Sanath Gunatilake - The Top Sri Lanakan Film Sign

Sanath Gunatilake


Somsiri Sanath Julien Gunatilake born in the hill capital, Kandy, in Sri Lanka. After studies he became a tutor specialising in Science subjects, especially in Chemistry. Sanath who could not be confined to his parents ambition to become a doctor, venture unto the motion picture business. His life changed. He turned a new page in his life as well as in the Sri Lankan film industry in 1978. He made his debut with a well known director, Vijaya Dharmasiri’s Situ Kumariyo.

Successful Acting Career

The turning point in the life of Sanath as an ambitious actor became realistic when he portrayed the character in the film Ganga Addara directed by Mrs. Sumithra Peries, who is the wife of globally renowned film maker Lester James Peries.

(Sanath with Mr. Lester James Peries & Mrs. Sumithra Peries)

The success of this movie took Sanath to great heights as an actor. His brilliant performance in an array of leading roles in movies such as Viragaya, Kedapathaka Chaya, Palama Yata, Sisila Gini Ganie, Dorakada Marawa, Rajaya Sevaya Pinisai, Sudu Kaluwara , Sakman Maluwa gave him the Best Actor Award at many film festivals held in Sri Lanka.

Sanath is someone who is very ambitious and keen on studying local and international cinema. He used to take part in local and international film festivals, film forums, workshops from the the start of his career. He discovered, gained knowledge and experience, and also learnt by discussing with celebrities, actors, critics whom he met during the International Film Festivals. In 1982, He was lucky to meet to Omar Sherif who was the chief guest of the Cairo International Film Festival.

(Meeting with Omar Sherif at the Cairo International Film Festival)

As a result of these meetings, discussions, participations helped him to play successfully the role of Aravainda of Viragaya directed by Tissa Abeysekera, which was a challenging role and which can be considered as a landmark in his acting career. In 1982, Sanath met Sir Richard Attenborough, director of the biographical film Gandhi at the Manila Film Festival and got a great opportunity to discuss and to discover how Mr. Attenborough prepared methodically and scientifically Ben Kingsley to play the role of Gandhi.

(Sanath with Sir Richard Attenborough)

(Sanath with Mr. Ben Kingsley)

(Sanath with Mr. Tissa Abeysekera)

Sanath attended to all the workshops, seminars, press conferences initiated by Sir Richard Attenborough. He immersed more into the role by studying the script very carefully and understanding the role. His excellent performances, commitment to this role provided an ideal opportunity to display his versatility as an actor and the vitality of his performances and he was often praised by national and international critics, producers, directors: Dr. Lester James Peries, the master of the Sri Lankan film industry states that Sanath is to be complemented on giving us so adventurous and accomplished films.

Mr. Tadao Sato, Director of Fukuoka International Film Festival writes that the performance by Sanath Gunatilake who acted as Aravinda is really wonderful, although he is still a young person. He acts in the last part of the story in an actual condition of reduced weight, hollowed eyes and thinned hair which he purposely gained after 5 months effort of reducing his weight with the instruction of a medical doctor. This earnest disposition of Mr. Gunatilake to his own character gave his acting much solemnity.

According to Sanath, Mr. Chidananda Dasguptha who is an eminent indian film critic and Miss Arunawasudevi who gave the best comment on his role Aravinda. He has met them during the Hawai International Film Festival.

(Sanath with Mr. Chidananda Dasguptha & Miss Arunawasudevi)

Donald Richie is an American born author who has written a number of books about Japanese cinema commented on his role “Willie” in Palama Yata (Under the Bridge) directed by HD Premarathne: I’m impressed by an actor brave enough to play against type and to sacrifice surface attractiveness for inner strength, and further states that this ability is a mark of a true actor.
Mr. Tadao Sato, director of the Fukuoka International Film Festival writes that Sanath Gunatilake, who acted as Aravinda the incarnation of non variciousness in Buddhist sense, also vividly performed a role of a rouge in the slums in the film “Palama Yata”. His ability to play such a variety of roles is really amazing.

(Sanath with Mr. Donald Richie)

During his 30 years cinematic career, he has associated and shared his experience with globally well known celebrities in the cinematic world: Robert De Niro, Robert Duwal, Christian Slater, Amithab Bachan, Kabir Beedie, Sunil Datt, Shyam Benegal, Shaji Karon. Sanath mentions that the landmark meeting with Bernardo Bertolucci who is the director of the film Last Tango in Paris would remain the most memorable moment in his memory.

(Sanath with Mr. Robert De Niro)

(Sanath with Mr. Robert Duwal)

(Sanath with Mr. Amithab Bachan)

(Sanath with Mr. Kabir Beedie)

(Sanath with Mr. Shyam Benegal)

(Sanath with Mr. Christian Slater)

(Sanath with Mr. Shaji Karon & Ms. Sabeetha Perera)

(Sanath with Mr. Sunil Datt)

Sanath as an award winning producer

Having played a multitude of roles under various Directors, Producers, he has established a successful cinematic career. Sanath moved on to take up the challenge the elements of script writing and film production: Sisila Gini Gani is his first movie scripted and produced by Sanath Gunatilake, was directed by well known award winning Prassana Vithanage and released on 17th of January 1991. His dedication and commitment was the great success of his first production won him the Best Producer Award at the Swarna Sanka Film Festival which is also significant that this award has not been yet received by any another actor in Sri Lanka. His maiden production Sisila Gini Gani won several awards such as Best Film, Best Direction, Best Actress, Best Actor during the film festivals held in 1992.

The main roles were performed by Sanath Gunatilake, Sabeetha Perera, Tony Ranasinghe, Veena Jayakody, Jayalath Manorathne, Chandani Senevirathne.The music direction by Dr. Premasiri Khemadasa, camera by Suminda Weerasinghe, art direction by Roby Neris, make up by Ebert Wijesinghe, edited by Elmo Haliday and Nilendra Deshapriya was the First Assistant director of Sisila Gini Gani. Sisila Gini Gani revolves around an lawyer who is married and a father of a mentally retarded son. He starts a clandestine love affaire with a lady called Anette. Their love leads to a the murder of his son.

First Time Director

After 30 years of his cinematic life as a veteran actor, producer, Sanath Gunatilake has turned director. His maiden cinematic venture Ekamath Eka Rateka (Once Upon A Time) is based on Pour Une Nuit d’Amour, a short story written by French novelist Emile Zola. The story scripted by Sanath Gunatilake revolves around a young girl and two men. One is a young, handsome while the other is ugly, deformed and innocent. Nirosha Perera, Sanath Gunatilake, Roshan Ravindra, Chandani Senevirathna and others play the key roles. Maestro Premasiri Khemadasa has composed the music.

Added to all this, his charm and attraction as an actor and his dedication and commitment to what he does is enhanced by what the former President of Sri Lanka, HE Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga to whom he worked as Media Consultant had to say : Mr. Gunatilake possesses a rare combination of talents as an excellent cinema actor and also an effective manager of the various responsibilities he has undertaken, together with the even rarer quality of unquestionable honesty and integrity.

Awards & Honours

Sarasaviya Awards

2003 Best actor OCIC -Sakman Maluwa
2003 Creative Performance - Sakman Maluwa
2000 Special Jury Award - Rajaya Sevaya Pinisai
1998 Creative Performance –Dorakada Marawa
1992 Creative Performance - Sisila Gini Ganee
1990 Creative Performance - Palama Yata
1990 Best actor - Palama Yata
1989 Best Supporting Actor - Kadapathake Chaya
1989 Popular Actor
1987 Best Actor -Viragaya
1987 Creative Performance - Viragaya

Swarna Sanka Awards

2003 Creative Performance OCIC - Sudu Kaluwara
1989 est Supporting Actor- Kadapathake Chaya
1987 Best actor -Viragaya