Malini Fonseka, the Beautiful Queen of Sri Lankan Cinema, wearing an orange color saree
Malini Fonseka, the Beautiful Queen of Sri Lankan Cinema!

Sri Lanka is blessed with a number of wonderful personalities, who have reached their peak in various fields. Among them, Malini Fonseka is unarguably one of the most famous characters or specifically iconic actresses ever to live in Sri Lanka.

Her full name is Wanniarachchige Malini Senehelatha Fonseka, but she is famous as Malini Fonseka. She always tops the lists of Sri Lanka’s movie heroines. This versatile actress also served the country as a politician.

However, the Sri Lankan audience loved the charismatic actress from the very beginning of her career. And yes, she is fortunate enough to have a successful cinema career of over seven decades. People still respect her mostly because of her endearing personality. Her worth and reputation only increase up to date.

Owing to many reasons, this beloved actress is an influential role model. Simply, there is so much to learn from her inspiring life story. So, here is more about the life of Malini Fonseka!

Early Life of Malini Fonseka

Malini Fonseka was born on 30th April 1947 at Peliyagoda, Kelaniya. She was the third child of Gilbert and Seelawathie Fonseka. After her birth, the family with a total of twelve children moved to Jambugasmulla, Nugegoda. Until grade five, Malini studied at St. John’s College, Nugegoda and then she went to Gurukula Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya where she completed her education.

She has five siblings. Among them, Damayanthi Fonseka, Sriyani Fonseka, and Rasadari Fonseka entered the cinema industry. Her brother Ananda Fonseka was also a movie director and a producer. But none of them were as successful as Malini. With time, some of her nieces such as Samanalee Fonseka and Senali Fonseka too entered the industry. They too became popular film and television actresses. 

Entering the Acting Field 

This great actress started her career as a stage drama actress. With the help of her dancing teacher at Gurukula, she was able to act in her very first drama “Noratha Ratha” in 1963. Since then, she has played leading roles in about 14 stage dramas. Also, Malini won the best stage drama actress national award for her performance in the drama “Akal Wassa” in 1965.

Her entrance to the cinema world took place with Tissa Liyanasuriya and Joe Abeywickrama. With their recognition of her talents, she made her debut with the film “Punchi Baba ” directed by Tissa Liyansuriya. Then, in the same year, she acted in three more films. As her success was well noticeable through these films, she got offers for many leading roles in movies. Since then Malini has acted in more than 140 national and international movies. 

Her directors have often indicated that Malini is not an actress who confined herself solely to emotional facial expressions. Her adaptable appendages as well as the actual construction are instrumental in delivering live expressions. She changes effortlessly and with obvious charm from one expression to the next without changing camera angles. Her graceful use of her body and limbs gives her emotional expressions variety and perfection. There may not be any flaws in her gestures, even if we examine her various roles in various films. Her transpositional versatility is extremely extensive. Besides, she gives her characters a magnificent dimension through her voice, which is full of emotion and modulations. Her voice is exciting, clever, and clear. She is capable of controlling her voice to meet the character’s challenges.

So, all these factors prove that she is simply an incomparable actress in the Sri Lankan film industry.

Contribution of Malini Fonseka to the Film and Television Industry 

Among the films, Malini acted in, “Nidhanaya”, “Siripala and Ranmenika”, “Eya Den Loku Lamayek” and “Akkara Paha” are some of the most successful. The Sri Lankan audience embraced the roles she played in these movies with much love. In 1984 the film “Sasara Chethana” became a milestone in her career because she was both its director and producer. Apart from that she directed two other films namely “Ahimsa” and “Sthree” respectively in 1987 and 1991. Further, in 1978, Malini Fonseka was lucky to play one of her roles opposite the famous Tamil actor Sivaji Ganeshan. That was in the movie “Pilot Premnath’‘.

With time, she also moved into the television industry and got praised for her performances in teledramas such as “Pitagamkarayo”, “Kemmura”, “Manalada Puthe Kiri Dunne” and “Ambu Daruwo”. She also co-starred with well-known actors such as Gamini Fonseka, Joe Abeywickrama, Tony Ranasinghe, and also with Vijaya Kumaratunga, Ravindra Randeniya, and many more. Not only as an actress, but she also kept her mark as a producer in the television industry too with successful productions such as “Sanasili Suwada”. Through both directing and acting in the teledrama “Nirupamala”, she was able to gain honor as the first-ever female teledrama director in Sri Lankan teledrama history.

Gamini- Malini Era

Besides, when talking about Malini’s career, her work along with Gamini Fonseka cannot be ignored. He is well-known as the best Sinhala Sri Lankan actor and became a perfect co-star for Malini. She starred in many movies with him. And yes, most of them were able to keep records in the Sri Lankan Sinhala cinema.

Awards Won by Malini Fonseka

Malini was an actress who was well aware of her talent. This made her use her unique talent in such diverse roles.

International Awards Won by Malini

Malini Fonseka can be described as the very first Sri Lankan actress who was able to gain international awards for her tremendous acting ability. The Special Jury award she received in 1975 at the Moscow International Film Festival was the first of her International awards. Afterward, she was able to win a number of international awards including the award for ‘Best Actress’ at the 7th Levanthe International Film Festival and the ‘Silver Peacock’ award which she won at the Indian Film Festival, which she considered one of the biggest achievements in her acting career. Also, she had the honor of being addressed as one of the greatest film actors in Asia of all time by CNN.

National Awards Won by Malini

Undoubtedly we can name Malini Fonseka as the ‘Queen’ of Sri Lankan cinema because she was able to win more than forty awards including Presidential awards, OCIC awards, and Sarasaviya awards under the categories such as the ‘Most popular actress’, ‘Best actress’, ‘Most appealing actress’ and also for ‘Creative female acting’. It is remarkable that she was able to win the ‘Best Actress’ award twice at Sumathi award ceremonies in 1998 and 2002 respectively for the films ‘Pitagamkarayo’ and ‘Kemmura’.

On her retirement from the Sri Lankan cinema world after contributing to more than 150 films for about four decades, there was a felicitation ceremony at the BMICH titled ‘Malaniye’ with the presence of president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

Her Career as a Politician

Malini Fonseka didn’t refine herself only in her acting career. With time, she decided to enter the political world as a politician. Thus, in April 2010 she became a member of the Sri Lankan parliament through the National list of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) party. 

Personal Life of Malini Fonseka

When looking at Malini Fonseka’s personal life, it is clear that she was not as successful in her marriages as she was in her movies. She was first married to Upali Senanayake in 1965. But unfortunately, they got divorced in 1980. Then, on the 12th of June 1986, she married Lucky Dias. He was also a veteran Sri Lankan cinema actor and producer. This couple was happily married for more than 20 years. Moreover, they seemed to have survived as top film stars in the Sri Lankan cinema world. However, they divorced in the year 2011. 

Malini Fonseka’s Legacy 

In appreciating Malini Fonseka’s profound influence on Sri Lankan cinema, a book was published on the celebration of her 50 years in cinema at BMICH. The book was named ‘Malini ….up above…’. Ashley Rathnavibhushana and Dr. Dhammika Dissanayake edited it, and Fast Publishing (Pvt) Ltd published it. The book contains an elaborative introduction by Professor Wimal Dissanayake. It is followed by detailed information on Malini’s diverse achievements in her career, pictorial memories in her life, and a record of awards won by Malini.

This book does an excellent job of capturing the breadth and depth of her accomplishments. In fact, this book presents the growth in her career, personal memories, critical analyses of some of her specific films, and historical developments as a complex mosaic that is both inspirational and thought-provoking. The authors of this book honor this wonderful lady with openness and admiration, and this is indeed valuable.

The Bottom Line

After all, Malini Fonseka serves as an example for Sri Lankan women living in a social environment dominated by men, and the reasons for this extend beyond her profession. Her early years, professional behavior, marriage, relationships with prominent male film stars, popularity, and politics, among other things, have shaped her into a role model for women in Sri Lanka.

Acting means re-sanctioning of life’s involvement in a particular objective in vision. It is much simpler to transform into another character for someone who perseveres through life. Malini was one of those people who had a persuasive perspective on the society around her throughout her life. As a result, Malini’s performance is a reenactment of an experience that she gained through her understanding of life and subsequent reinvestment in society to reap the benefits.

The actress doesn’t require any credentials. It would only diminish her boundless, reasonable capacity to perform. She donated her valuable subscription as an actress to a number of high-quality films. Indeed, that brought a steady stream of joy to Sri Lankan moviegoers. She dedicated her life to promoting the growth of Sri Lankan cinema. In a nutshell, we can all agree that her film career and personal life are one and the same phenomenon. Through her unparalleled performance, Malini Fonseka made a noble and magnificent contribution to cinema. All Sri Lankans will remember it with deep appreciation throughout time.