The 70's was the golden era of Sinhala cinema, we all can agree on that. How could it not be? With the likes of Joe Abeywickrema, Malini Fonseka and Sir Lester James Pieris being in their primes, it's the period that Sri Lankans develop their taste towards our cinema industry, and it has continued to the present day as well.
We've all seen the English movies which are based on real-life events. Erin Brockovich, The Wolf of Wallstreet, Titanic, Troy,… I can keep going but you get the point. We know these stories from top to bottom, we know their characters like the back of our hand. But how much do you know about local movies, that are also based on real-life stories? We have a handful of them, that reveal us a story from our past, or a person who lived long before we were born.
So we here, at YAMU, decided to compile this small piece on five of the most popular Sinhala movies of all time, that have been inspired by the real-life characters, stories, and events.
Directed by Titus Thotawatte and starring Joe Abeywickrema, E.M.P Bandara, Mohidin Beg and Somasiri Dehipitiya, this movie is based on a heist which took place in 1949, where eight men were arrested for taking part of a robbery of four lakhs, and the murder of a John Silva. It happened at the Turf Club in Colombo, now known as Racecourse to most of us. Finally caught, some of the accused were sentenced to death while the others were given long periods of imprisonment.
Based on the character of the infamous bandit Marusira, Maruwa Samaga Wase is another movie that was directed by Titus Thotawatte. Marusira A.K.A Siripala, is a criminal who escaped death three times but was finally put to rest, which actually caused a huge controversy in the society.
After his third escape from the prison, he was recaptured and sent to Bogambara to await his execution. The day prior to his execution, he was given a high dosage of Largactil, as a method of preventing his attempt to escape again.
However, the state of unconsciousness (due to the overdose of Largactil) caused him to have a slow and painful death instead of the quick and painless death, which created a massive uproar amongst the general public after his death.
Siripala Saha Ranmanika, 1977
Siripala saha Ranmanika is yet another movie based on the life of Marusira. This movie, however, mainly demonstrates the love between the duo of Siripala and Ranmanika, his wife. Siripala was only 27 on the day he was finally meant to say goodbye after his multiple escapes from death. The day also marks the third day after Ranmanika's giving birth to their first and only child.
Maradankadalawa Yakadaya, is a name familiar to most of us. Sanchi Aratchige Jinada was named "Yakadaya" at the age of 16, when he killed a man using an iron railway track bar. Afterward, he became really popular due to his notorious behavior in the 1900's. He was a contemporary Robin Hood to some, a detestable villain to others, and the tales around this man are possibly endless.
The movie Yakadaya, released in 1977 was directed by Neil Rupesinghe and it starred Gamini Fonseka, Anula Karunathilaka and Ravindra Randeniya.
Podi Wije, 1987
Podi Wije is a movie based on Podi Wije – a man we now remember as another notorious bandit from the Polonnaruwa region. If you've ever listened to the song by Anton Jones, titled Podi Wije, you should know his story. Born in 1956, Podi Wije was a boy who was shot to death during a police operation.
A past of rape and murder still trail behind when we talk about Podi Wije, and the villagers were terrified of him. However, the movie Podi Wije, directed by Nishantha De Alwis, featured Amarasiri Kalangsooriya and Sabeetha Perera gained a tonne of popularity during its release.
We know we've probably missed a truckload of other local movies inspired by real-life events, but for now, this is all folks!
Also, do let us know about the ones we've missed in the comments. 🙂