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Sinhala movies based on Buddhist concepts

31 May 2021 12:10 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



Unlike in the past, there is unprecedented enthusiasm among artistes and filmmakers now to base their creations on religious, historic or philosophical themes. Today we focus on movies made on Buddhist themes during the 74-year history of Sinhala cinema. It should however be noted that despite the existence of 550 Jathaka stories only a few have been transformed into movies in this country, though well-known tele drama director Thusita de Silva made a bold attempt to transform them into tele creations in his Paramitha and Therani Geethaya series.

The epic movie ‘Sri Siddhartha Gautama’ also focused on the life of Prince Siddhartha upto the stage of enlightenment. The film which smashed several revenue records, has accolades internationally too.
Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne made his last movie based on a Buddhist theme. The film titled ‘Kusa Paba’ was based on the Kusa Jathakaya, featuring Jackson Anthony and Pooja Umashanker. His previous movie ‘Uppalawanna’ produced by Ms. Milina Sumathipala on behalf of Sumathi Films was also based on a Buddhist theme. Popular actress Sangeetha Weeraratne played the title role in the movie. 

Young actress Oshadie Hewamadduma shaved her head fully for a role in the movie ‘Mahindagamanaya’ – based on the arrival of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Sanath Abeysekara followed up with Sri Daladagamanaya.
Movie-wise, Wessanthara Jathakaya (Wesathuru Siritha), Seriwanija Jathakaya (Bangali Walalu) and Patachara were among some films based on Jathaka stories, while there had been other Sinhala movies based on Buddhist themes. 


Dr. Lester James Peries’ fifth feature film ‘Ran Salu’ (The Yellow Robe) which was made in 1967, is regarded as the first 100% Buddhist film made in Sri Lanka. The theme was Buddhist in a kind of theological and doctrinal way. Ironically, the film was made by a Roman Catholic. And it is known that since Dr. Peries was not willing to take a risk or make mistakes with the sensitive theme, he had requested scriptwriter P.K.D. Seneviratne to be on the sets everyday while the film was being shot, to ensure that no last minute changes were being made that would eventually affect the story. Interestingly, Ran Salu also represented Sri Lanka at the Asian Buddhist Film Festival in 1994. 

In 1952, the movie ‘Siri Sangabo’ also touched upon a Buddhist theme and a Buddhist monk - Ven. Wathuregama Somalankara Thera, scripted the screenplay for the first time. 


‘Hathara Peraliya’ – directed by L.M. Perera in 1969 also became special because it was the first movie that depicted historical scenes of Buddhist heritage sites in India. 

Among other Sinhala movies that touched upon Buddhist themes were Senasuma Kothenada, Sadol Kandulu, Sarawita, Lasanda, Sambudu Mahima, Siri Pathula, Patachara, Ajasatta, Angulimala and a few others including Suriya Arana, which was screened a few years ago. 

text: Ramesh Uvais


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