Dinara Punchihewa: Featured in Forbes 30 under 30

May 19 2024.

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Sri Lankan actress Dinara Punchihewa has achieved a significant milestone by being included in the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 list. This recognition highlights her exceptional talent and influence in the entertainment industry, placing her among the most promising young leaders and innovators from around the world. Her inclusion underscores not only her personal achievements but also the growing global impact of Sri Lankan talent.

Q CONGRATULATIONS ON  MAKING THE 30 UNDER 30  LIST! HOW DOES IT FEEL TO  BE RECOGNISED AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE? Thank you! It feels surreal. Being considered among a pool of extremely talented individuals is both humbling and rewarding. In some ways, I feel I do not deserve this, but in many ways, I know I do. I work extremely hard on my craft - it is something I do not ever take lightly!

Q CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY INTO ACTING? WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE  THIS CAREER? It’s funny how life unfolds, but I always knew I wanted to be an actress. There's a video my father cherishes, capturing my eight-year-old self confidently saying that I would one day be an actress. Perhaps it was the magic of witnessing Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol amidst a field of yellow flowers or the fact that my parents made us watch Hitchcock and Spielberg from a young age. Everyone thought I would grow out of it.. but we know how that ended! My passion took me from watching stage plays at the Lionel Wendt, to studying Theatre and Drama at Queen Mary University of London as my degree choice.  A multitude of plays and auditions later, I directed and acted in my own short film, and was discovered by Prasanna Vithanage, who cast me as the lead role in his film “Gaadi - Children of the Sun.’ My life has never been the same again.

Q WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING ROLE YOU'VE PLAYED SO FAR, AND HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR IT? Tikiri, my role in Gaadi has been the most challenging role I’ve played so far. There was a huge cultural and social impact on the character I played because it was a story about an 1815 Kandyan girl who refused to succumb to her destiny. This role resonated with so many women in Sri Lanka and I’m glad I was able to do that. We rehearsed for 6 months. There was a lot of research, reading, workshops and dance classes. After that, we shot the film in 3 months in the jungles of Sri Lanka. It was challenging to be away from home and really live in the skin of this character but looking back now, I’m so thankful.  

Q HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR PERSONAL LIFE WITH THE DEMANDS OF YOUR ACTING CAREER? Acting is not my life, but an extension of it. I don’t take my success too seriously - I don’t take my failures too seriously. It’s not easy, but I have a wonderful support system. My family and my husband have always been my comfort blanket to fall back on and they truly understand what I do, which helps! I believe that life is all about balance and I take a conscious effort to make things work on both ends.

Q WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG ASPIRING ACTORS LOOKING TO BREAK INTO THE INDUSTRY? The truth is, it’s not an easy industry and in a small country like Sri Lanka, the opportunities available are quite limited. I would say, work on your craft - everything is free online now and make sure to join a theatre group or production company. This way it will help you stay in the loop and work on yourself. Audition, audition, audition and email your favourite directors. Sometimes it’s about being at the right place at the right time. I always say that it’s not the destination that matters, but the journey. So be strong, believe in yourself and surround yourself with good people.

Q HOW DO YOU HANDLE CRITICISM AND SETBACKS IN YOUR CAREER? I do appreciate constructive criticism a lot. I believe we grow and improve as artists when we listen to criticism. I don’t know if I handle setbacks well,  but I try to stay positive. I remember I felt very down during the Covid 19 pandemic as all my work was stuck, but again, having a good support system in times like these makes every day a lot easier.

Q HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR ROLES, AND WHAT TYPE OF CHARACTERS ARE YOU MOST DRAWN TO? I choose my roles depending on the script. If I know I can do justice to that character and have faith in the director, I’m happy to go ahead with a project. However, I’ve noticed that I’m most drawn to strong female roles; Characters that tell a story and break female stereotypes. I look forward to all the exciting projects in the future!

Q WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS OF YOUR CAREER? I want to be a part of films that make an impact; characters that sit in peoples’ minds and I want to act for the rest of my life. Apart from that, I would like to open a Drama School for children one day. I want to be able to share my passion for acting with our future generation of actors, directors and playwrights.

Q LOOKING BACK, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY IN YOUR CAREER PATH? Of course! I could think of a million things I would have done differently but I feel there is no point having regrets. I’m very grateful for everything I’ve achieved and the people I’ve met along the way. Life has truly been an adventure!

Q HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED AND INSPIRED IN A HIGHLY COMPETITIVE INDUSTRY? In this dynamic industry, my motivation stems from a genuine passion for my craft. I am inspired by the intricacies of cinema, especially the more niche and unconventional aspects. I am constantly working on sharpening my skills, whether it's delving into scripts and books to broaden my knowledge, or learning from new creatives. While I am aware of the competitive nature of this industry, I truly do not see it as a rivalry with others but rather as something a lot more personal - where my focus is only to surpass my own benchmarks.

Pix courtesy DP


Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Deputy Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook,¬†Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno [email protected]



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