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Up Close and Personal with Keith Ranga

Jun 9, 2015
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He’s a popular stage performer, actor, dancer and past president of Sri Lanka America Association of Southern California. (SLAASC) Sri Lanka Foundation sat down with Keith Ranga to discuss his plans for Ranwan Rayak 5 and his new movie “Sihina Lowak Soya” set to release in Sri Lanka this year.

SLF: Good Evening Keith, how are you doing today?
KR: I am fine thank you, little busy these days with Ranwan Rayak coming up, how are you? SLF: I’m good Thanks, so are you ready for your interview?
KR: Yes! I am excited!
SLF: So Keith what is your full name?
KR: (Laughs) It’s Keith Ranga.
SLF: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
KR: I am from Pita Kotte, Sri Lanka and I went to St. Thomas’s College, Kotte. For my higher studies I went to De Mazenod College, Kandana. I have three sisters and one brother. We are a very close knit family.
SLF: How did you get involved with Acting/Dancing?
KR: Oh wow! That was long time ago. I was very involved with stage and drama at a young age. I remember taking part in various plays when I was in school at St. Thomas College. My big break came when I was  around 15, I was acting at a stage play in school and Rev. Father Ernest Poruthota, Founder/Director of OCIC, the Sri Lanka branch of the International Catholic Organization for Cinema now known as SIGNIS came to see the play. I was very excited. After the play, he came up to me and congratulated me on an amazing performance and handed me his business card. He told me to come with my parents to meet him and Mr. Roy De Silva.  I remember being so excited, I practically ran home and told my parents.
SLF: So you went and met them?
KR: Yes! I met Roy De Silva and his wife Sumana Amarasinghe. I was so nervous. They were so nice and they offered me a part in “Gedara Budun Amma” this was my first professional appearance.
SLF: Wow! What can you remember from acting in that movie?
KR: I remember Sumana Amarasinghe telling me to calm down and relax. I had acted on stage but in front of the camera was something foreign to me. Roy & Sumana were like parents they made me feel like I can do anything. It’s funny I think I still follow their advice when acting.
SLF: What did the Audience think of the movie?
KR: This was the first movie dealing with drugs in Sri Lanka, so it was banned for many years and somehow Roy got it released and people liked it.
SLF: Did you get other offers after that?
KR: Yes! then came “It’s a matter of time”, “Cherio Doctor”, “Love 94”, “Sinhayagethe Sinhaya” a teledrama named “Pini Bindu” and then one named “Thahanam Gala”.
SLF: Wow! you were quite busy. How did your family react to you getting famous?
KR: My family didn’t approve my acting career. At that time acting was not considered important. You become a doctor or a lawyer not an actor. So after my Advanced Level exams I left Sri Lanka and moved to the USA in 1992
SLF: Did you keep in touch with your acting in Sri Lanka
KR: Yes I did! Roy & Sumana are like family. They taught me everything I know.
SLF: Did you do any stage dramas?
KR: Yes, my first stage drama was “Sadaadi” by Sanath Abeysekara.
SLF: Did you do Sinhala Dramas in the US?
KR: Yes! In 1998 I got involved with Dr. Mudalinayaka Somaratne and Mr. Bhadraji Jayathilake. They are two amazing mentors, artistes and teachers. In 1999 I was part of Somi Ratnayake’s “Rosa Mal Patthiya” (Bed of Roses). Later I worked with Sunethra Sarathchandra in three different dramas. I also worked with her sister, Kisa and her husband Jagath in “Wellawahum Natayage” and “Dollyge Sinhinaya.” In 2007 I acted in “The Island” directed by Bhadraji Jayathilake as an Englishman.
SLF: Apart from acting you are quite the dancer. How did you get involved with dancing?
KR: My first dance performance was in 1999 with Swarna Jayanthi and her daughter in “Maha Rah Jaame”.
SLF: This was a big year for you, we saw you on “Sihina Lowak Soya” you even had an action scene.
KR: (Laughs) Yes! this year was amazing and I was blessed. “Sihina Lowak Soya” was the first movie done 80% in United States thanks to Andy Samarasena and 20% in Sri Lanka by Roy & Sumana. It was the first time I was given a main role which included an action scene. It was a whole new experience. The Red carpet Premier in Hollywood made it extra special because I was able to enjoy the movie with my friends and family in Los Angeles. The feedback I received from the audience was amazing.
SLF: It’s almost June you must be busy with Ranwan Rayak 5.
KR: Yes very busy with it. I still cannot believe we are having Ranwan Rayak 5 this year.
SLF: Keith, how did Ranwan Rayak start?
KR: In 2006 I was elected as the President of Sri Lanka America Association of Southern California (SLAASC). Quite frankly we had no money and we needed to raise funds. After trying various methods, I got together with some like minded people like Palitha Kasturiarachchi and created Ranwan Rayak. It is a night of Sri Lankan cinema magic with famous cinema stars of Sri Lanka. A show to promote Sri Lankan cinema to young expatriates and a place for upcoming Sri Lankan American talent. Californians of all ages loved the show. This year we are having our 5th show.
SLF: Why do you think Ranwan Rayak got so famous?
KR: I believe there are two reasons. Music is a universal language so no matter where you are from, you can join in and enjoy. I believe Ranwan Rayak is a place for creative individuals to gather and learn from each other. We practice for over six months and I love the dedication young people have to Ranwan Rayak. Most of our performers are still in the Ranwan Rayak crew. The other is the passion for the arts. Palitha and I, both are very passionate about the arts. He is a great director, choreographer and costume designer and together I think we make a good team. Everyone involved with Ranwan Rayak are passionate artistes. It is also telecasted on television in Sri Lanka.
SLF: I heard that 100% of all proceeds go to the under privileged in Sri Lanka.
KR: You heard right. Every penny we make on Ranwan Rayak is given to worthy causes in Sri Lanka. So far we built 44 bathrooms for disable soldiers. They gave up their future so we can have a better future and this was a way of giving back. Then we have funded the Cancer Hospital in Sri Lanka. We gave Rs.1.5 million to Children’s Hospital and we are putting up a new wing at the Victoria Home for Incurables with the funds we raise this year.
SLF: Ranwan Rayak also has an Award presentation right?
KR: Yes we do, we invite actors from Sri Lanka and give them Lifetime Achievement Awards to great individuals. I would never forget 2010 because I was able to give the Lifetime Achievement Award to Roy De Silva & Sumana Amarasinghe. They will always be my mentors, friends and family.
SLF: Keith so what is your personal philosophy?
KR: I am a Christian and I thrive to be a better person, I try to understand and accept others, love them and help others in any way I can.
SLF: What would you tell aspiring actors?
KR: I would tell them to be focused on the direction they wish to go and get to know yourself. Always be humble, be open to change, dedicated, loyal and give respect. Always be respectful and kind.
SLF: Five years of Ranwan Rayak and did any of those performances surprise you?
KR: RR in 2012 is unforgettable. I was performing with Sabeetha Perera, I was blown away by her professionalism. She respected me and treated me like a professional actor it felt good.
SLF: If I ask you “Who is Keith?” what is your reply?
KR: I am a  humble person who is a devoted son, brother and uncle. I love my family and friends, I will always try my best to help others. I love acting I want to become one of Sri Lankans legendary actors.
SLF: Any Current Projects?
KR: Ranwan Rayak in June is my most current project. I am working on releasing “Sihina Lowak Soya” in Sri Lanka. I will be starting my own movie production in October and will be in Sri Lanka for some shooting.
SLF: Wow Keith you are a busy person, Can you tell us the names of the movies you are working on?
KR: You will know the names soon. I will make sure you are the first to know (laughs)
SLF: You are an actor and producer but a little birdie told me that you are a Top Agent for an Insurance company.
KR: Yes I am. I am self-employed with Colonial Life for the past 12 years. I won the Rookie of the Year award 12 years ago and have won the Top Agent award for 11 years straight.
SLF: Congratulations! so you are never going to let go of that award?
KR: Not planning to (laughs) I love my job and I am lucky to be able to do what I love and be successful.
SLF: Congratulations again! Thank you so very much for spending time with us. Before I let you go, one last question. If you were able to act in Hollywood who would you love acting next to?
KR: Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Thank you for having me and please thank Dr. Jayasinghe for creating “Sri Lanka Day Expo” to showcase and promote Sri Lankan American Talent.

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