Riding the Crest
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
Among Sri Lanka’s many rising stars, there is Sandani Fernando. Having taken part in a number of television dramas already, the young actress has quickly risen in popularity and has won the hearts of many viewers through her skills and charm. Teen Inc had the opportunity to learn more about Sandani and her journey in the art of acting.
Her big break
“I never thought I would ever become an actress as a kid,” Sandani shared. “In fact, I had very little interest in acting and drama at all, growing up as a young kid. I studied in the commerce stream for my G.C.E Advanced Level examinations and had an interest in economics, which I wanted to pursue.” However, as fate may have it, there was a turning point in Sandani’s life that opened the doors for her acting career and changed her life in a completely unexpected way. “It began with me participating on ITN’s Awurudu Kumariya in 2016 and becoming runner up.
After the competition, I started receiving invitations to be a part in a lot of television commercials. After acting in them, opportunities for me to start taking bigger roles and characters started to reach me, including television drama productions.” And so, Sandani made her debut in Haara Kotiya, a long-running television drama, establishing her career as an actress in Sri Lanka. “The script was written by Saddhamangala Sooriyabandara,” Sandani shared with us. “And Chamara Samarawickrama was producer and the director was Jayaprakash Sivagurunadan. If it weren’t for them believing in my capability as an actress, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
“I was so nervous on the first day of shooting for Haara Kotiya,” Sandani recounted. “But everyone on set were so kind and generous that I quickly felt at home, which helped build my confidence.” However, equipped with only her training and barely any acting experience that matched the standard of quality needed for a television production, Sandani’s acting career wasn’t smooth sailing from the get-go. “If you watch the first few episodes, you would notice how inexperienced I was,” she shared.
“But with time, experience and coaching from my director, I was able to become comfortable in front of the camera and improve my acting performance.” When asked if she had any preconceived notions about acting and the film industry in Sri Lanka and how they have changed after experiencing the industry first-hand, she noted, “I wouldn’t lie and say I wasn’t afraid of joining the industry, because of some of the horror stories I have heard,” she revealed. “But I think that it depends on the person and how you carry yourself in front of others. So far, I’ve only had positive experiences working in the industry.”
A never ending journey
“Being an actor is an education that never ends,” Sandani opined. “You learn new techniques, ideas and skills every day. It’s a journey of constant improvement.” After the completion of her debut television series, Sandani went on to take part in a number of other productions, including Agni Piyaapath, where she played a fan favourite character in the series, Madhavi. “I think Madhavi resonated a lot with the viewers,” she said. “The same was for me as well. Out of all the characters I’ve played, she is my favourite.” “She’s a young mother, and can come off as strict and rather harsh sometimes,” Sandani explained. “But I think that’s mostly because of her circumstances in life, and she had to become a tough character, but she’s still a sensitive person deep inside.”
“Fear of performing in front of a camera was one of the biggest challenges I had when starting out,” Sandani revealed. “I kept forgetting my lines, didn’t stand in front of the camera in the right angles, had to do multiple retakes to get everything right, it was difficult and challenging to me.” However, Sandani has since managed to overcome her fear and perform naturally, even winning the hearts of the viewers through how she brings her character to life. “The only way I was able to overcome my fear, was to tackle it head-on,” she shared. “What gave me the strength to face my fears and push forward was the belief that I had it in me to succeed in this, and now, I am able to perform comfortably in front of the camera.”
Of course, she wouldn’t have been able to have that self-confidence if it wasn’t for the people around her, adding their support to her journey. “I have to thank my mother especially,” Sanduni added. “She was there with me every step of the way and gave her support in my pursuing this career opportunity that I’ve been given. She was by my side from the first day of my shooting, and has been with me through this journey every step of the way.” “I also wouldn’t be here without the support of the three who believed in my ability as an actress, Sivagurunathan, Sooriyabandara and Samarawickrama. Their understanding and support has helped me grow and improve as an actress and showcase that to the viewers. Even after Haara Kotiya, I’ve continued to work with them, and most of the productions I’ve been in are their works.”
Life amidst COVID
Sandani shared that because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the entire industry as a whole has grounded to a halt. However, she stressed that right now, it’s important that everyone put their health and safety as a priority. “But it’s also true that many who work in the industry are now struggling to make ends meet,” she revealed. “The lack of any production not only affects actors, directors and producers, but also set designers, cinematographers and many more people who operate behind the scenes.”
“I’ve kind of taken a step back because of the current pandemic,” she shared. “But hopefully once it is safe again, we can get back to working on great projects that will entertain the viewers. We had a lot of interesting work in the pipeline, and all of that is currently on hold for now.” Besides television, Sandani has also appeared in a number of music videos, with some becoming trending hits on streaming platforms such as YouTube. She shared that she intends to take part in more of such work.
A word of advice
“If you are hoping to become a part of the industry, believe in yourself. Learn your craft and have a clear plan on how you wish to achieve your goal. If you work hard and work smart, you’ll find that challenges will shrink down to minor speed-bumps.”