Posted on June 8th, 2023

Rohan Abeygunawardena

Yes, I am referring to Swarna Mallawarachchi. Wikipedia calls her the “Golden Star of Sinhalese cinema.” But I borrowed the description from quizmaster of Sirasa Laxshapathi, the Sri Lankan version of the British game show ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’, Chandana Sooriyabandara, who called her “The Iron Lady of Sinhala Cinema” when she was invited as a guest competitor. More about this quiz program later.

Swarna’s first hunting expedition was the 1983 Sinhala drama thriller film Dadayama (The Hunt), directed by late Vasantha Obeysekera.

Her second expedition was in Dada Ima (End of the Hunt), the thriller film directed by Dr. Naomal Perera and co-produced by the director himself with Dr. Nishani Fernando for Ensquared Entertainment Private Limited. (I was prompted to write this article after seeing this film.)

The film Dadayama was based on a real tragedy that happened in 1959 and was known as the “Adeline Vitharana murder.”

True Story:

A body of a young woman was discovered late at night on March 14, 1959, at Thimbiriwewa, near the 27th milepost on the Puttalam-Anuradhapura Road. A post-mortem examination conducted on March 16, 1959, revealed that the woman was between 20 and 25 years of age, that she was about seven months pregnant, and that her body bore numerous injuries consistent with her having been run over by a motor car. An alert police inspector noticed a man driving past the scene of crime a couple of times, slowing down and observing what the police were doing. This led to the breakthrough.

The police arrested the man. His name was Anandagoda (Ananda), he was from a well-to-do family, and he worked as a teacher in a school in Kalutara. He met a young woman from a very poor family in late 1956. The woman was Adeline Vitharana, an intelligent and attractive young girl from Katugastota. Her romantic relationship with Ananda (he had given her a different name) produced an illegitimate girl child in August 1957. Adeline was insisting that he get married to her, but he was putting it off.

In the meantime, Ananda was proposed to by a girl of better social status than Adeline’s family. When Adeline learned about this, she made inquiries and found out the true identity of the man. She was worried and sent a letter to the principal of Ananda’s school explaining her relationship with him and claiming that he was the father of her child. She further said that Ananda had promised to marry her. When the principal showed the letter to Ananda, he was furious.

On March 2, 1959, Adeline came to the school where Ananda was teaching. The latter came out and took her away in his Fiat car, registered under No. 01 Sri 6265. In spite of the change of registration in January 1959, he continued to be the actual user and the virtual owner of that car. Ananda took her to Alo Singho in the village of Kalaweilawa. She had resided for a few days in that village with the family of Alo Singho.

On the afternoon of March, 14, Ananda came and picked up Adeline and Alo Singho’s brother; three of them had left for Puttalam. They had arrived at a hotel in Puttalam around 9.30 p.m., had dinner, and left. Later, as planned by Anananda, the pregnant woman Adeline was pushed out of the car near the 27th-milepost on the Puttalam-Anuradhapura road in the Thibiriwewa area and killed by running his car over her body.

Unlike today, people were very sensitive to the murders. The murder rocked the entire nation. Almost daily, some news item appeared in the national newspapers on the murder of Adeline Witharana. This became the talk of the town until Ananda was convicted and sentenced to death.

(For the above description, I have taken information from three sources: 1. an article by Thineth Korasagalla (LLB) published in the Sunday Observer on January 2, 2022; 2. an article by Retired Senior Superintendent of Police Tassie Senaviratne published in the Sunday Times on January 9, 2022; 3. Privy Council Appeal No. 27 of 1961. )

Dadayama (The Hunt)

Based on the above true story, the late Vasantha Obeysekera directed a thriller film. His choice of the cast was its success story. The handsome young playboy school teacher was Ravindra Randeniya as Priyanka Jayanath, and the innocent but playful young beautiful girl was Swarna Mallawarachchi as Rathmali Kekunawela.

The story line was almost the same except for a few scenes.

There was a scene of a brothel house where Jayanath got Rathmali to stay for a few days. Iranganie Serasinghe acted as the madam running the brothel. The girl was raped by a man at this house. The madam threatened her that she had enough evidence to prove Rathmali was of questionable character. Rathmali was offered eight thousand rupees to give up the affair with Ananda.No amount of prodding would budge her.

Vasantha brought in a fictitious Registrar of Marriages Office where Jayanath’s and Rathmali’s marriage was registered. After the fictitious registration, Jayanath and Ratmali left to meet her father. While Ratmali’s intention was to break the good news to her family that two of them got married, Jayanath had other ideas. He diverted his Ford Capri towards a jungle terrain while the girl was asleep. When Ratmali suddenly got up, she noticed the car was speeding in an unfamiliar area. She questioned her husband as to where he was taking her. Realising something fishy, she opened the door to jump out, but changed her mind and closed the door.

“Why didn’t you jump?” asked Jayanath, “Are you scared?”

“Fear, I have long since given up my passion for life,” said Ratmali, “My life was destroyed by you.” She then asked, “Why did you marry me?”

“You must have thought I married you, stupid woman,” Jayanath replied sarcastically.

She lost her temper at this point and shouted, “You animal, you bloody cad,” and started attacking his face with her hands and nails. The attack left his face “gushing with blood.”

Jayanath stopped the car. Ratmali jumped out and started to run. Enraged, Jayanath restarted the car and chased behind her at a very high speed. She picked up a long, heavy stick fallen from a tree and waited for the speeding car. As the car came near at an extremely high speed, she hit the windshield with all her might. With the impact, she fell down but got up and started running for her life. Jayanath could see the sprinting girl through the cracked windshield. He commenced his chase again and knocked her down at a very high speed.

This last scene was very dangerous and risky. Even in Hollywood films, such daring acts were performed by professionally trained stuntmen and women. But in Dadayama, it was done by Ravindra and Swarna. The former had to drive the car at a speed of over 60 miles per hour with good control, like a trained racing car driver. When the latter hit the windshield with the stick, which had a combined speed of nearly 140 miles per hour, she ran the risk of either falling to the ground and run over by the car. In addition, the stick hit her chest with great impact. She fell, but the car did not run over her. The stick hit her chest, but as she was warned by the director, she was alert and escaped with a slight injury.

Both Swarna and Ravindra were young at the time, ready to take the risk, and they performed the deadly act extremely well. Fortunately, Swarna had a lot of confidence in Ravindra as she knew that he was a good driver. They deserve a special award for this high risk performance…

Dadayama screened in 1983 became a very popular film mainly because of the acting skills of the twosome and the powerful dialogue throughout the film. One such conversation was Rathmali’s verbal assault on Jayanath

You can’t let the dogs run wild, either you have to tie them up, or you have to kill them, I can only tie them up. That’s why you should marry me today” (බල්ලන්ට දඩාවතේ යන්න දෙන්න බැහැ, එක්කො උන්ව බැඳලා දාන්න ඕනා, නැත්නම් මරලා දාන්න ඕනා. .  මට පුලුවන් ඌව බැඳලා දාන්න විතරයි. ඒක හින්දා තමුසේ මාව අද බඳීන්න ඕනා  )

At the 12th Sarasaviya Awards in 1984, Dadayama bagged five awards: Best Film (Rabin Chandrasiri), Best Director (Wasantha Obeysekara), Best Actor (Ravindra Randeniya), Best Actress (Swarna Mallawarachchi) and Best Supporting Actor (Somy Rathnayake).

Ravindra was the best judge of Swarna’s bravery when acting in this film. Thus he called her “The Bravest Actress of Sinhala Cinema.” That was the special award she received.

Dadaima (The End of Hunt)

Dr. Naomal Perera, the Oncological Surgeon treated Swarna when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

After curing her fully, Dr. Naomal respectfully asked his patient to resume her acting carrier.

Swarna received her lifetime achievement Presidential Award in 2017.

While congratulating her, Naomal repeated his request. Swarna replied, “Doctor, if you produce a film, I will come forward to act.” Naomal then said, “We will do Dadayama II.”

Yet, Naomal realised it was a challenge to make the second part of a film directed by a legend of Sinhala cinema, Vasantha Obeysekera, perhaps his best film.

Fortunately, Wasantha Obeysekara did not send Jyanath to the gallows for the murder of Ratmali. This allowed some room, to write a beautiful story and produce the second part of Dadayama.

From then on, Naomal developed the story line and the script. After several drafts were reviewed by his wife and family members, he went to see Ravindra Randeniya armed with his ninth draft. This was on the last day of the year. Ravindra accepted the document, saying that it was the best gift he received that year. Yet he did not accept the invitation to act in this second part of Dadayama.

The Story Line.

The story revolves around characters who belong to  Vasantha’s film Dadayama. Jayanath escapes (mystery) arrest and goes to England to qualify himself as a lawyer. Ratmali’s elder sister, Rohini takes her sister’s son to England, to be educated. (Adeline Vitharana’s child from Anandagoda is a daughter.) Ratmali’s son, Ravinath, believes his mother is Rohini.

Ravinath learns music and becomes a pianist by profession. He made his name as a renowned reggae and modern musician.

Jayanath changes his name to Kirthi Gajanayake, and becomes a lawyer. Gajanayake also has a daughter through his marriage to a girl from a rich family. He comes back to Sri Lanka with his daughter and becomes a prominent lawyer. He was appointed a President Council. His daughter, Dedu, too, pursues law studies but is keen on music and earns a name as a musician among the younger generation.

The story begins with a concert in Colombo, where Ravinath is invited to perform. He is coming to Sri Lanka for the first time. Although Rohini is unhappy about her son going to Sri Lanka alone, she finally agrees to his strong request.

Ravinath is assisted by his friend on drums and Dedu on violin. He named his musical composition “Crime and Punishment.” Kirthi Gajanayake, who came to see his daughter perform at this concert, became nervous when he heard the name of the composition.

Ravinath meets Kirthi Gajanayake in an unexpected way. Thereafter, he discovers some facts about his unknown past. Rohini who has resolved never to come back to her country of birth, decides to return to protect her son.

From there on, the film was a suspense thriller. I request that the reader watch the film and enjoy it.

The Cast

Swarna played the role of Rohini displaying her unique, tough character as usual in many other films generally and in Dadayama particularly. Kirthi Gajanayake was Jakson Anthony, and his own son, Akila Dhanuddhara, played Ravinath. (Kirthi’s biological son is supposed to be Ravinath in the story.) The music director of the film, Nadeeka Guruge, who produced excellent background music, also acted as the conductor of the orchestra. Mahendra Perera played a very commendable supporting role, reminding the audience of the dirty politics of the country. The beautiful Marion Weththasinghe played the role of Dedu extremely well. The film commenced with the introduction of the musicians performing at the concert to the audience by professional compere Arun Dias Bandaranaike with his powerful voice.

Multi skilled Dr. Naomal Perera, developed the story line, wrote the script, directed and produced the film along with his wife Dr. Nishani Fernando.

The Iron Lady of Sinhala Cinema

Swarna Mallawarachchi was invited by ‘Sirasa Lakshapathi, on March 19, 2023, as a special competitor.

The quizmaster, Chandana Sooriyabandara, introduced her as a legend of Sinhala cinema who always spoke for women’s rights, always spoke for children’s rights, and was also a champion of social justice. He also called her “The Iron Lady of Sinhala Cinema.” Those who had seen her act in many films, including Dadayama, would not dispute this title.

She answered the first eight questions with ease. The ninth was on the books written by Barack Obama, which she answered using her analytical skills.

Next was a quote from a book: “Men in battle garb, whether they come with swords or guns, on a horse or in armoured cars, the price of conquest seems heightened by the violation of women.” She had to identify the author among the four famous Sri Lankan women writers. She decided to take “Ask the audience lifeline.” The audience helped, and she won Rs200, 000, earning the switch lifeline as well. Swarna also paid tribute to the author Rajani Thiranagama, who was killed by the LTTE during the civil war.

She took the Phone a Friend lifeline for the next question and answered correctly.

In the next question, she had to identify the wife of King Priam of Troy during the Trojan War. She took the Fifty-Fifty lifeline and answered correctly as Hecuba. She has now earned Rs. 500,000. Since the time allocated for this episode was over, she had to return on the following Saturday, March 26. 

Quizmaster Chandana asked about her acting with another legend in Sinhala cinema, “Ravindra Randeniya,” before the game started. She explained that, though they acted together in many films, they never acted as lovers. In almost all the films in which she acted with Ravindra, he was the villain and dirty man. He performed those characters so well that her character earned much sympathy from the viewers, she said.

At this stage, Ravindra was contacted over the phone by the quizmaster. The great actor said, “Swarna was the bravest actress in Sinhala cinema.” One example he quoted was her facing the car coming at a deadly speed in Dadayama. He also said she earned distinctions (passes) for all her acting.

Next was a question on the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGAM) held in Sri Lanka. She had to identify the head of state who boycotted the meeting out of four names. The year was crucial for her, as she was diagnosed with a breast cancer. As a result, she was unable to follow the events and activities in the country, she said, switching the question. Her guess was “Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, “but the correct answer was Manmohan Singh, Indian Prime Minister.

Her switch question was about Nobel Peace Prize winners from India. As she was not aware of them, decided to withdraw. However, she won Rs. 500,000.

This competition gave the viewers a glimpse of her memory power and ability to find answers logically. Only a thoughtful, well-read person could answer the way she did.

Swarna had acted in 45 films, starting from “Sath Samudura,” directed by Siri Gunasinghe in mid-sixties, to “Dadaima,” directed by Dr. Naomal Perera in 2019. Yet she feels her best acting was in “Dadayama,” where she fought against male dominance.

She has won 24 best actress awards, 4 lifetime achievement awards, a Zonta Woman of the Year award, a Sanpac Felicitation Award, and a Bangladesh Film Development Board Award.

This article is dedicated to Professor Siri Gunasinghe, who introduced Swarna Mallawarachchi to Sinhala cinema in his film Sath Samudura, released on February 2, 1967.

Rohan Abeygunawardena ACMA, CGMA.

The writer can be contacted on

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