A Utopian world devoid of all vices – no envy, no strife, and no rat race – a world of compassion, love and sharing – true to the teaching of all religious leaders – a dream world of love and care- This is the dream and ardent desire of the Grande Dame of the Sri Lankan cinema, stage and TV – Irangani Serasinghe. Looking at life from the vantage point of years of experience, Irangani Serasinghe is deeply appalled and concerned about the chaos and strife of today. She is so compassionate that her love of innocent creatures has made her a vegan for the last forty years. It was a very touching sight to see this Queen of Drama petting and welcoming a stray dog into her home. Thus, it is no great surprise that present day atrocities have shaken her to the core. Life today is indeed a far cry from the peaceful and secure world Irangani Serasinghe was born into. It was in the land of the fabled Berunda Pakshiya that Irangani Roxana Meedeniya first saw the light of day. Mudugomuwa Walauwe bounded by the Gurugoda Oya in front and the Ritigaha Oya at the back was her birth place. Irangani’s early childhood was spent in the idyllic rural environment of Sabaragamuwa in the Thun Korale. Both her paternal Grandfather and Father were Rate Mahattayas of Thun Korale. Irangani’s early years were spent at Mudugomuwa near Anguruwelle and at Kegalle and she recalls them with great nostalgia. Of the three sisters, Indrani, Irangani. Kamini and brother Mahinda Irangani was the most mischievous and the proverbial tomboy. She was nicknamed Chandi by her maternal grand mother.
Little Irangani used to accompany her mother and others to the river and while they bathed she would sit on the bank and watch them. Unfortunately, a terrifying fear that Mummy would get washed away always engulfed the little girl. When her pleas to come back to safety fell on deaf ears and Mummy just laughed and ventured further,Irangani’s fear and frustration knew no bounds. She gave vent to her feelings by pulling up grass and eating it. Drama indeed! Such early dramatic tendencies most certainly would have been early signs of a latent stupendous talent that thrilled future audiences of thousands here and abroad. However, at this juncture did anyone realize that tomboy Chandy Appo would one day become an icon among all Sri Lankans and not only among drama aficionados and that she would also be the recipient of many awards and accolades. Drama seems to have been Irangani’s shadow even in these early days. At six years, she went around showing her Christmas gift of a doll to all and sundry including the pigs being reared at home. Leaning over to make sure that the pigs got a good view of her precious doll, she over balanced and went into the pig trough in all her Christmas finery. A total accident but nevertheless dramatic! Schooling started at St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo 07, for Irangani and she subsequently moved to Bishop’s College. Her entry in to the world of drama began with the mimicking of characters and events in her day to day life during this era. Happy times were had here but tired of boarding life she contrived to leave school by telling the management that her mother wanted her at home. She then joined Girls’ High School, Kandy. At High School, she was heavily influenced by the English teacher at the school Ms. Pearl de Mel. Irangani is also very grateful to her Sinhala teachers. She says,”My Sinhala teachers were wonderful.
I was worse than weak in Sinhala, but they took me in hand and made me pass my H.S.C. (A Levels) and the University Entrance exam with Sinhala as one of my subjects. I am eternally grateful to them and to my father who refused to allow me to drop Sinhala for
my exam- “That’s your mother tongue “ he said, “aren’t you ashamed to admit that you can’t cope with it?” “I am where I am because of so many wonderful people in my life. The Kandy era saw a significant landmark in Irangani’s acting life. For the first time, she took part in a public performance playing Professor Higgins in Shaw’s Pygmalion. “That girl can act “- these true and prophetic words were uttered by none other than the person who became her husband in later years, Winston Serasinghe, who had been in the audience. He himself, a talented and versatile actor ranks foremost among Sri Lankan acting greats. Schooling over, Iranganie entered the University of Colombo much against her father’s wishes. He passed away two months later. At Colombo Campus Irangani read English, history and economics. It was at the Colombo Campus that Irangani met the doyen of English, Professor E. F. C. Ludowyke. His guidance gave much impetus to her acting career. One of Irangani’s earliest roles on stage was playing the lead in Professor Cuthbert Amerasinghe’s production of ‘The Second Mrs. Tanqueray’. Her other plays include Antigone directed by Dr. Lyn Ludowyke, Black Chiffon, Othello, Ernest MacIntyre’s Caucasian Chalk Circle and several productions by Raju Coomaraswamy. At Henry Jayasena’s invitation Irangani entered the realm of Sinhala stage.
Her debut was in Jayasena’s ‘Apata Puthey Magak Nethey’. She also appeared in a couple of Dhamma Jagoda productions as well, including the Sinhala version of ‘A street car named Desire’ – ‘Ves Muhunu’. Interestingly, Irangani is the last surviving member of the cast of the maiden play performed at the Lionel Wendt, “The Lower Depths” produced by Austrian director Neuman Jubal. After graduation, Irangani joined the staff of a leading Buddhist School, Musaeus College. “I love teaching” says she. While at Musaeus, Irangani married S. B. Dissanayake, Lecturer in Dental Surgery and left with him for the UK. It was Professor Ludowyke who encouraged and supported her to enter a Drama School while she was in the UK. In England, she had the unforgettable experience of meeting Flora Robson and Dame Sybil Thorndike, the then Greats of British Drama. She studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School for a year and the London School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art for two years. On her return, though she hoped for a teaching post it eluded her and she joined ‘The Times’ news paper as a features journalist. Among her contemporaries are two famed Sri Lankan photographers , the late Pat Deckker and Nihal Fernando, and a much read journalist, Selvam Canagaratnam. Speaking of press freedom then and now Serasinghe says,” then we could talk without fear to and with anyone and we had total journalistic freedom. The friends I made then are among my closest friends even today”. Irangani also served as a drama producer at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and after this she worked as a travel executive and tour guide at Walker Tours and Travels. So much has been said and written of Irangani’s phenomenal career in Sri Lankan cinema that there is really no need to gild the lily. However, a brief recap would not be amiss here. Irangani entered the world of Sri Lankan cinema playing a part in a documentary ‘Be Safe or Be Sorry’.
She is like our local Elizabeth Taylor in Cinema and Sitcom. It is none other than famous and highly talented old girl, Iranganie Serasinghe , who emerged through “Rekawa” produced by famous director, screen writer, and producer, Sir Lester James Peiries. Sure, you might want to know following facts about her and about her life.
Full Name – Irangnaie Roxanna Serasinghe
Born in – 1931 – 86 years of age
Education – Entered to University of Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1947- Faculty of Arts and Social Science
Acting Career – Adolescent star – Participated in various stage drama scenes during her campus life as a hobby. She was an active member of University of Colombo Drama Society.
After graduation, Iranganie Serasinghe began her career as a teacher in Musaeus Girl’s School in Colombo, Sri Lanka. While in teaching career, she got a chance to go to England to explore and study Arts and Drama in depth. After two years of her studies in London School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art, she returned to mother lanka with hope of teaching again in a high school. However, Iranganie did not get a teaching position in a high school, and she found work as a journalist in “Times Of Ceylon” Newspaper. She worked there for nearly four years. While involved in journalism, she attended stage drama practices in Colombo. By accidently Iranganie got invitation to act in “Rekawa” film, and there onwards her formal acting career began. Iranganie acted in “Sandeshaya,” “Ransalu,” “ Delowak Athara,” and “Bak Maha Deege,” which were hits on cinema. Iranganie says she loves stage more than sitcoms and films in her life. She contributed lots of time for stage drama in her life as a dedicated actress.
Iranganie took local dancing lessons from famous dancer, Chithrasena. Due to her parents oppose, she put full stop to it after a short time. Iranganie also did private tuition classes for young students as she did not receive any position on high school teaching. She believes that people who involve in doing various jobs have tendency to collect vast experiences to their lives. Iranganie says being in the entertainment industry for a long time had given her lots of experience. She says she is lucky to work with different people in the society as she gained understanding of society and world in depth.
Iranganie is extremely happy about her journey as an actress. She says there is no regret being in the entertainment industry as everyone treated her with respect and love. Iranganie also cared about everyone around her; on the set and off the set. She was a mother figure to many around her.
Personal life– She got married to Mr. Winston Serasinghe who had acted with her in “Rekawa” film (her 2nd husband) in 1960s. She had a short time marriage with Professor Dissanayake beforehand. Iranganie lost her eldest son in a motor accident and now she is living with her youngest son and his family. She loves spending time with her two grandsons. Her dream is to help her son and two grandsons to have a better future. Iranganie Serashinghe is someone who loves nature and loves spending time in tranquil environment with lots of natural materials.
We, Lanka Help Wish Her Long and Prosperous Life Blessed With Many Good Things!