The funeral of internationally acclaimed filmmaker Dr. Lester James Peries took place with full state honors, at Independence Square, Colombo, amidst large gathering of artistes, politicians and the public. Mourners from the mighty to the humblest including the leading lights in the film world who appreciated and talked of his immense contribution to the local film industry were present at the funeral.
Dr. Peries left an indelible imprint on the cinematic world by producing a number of international acclaimed films. He was the first Sri Lanka film producer to take the Sinhala cinema industry to the international platform.
President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa were among the large crowd of mourners who had come to Independence Square to pay their respects to this cinematic genius who left an indelible imprint in the hearts and minds local cinemagoers and the people of Sri Lanka in general.Vetern Indian filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who is credited with pioneering the new wave cinema movement in Kerala, recognized the enormous service of Dr. Lester James Peries to take Sri Lankan cinema to unprecedented heights and gain for it international recognition.
President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP Dinesh Gunawardena and Indian filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan at the funeral.
“Dr. Lester James Peiris is felicitated as he brought the local film industry to the world arena,” veteran actor Ravindra Randeniya said. “He is the symbol of the Sri Lankan film industry. He introduced many qualified artistes to the film industry through his films. I wonder whether such a capable filmmaker will be in our country even after centuries.”
Iconic actress Malani Fonseka said that Dr. Peries is among the four legendary filmmakers in the international film industry. The Sinhala film could reach to the higher and advanced position as a result of his talents and capabilities. “When we participated in world film festivals, we saw how he was felicitated by the world as a legend in the film industry,” she said.
Douglas Ranasinghe, a veteran actor, said that the vacuum created by the demise of the acclaimed film director could not be filled as there would be no alternative for years. “Dr. Peries was an iconic character in the film industry, since he could lift the Sri Lankan film industry to the world,” he said. “He had a rare talent to read characteristics of actors and actresses and then he gave instructions separately based on the talents and capabilities of each person. He was an ‘actor’s director’.”
“I, as a newcomer to the film industry met Dr. Peries in late 1960 when he was directing Akkara Paha. The way he directed the film was really exemplary,” he said. When going beyond the legendary role he played as a director, Ranasinghe pointed out that he was a kind-hearted, humble and friendly person who had a flair for joy.“It is significant that he did three rehearsals prior to the shooting,” he added. “One for camera, second for light, and the third one for him, that is, for the director. Those days it was rather boring, but now we know how what it was worth.” Dilhani Ekanayaka said that Dr. Peries’s demise is a real loss to the nation. “I doubt anyone can render the invaluable service that Dr. Peries did for the Sri Lankan film industry. He lived meaningfully, he served the industry meaningfully.” She further said that Sri Lankans could get a genuine taste of a film by viewing his cinematic masterpieces. The film Nidhanaya is a real treasure for the entire local film industry, she added. Secretary of the Vocalists’ Association Janaka Wikremasinghe said Dr. Peries was the symbol of local film industry when considering the unique service he rendered to the film industry. “Dr Peries with the assistance of Sunil Shantha opened a new chapter for film songs,” he said.Senior Film Director Chandran Ratnam said that Dr. Peiries was a guiding light for his (Ratnam’s) film career. With such a guiding light, the local film industry shone and reached heights. “I took part in international film festivals, including the Canness Film Festival and I then understood how he lifted the local film industry to the international stage,” he said.
Free Art Guild’s (FAG) Chairman Sudath Rohana suggested the establishment of an International Film Study Centre as a mark of respect to the late Dr. Lester James Peries.“Such an International Film Study Centre would not only be a felicitation of the invaluable and iconic film director, but would also bring immense benefits to the young generation entering the film industry.
According to him, Dr. Peries entered the film industry directing the film Rekhawa in 1956 and brought the local film industry to the international level. He is honoured as one of the three iconic film legends in Asian cinema. The other two are Akira Kurasowa (Japan) and Sathyajit Rai (India).