Anoja Weerasinghe comes from the hinterlands of Sri Lanka and spent her early years in a completely rural environment. On reaching adulthood, she migrated to the capital, Colombo, and became involved in acting on both stage and screen. Today Anoja is one of the country’s best known and most popular actresses, showered with National and International laurels for her skills.
Anoja's first role on screen was a 30 second appearance in TAK TIK TUK in 1978. Since then she has gone on to work in the popular cinema, portraying the romantic heroine with as much ease as she plays the harried village wife, appearing in over 80 films so far and capturing the hearts and the imagination of film-goers both locally and internationally.
As Anoja says, it is her experience of life in a village community which has enriched and enhanced her understanding of life in general. It has also enabled her to play the roles of village women in a convincing and down-to-earth manner. Her adaptation to urban life came later on and today she straddles both worlds, urban and rural, simple and sophisticated, with equal ease and finesse.
In 1987, Anoja was awarded the Silver Peacock for Best Actress at the 11th International Film Festival held in Delhi India, for her portrayal of the dual roles of mother and daughter in D B Nihalsinghe's MALDENIYAE SIMEON. Her sensitive performances of the roles of these two quite different women within one film also won accolades for her within Sri Lanka, including the prestigious President's Award.
Anoja went on to play leading roles in a series of outstanding films in Sri Lanka and continued to win praise from film critics and popular audiences alike. Over and over again she proved that she was able to take on any challenge that was thrown her way as an actress, playing the role of a farming woman as well as she did that of an urbanized woman, playing a young debutante with the same ease with which she played a politician's middle-aged mistress.
Having attained such heights with no formal training, in 1989 Anoja enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and was awarded a Diploma on the successful completion of her course of studies there.
Following the completion of her diploma at LAMDA Anoja completed a special course on acting at the Drama Studio London. Since 1990 to date Anoja has been receiving advanced training under the expert tutelage of Sue Weston in Movement, Stress & anger Management and Balancing. Anoja has received special voice training under Barbara Housemann of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon, and been trained further in the Western style of singing by Theresia Vanzethema. Her expertise in North Indian Classical singing has come from the training she has received from Sangeeth Nipun Manjula Seneviratne & Prof. K K Kapoor of Lucknow University in India.
Not only did this decision to undergo formal training demonstrate the seriousness with which Anoja herself treats her profession, it has also enhanced her performances in depth of understanding as well as in style.
Over the years, Anoja has received many awards for acting as well as for her overall contribution to the cinema, both within Sri Lanka and abroad. She acknowledges this not only as a recognition of her talent and skill as an actress but also as a recognition of Sri Lankan cinema.
Anoja says her success has been in part an achievement of one of her dreams which is to work towards the development of Sri Lankan cinema and to see it honoured among its peers worldwide.
In 1990, she was honoured with the Kohinoor Award presented by the Governor of Tamilnadu. In Sri Lanka, the state has awarded her the Kala Shuri, a lifetime achievement award. In 1994, NETPAC and the Asian Film Centre organized a Tribute to her work in New Delhi. India. In 1995, the state governments of Kerala and West Bengal organized a retrospective of Anoja's films at the International Film Festivals held within their stales In July 1996. Following this there was a retrospective of her films at the Munich International Film Festival.
It is Anoja's intelligence, combined with her keen understanding of the complexity of the human psyche and her deep awareness of what it means to be a woman in contemporary society that enables her to recreate characters on screen in a realistic and emotive manner.
This is also what makes it possible for her to transcend national boundaries and reach out to film audiences all over the world. Within Sri Lanka, her contributions to the industry as a film producer has demonstrated her commitment to the development of the indigenous film industry.
In modern Sri Lankan cinema, Anoja is perhaps the actress who has received most acclaim outside her own shores. For instance the retrospective in Munich marked the first occasion on which a Sri Lankan actress has been thus honoured. Her retrospectives are perhaps the best acknowledgement of the respect that Anoja Weerasinghe has earned for her work in cinema throughout the world.