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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 730

Sri Lanka’s Sarala wins world’s ‘Best Performing Child Actor’ award for her role in the controversial film 'Water'

By Walter Jayawardhana

Los Angeles, 24 May, (Asiantribune.com): Hollywood’s Young Artist Foundation has presented the Best Child Actor of the World in an international feature film Award to Sri Lankan child artist Sarala Kariyawasam , who performed a highly acclaimed role of a child widow in the award winning controversial film , “Water.”Sarala -  Best Child Actor of the World Sarala - Best Child Actor of the World

“Sarala performed an absolutely outstanding role in a brilliant film that should have been given more recognition by Hollywood,” said Maureen Dragone, President of the Foundation, which is holding its 28th consecutive year of awards recognizing and honoring talented young child artists all over the world.

“The young actress will be definitely being better known in the future,” Dragone further said.

The jury of the foundation said, Sarala has been named, the “Leading Young Actor or Actress for the Best Performance in an International Feature Film”, for the current year.

This is the highest award any Sri Lankan child has ever won in any performing arts in the history of Sri Lanka.

Sarala’s parents will accompany their prodigiously talented daughter (11) to Hollywood to accept the award from President Dragone of the foundation in a trip sponsored by Sri Lankan Air’s Colombo and Los Angeles offices at a ceremony presided over by the Sri Lankan ambassador in Washington DC, Bernard Goonetilleke. Sarala with Director MehtaSarala with Director Mehta

A special award presentation ceremony has been arranged by the Sri Lankan Consul General’s office in Los Angeles, as a part of the ‘Focus Sri Lanka Trade Show’ scheduled to be held in Los Angeles on May 28 and 29, to promote the island nations trade and culture in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Sarala will be awarded the golden figure holding up a star , May 28, at the California Market Center, 110 East 9th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90079.

Sarala was selected the best out of eight nominations for the category. Ivana Baquero (Spain) for the film “Pans Labyrinth”,Alex Pettyfer (England) for the film “Alex Rider-Operation Stormbreaker”, Freddie Highmore (England) for the film “Arthur and the Invisibles”, Nansal Balitguluum (Mongolia) for the film “The Cave of the Yellow Dog”,

Jonathon Mason (England) for the film Lassie, Dmitry Martynov (Russia)For the film Night Watch and Jhenbo Yang (China) for the film “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles".

Young Artist Foundation , which is awarding the title has been helped in its selection by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which is also holding the better known Golden Globe Awards for adult actors and other artists in the performing arts.

Last February, Canadian citizen but India-born writer-director Deepa Mehta's 'Water', a story about the plight of Hindu widows in 1930s, failed to win the best foreign film Oscar losing out to Germany's 'The Lives of Others'. That was the first time a Hindi language film has ever been nominated for an Oscar.

Mehta, originally planned to film Water in location in India but the shooting in India had to be scrapped following protests from Hindu fundamentalist Sangh Parivar outfits who rioted and set fire to its sets and it was completed in Sri Lanka’s salubrious and beautiful surroundings at the scenic Bolgoda Lake.Seema Biswas with Sarala in TorontoSeema Biswas with Sarala in Toronto

Sarala , an extremely bright girl , who did not know a word of Hindi had to learn all dialogues by heart but ultimately acted so well many critics were stunned by her performance.

When the film was presented at the Toronto Film Festival a critic said, “ the film is centred by the extraordinary performance of Sarala as the young Chuyia, a girl whose spirit remains unbroken. Her refusal to bend to her plight carries considerable emotive power and elevates Water from a harsh tale of deprivation into one of hope and the possibility of overcoming. Mehta has made a film for the ages.”

The film is about the harsh treatment received by widows in the 1930’s in India. She played the role of a child bride (Chuiya) who lost her husband at the age of eight and sent to an ashram to live with other widows, leading an austere life , sleeping on concrete floors, beggging for a living and sometimes being sold as prostitutes to the Brahmin gentry across the river. She befriends Kalyani, stunningly beautiful other widow played by Lisaa Ray.

This is what a British critic said of them: “. Sarala as Chuihya is a sheer delight to watch; her innocence and bewilderment of the circumstances before her somehow mirror that of our own.

Her childlike wonder a revelation, moreso when you realise Sarala doesn’t speak a word of Hindi or English and learnt all of her lines phonetically. Ray plays Kalyani with a subtle innocence - of beauty conditioned to be submissive, whilst Biswas as Shakuntala is the newly enlightened conscience of the movie, the rambunctious Chuihya its’ soul. .…. An immense movie, daunting at times yet unforgettably touching; the images of Kalyani and Chuihya will stay with you for a long while afterwards.”

Seema Biswas, the award winning Hindi actress , better known for Bandit Queen , the film and who costarred with Sarala in the film was once asked by Kolkata’s Telegraph : “Kids and animals are generally considered difficult to work with. How was young Sarala on the sets?”

Biswas said, “Oh, Sarala is a very talented girl! She is a born artiste. She learnt Hindi and English in just a few weeks. She used to behave like a star on the sets (laughs). I am sure she will grow up to be a professional actress. Water was a wonderful experience for her and everyone on the sets with her.”

- Asian Tribune -

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