Continue the practice, even at home: Sithumli Ruhansa
By Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna
Photos Saman Abeysiriwardena
Sithumli Ruhansa Mendis is a squash player with a passion for acting. She emerged first runner-up at the Junior National Squash Tournament 2019. Nine-year-old Sithumli has played many roles in popular teledramas and has made appearances in many commercials. She says that although she doesn’t remember, she was just nine months old when she first made an appearance on television for a baby product. She also works as a dubbing artiste. Sithumli dreams of becoming a pilot when she is older, but says she will never give up acting and aesthetic work. Let’s see what Sithumli shared with Little Stars readers.
Sithumli, tell us more about yourself.
I am a student of Sirimavo Bandaranaike College. My mother too is an old girl there. I have a sister who is older than me. My father works for SriLankan Airlines. My mother used to work there too, but now she stays home with us, assisting us in the things that we do. I play squash and also play badminton sometimes. My hobby is collecting stamps and coins and I have two books full of stamps. I am also a member of the Ranwala Balakaya.
Did you do anything special during the days you were at home due to the Covid curfew?
Yes, I played a lot with my sister. And I did many videos. I didn’t publish them anywhere. The videos were mostly songs from stage dramas. That’s something I love to do – to sing drama songs.
When did you start playing squash?
When I was very young. I can’t actually remember when I started playing squash officially. It was my sister who played squash. I used to accompany her when she goes for practices and her coach encouraged me to learn to play. I couldn’t even lift the racket properly when I first attempted playing the sport. I used to watch my sister play and try to imitate what she was doing. I started squash practices in school when I was in Grade One.
Last year, I emerged first runner-up at the Junior National Squash Tournament last year. It was right after my appendix surgery. Doctors had advised me to rest, but I did not want to miss the tournament. So I wore a girdle to prevent the stitches from becoming loose and faced the tournament anyway. It wasn’t very easy, but I was very excited to hear that I became the first runner-up.
What qualities should a player have to become a good squash player?
You need to be a good listener and not miss anything the coaches say to you. You should never miss your practices and you must do your exercises regularly.
Do you mean to say you continued to practise even during the curfew period?
Yes, of course. I did skipping every day. I used to do all the exercises we were taught to do. I continued with my fitness routine. One of my coaches instructed us on Zoom and that was very helpful too. I even practised shots in squash by hanging a ball at our balcony.
Did you say you also play badminton?
Yes, but not as much as squash. I play at house tournaments and at home with my sister. I enjoy playing badminton too.
Tell us more about your role as an actress.
I was selected to play the lead role in the drama Kiruli in 2018. The drama was directed by Mr. Pradeep Dharmadasa. It was a great experience for me. I couldn’t even read properly; I had just started to learn how to read. My mother had to help me with learning my dialogues. Most of my friends in school call me Kiruli and not my real name. I don’t mind them calling me Kiruli.
Pradeep Uncle was very helpful. He never scolded me or got upset when I got things wrong. He is extremely patient with children. So, it was really easy for me to work with him. Just before the Covid curfew, I joined another drama, but we could only work on a few episodes. I am eagerly waiting for the work to resume.
I like stage dramas a lot. I received an opportunity to play a few roles like Gajaman Nona and Prince Micheal from Hunuwataye Kathawa for upper school Literary Day. It is a rare chance for a girl in primary school. But I loved working with akkis.
How was your experience on stage? It is similar to acting in teledramas?
Not at all. If you get something wrong during a teledrama, you can reshoot until you get it right. But on stage, you can never do that. You have to be well prepared before you go on stage.
What do you prefer most – stage drama or teledrama?
What is your favourite stage drama?
I really loved Sinhabahu. I like to sing the songs in Sinhabahu all the time.
What is your ambition?
I like to become a pilot one day. But I will never give up on dramas. I will try to balance both careers when I am older.
Is there anyone you want to thank?
Well, there are a lot that I want to thank.
Firstly, I have to thank my mother for always being there for me. She is always behind me in all my work. I have to thank my father for always helping me with school work. When he is at home, he always helps us. My sister supports me when it comes to squash and badminton. She always gives me helpful tips.
Then I have to thank all my teachers for being helpful and supportive. They always help me when I miss my school work because of tournaments or shoots.
Then, most importantly, I have to thank my coaches. I actually have four squash coaches helping me out. My first coach was Mr. Janaka Suvaris who was also my sister’s coach. He recently gifted me a racket because he was happy to hear about my achievement at the junior nationals. Chandana Sir trains me at school and Thalagala Sir helps me out at a private class because at school, we don’t have enough time to practise.
I also want to thank my uncle, Buddhi Upasena, for being there for us when we need help.
Last but not least, I have to thank Ruwi Lakmali akki who is always there to teach me right from wrong when it comes to acting. She has played my mother’s role in many commercials. And, like my real mother, she always guides me towards opportunities that are suitable for me.