(Sinhala Cinema celebrates its 75th anniversary this January. The first Sinhala Talkie “Kadavunu Poronduwa”(Broken Promise) was released on Jan 21 1947.It was produced by a Tamil S. Maruthanayagam known as SM Nayagam. This article published last year is being re-posted without any changes to denote the milepost anniversary)
“It is with pride and pleasure, Chitrakala presents to the four million Sinhalese of Ceylon, a picture in their own language for the first time.” was the special message issued by Chitrakala Movietone Ltd the producers of of “Kadawunu Poronduwa” when it was first screened on January 21st 1947. ‘Kadawunu Poronduwa’ meaning Broken Promise in English was no ordinary film. It was the first-ever Sinhala “talkie” meaning a film where the characters on screen spoke and sang in the Sinhala language. Until then films shown in the island were in languages like English, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil or Telugu but not in Sinhala.
The evolution and growth of cinema had seen frozen images becoming soundless moving images and then having sound added. Initially films with moving images were called silent films. Western nations particularly the USA focused more on the moving images. Therefore films were generally called movies in those countries. In the Asian region particularly South Asia, the emphasis was more on sound, songs and conversation. Thus films with sound tracks were referred to as talkies. It was against this backdrop that ‘Kadawunu Poronduwa’ was welcomed and hailed as the first Sinhala talkie. The message issued by the movie producers at the first screening highlighted this aspect effectively.
The livewire of “Kadawunu Poronduwa” was BAW Jayamanne who had written the story, screenplay and dialogues for the talkie. BAW Jayamanne known popularly as Aloy Jayamanne also played the lead male role in the film. Among those who acted in the film were Rukmani Devi, Eddie Jayamanne, Gemini Kantha, Rupa Devi, Peter Peiris, Miriam Jayamanne, Hugo Fernando and Stanley Mallawarachchi. While the cast was Sri Lankan, the film making crew was Indian.