Class of 2015 (expected) – Innis
Natalya Gunaratne: actress, musician and full-time student
Third Year Student Natalya Gunaratne is an accomplished Jazz musician performing in the recent Music for Haiti fundraising concert and has also recently appeared in Deepa Mehta’s “Midnight’s Children”
My favorite memory is of my first day walking into Innis residence, a bit nervous not knowing what to expect but all my worries were whisked away as I met my new roommates. We immediately hit it off and I felt so comfortable as if they were already my new family. From that day we got along and looked after each other and grateful for ending up together.
One of the biggest lessons I learned at university is that I had to take responsibility for myself unlike high school, where there was more attention given by teachers. I realized, if I had to learn and do well, as well enjoy life here and do things outside academics, I had to discipline myself. So, I learned to plan ahead and manage my time.
I started off with psychology and nutritional sciences, but changed over to double major in psychology and neuroscience. I am fascinated with the power and the complexity of the brain and how the mind works. Growing up in Sri Lanka in a Buddhist culture, exposed me to the teachings of the Buddha who through meditation and mindfulness unraveled many mysteries of the brain and mind. This also gives me an opportunity to also explore the link between Eastern and the Western philosophies.
I have also had many opportunities outside academics to participate in sports for Innis. I played on the Women’s Soccer team and the ultimate Frisbee team. We had a great teams and it was a wonderful way to leave the books for a while and get some exercise and have fun.
Donald Boere, our Registrar at Innis College gave me a wonderful opportunity to sing for a charity concert ‘Music for Haiti’, raising funds for Doctor’s Without Borders. It was a privilege to sing for such a good cause and a great experience to perform at Hart House along with many other talented musicians.
I have been singing since I was 4 years old and the stage has become my second home. I began singing Jazz at a monthly Jazz show in Sri Lanka from the time I was 11 years old. I have been writing my own songs and performed them publicly (with a mix of covers) at my own concert ‘La Dolce Vita’ in 2009 in Sri Lanka, in aid of the Sunshine kids (a home for children affected by the tsunami in 2004). I also love the theater played roles such as Leisel in Sound of Music, Sandy in Grease and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. I am also a jazz ballet dancer.
Being a part of the cast in Deepa Mehta’s film, Midnight’s Children was an incredible experience. Seeing how a film was made from ‘behind the scenes’; all the grand sets down to smallest detail requiring so many people to work together and coordinate was fascinating. The movie was so controversial that the Sri Lankan government even stopped its filming for a few weeks, as Iran (being a trading partner) did not condone Salman Rushdie. I was inspired by Deepa Mehta, so strong, knowing exactly what she wanted, yet so kind and friendly to everyone – actors and crew alike.
I am also deeply inspired by my parents and siblings. They are truly my source of power and strength. Being away from them, for the first time this year, has been tough, but it has made me stronger. And it makes me appreciate them even more.
I am ever grateful for all this abundance I have around me. I look forward to being an integral part of Innis College and making new friends and enjoying life at U of T.