaction?

A. I certainly decline such offers. I value quality and do not believe in spinning money.

Q. If I probe you on your cinema career, what would you like to say?

A. I never became involved with any 'commercial' type films, which purely played to the ' gallery audiences' I always adopted a policy of involving myself only on films which were classified as fifth circuit films, meaning super grade. Most of my acting career on films was spent on films directed by eminent personalities in the cinema industry such as Lester James Peiris, Tissa Abeysekera, Wasantha Obeysekera and Sumithra Peiris.

Q. You did mention earlier on that you are also a scriptwriter for films. Tell me something about that area of yours.

A. Yes Tilak, I have been a scriptwriter too apart from other involvements in the industry. Next year (in 2002) I am planning to produce my own film.

Q. Aren't you very much involved in tele-dramas?

A. Quite right too. If I were to put a figure to my involvement with teledrama I should say sixty; this figure includes those already screened, being shown at present and are queued up for telecasting in the near future. Script writing of all these were done by me. Additionally I did act as well in many of them.

Q. That's about acting and script writing. If we talk about Directing, what would you like to say?

A. Yes, I have directed about six teledramas out of that.

Q. Why are you in London these days?

A. I brought my own production Dalpadadu teledrama to show it to the expatriate community abroad. It was shown on sixth and 13th October in Sweden and again in October at Harrow and later at the University of London, Westminster.

Q. Is there any special or memorable event in this field, which spans over quarter of a century that you would like to reveal?

A. Yes Tilak, there's something, which I am very proud of and worth mentioning here.

Q. What would that be?

A. When the Sri Lankan Rupavahini commenced showing teledrama as part of its family entertainment, they selected La Hiru Dahasak for their inaugural screening. Why that is so important to me is the fact that the script of that drama was written by me and I had the privilege to play the main role in it.

Q. How about Awards? Have you received any during your long career in the entertainment industry in Sri Lanka?

A. I am proud to say that I was the very first person to receive an award covering all three areas - Stage Drama, Cinema and Teledrama. I received an award for Mathsaya stage play, Pooja in cinema and LÚli, BÓghaya, PÓwada in teledrama.

Q. How did you get involved in the first tele-drama filmed in London?

A. You mean Ira Bata Taruwa, which was produced by Sriyani Amarasena, Lilani Perera and Wimal Alahakoon? Yes, I did write the script for that and I did the main role as well in it. Subsequently I wrote and Directed 'Chandrayamaya' teledrama which was produced in London by the late Mr. K.D.Chandradasa. It is due to be telecast on RŘpavahini very shortly. In addition, I did bring my stage play ' Parasthawa' to London and Birmingham.

Q. What is your future plan?

A. I am determined to stay put in this field of performing arts as long until my faculties become sans. Research is an ongoing exercise with me and I would like to bring results out of my human research into the Sri Lankan television and cinema audiences. Art is my passion and I would like to be associated with it very closely until my death.