Janaka Kumbukage versatile autographed flamboyant actor in all media in a sparkling voyage for four decades

Born in a bit of a remote village in Wadduwa,to parents duo both teachers in a transferable service,father had lately become a principal,Janaka Kumbukage has had only a younger sibling brother with whom he had played cricket together the passion he still continues. Initially had studied in a mixed school,Wadduwa Kantha Vidyalaya where his mother too had taught. Thereafter had been groomed at the Wadduwa Madhya Maha Vidyalaya.As the parents were in a transferable service Janaka had been forced to attend to over six schools. Though not a brilliant student had excelled in the ‘wrestling’ sport having participated in many meets and even won medals at inter school competitions. He could not pursue the sport further as the sport was banned owing to its dangerousness.

Janaka had not viewed a single film or stage drama until he was in the advanced level class when he had witnessed Dharmasiri Bandaranayake’s ‘Ekadipathi’ stage play at the Panadura town hall premises.After viewing Janaka had been overwhelmed as to how a group of people portray roles with such craft, energy so impressively. This exposure had enticed him to learn this craft as it was a rare media which he wished from his heart to learn.He had never wanted to go behind people to ask for roles, was on the look out for a place to learn this art.Janaka had seen an advertisement published by Dr Gamini Haththotuwegama in the local newspapers calling for applicants for his drama workshop in Bandaragama and Horana areas. Janaka had searched to find more of the doctor, when he learnt he was an English lecturer in the Peradeniya University and a person well versed in Shakespeare’s English plays also a person very knowledgeable in worldwide dramas. He was also the forerunner of the street drama concept in the country. Janaka had followed the teachings in the workshop for about an year. After completion of the workshop Dr Gamini Haththottuwegama had asked whether he wished to join his ‘street nattya convoy” which then consisted of already accomplished Deepani Silva, HA Perera,Gamini Hettiarachchi, Parakrama Niriella,Linton Semage. But lately Parakrama Niriella had broken off had formed his own fleet but Janaka had remained with the original fleet.In this endeavour Janaka had been performing in the ‘Vidi Nattya’ gaining maturity also learning how to react instantly when diverse topics were chosen on human fraternity. There had been some critical moments when they happened to be arrested by the police for their street dominance. Janaka whenever time permitted was used to patronize all stage plays that were staged in Colombo travelling to Colombo.The parents’ duo did know and understand his path though had objected earlier had given him the green light as they knew that Janaka would not get indulged in inappropriate and harmful ventures.

During this period following another advertisement Janaka had followed a workshop in drama organised by the German Cultural Centre conducted by a German playwright Klaus Crussenberg .During that era there were many such workshops were conducted for the benefit of youngsters who were to pursue careers in art and theatre by the Russian Fellowship friendship centre too. This was in the decade of 1980 the parents had admitted Janaka to the Maradana technical college to follow a course in business management. In the technical college Janaka had met a wonderful set of friends from Colleges like Ananda and Nalanda who too had similar interests on art and cinema. The group wanted a meeting place had found a spot next to the De Mel’s bakery in Punchi Borella had positioned in the ‘Praja book shop’ premises. To this central spot through word of mouth more and more youth had congregated, all with diverse ideas some as critics too.They called this positioned place ‘Punchi Borelle Wala’ and the agile group as “Appe Kattiya”.This paved the opportunity for Janaka and the young guys to display skills had made three stage drama’s initially “ Seltaba” incidentally the first stage drama of Janaka, then they staged the drama “Suvislapura’ and “Sayene Sihinaya’ were staged which gave the young dramatists enormous impetuses to prolong such events.After which Janaka had got the opportunity to meet popular artistes like Dharmasiri Bandaranayake,Asoka Handagama,Vijitha Gunaratne,Somalatha Subasinghe, etc which undoubtedly boosted young Janaka in his dream journey. Janaka had in many media dialogs had conveyed that unlike him many young persons though talented search ways of reaching the pinnacle sans effort which is incorrect , all according to Janaka need to study the art by attending to workshops or teachings and then endeavour to climb up in a measured manner. Some are very concerned about monetary gains initially sans focusing on what they could deliver.This is an incorrect concept of the present generation was quipped by Janaka.There should be a scientific method to grow in stature , as it would be then like a tree sans a stalk which cannot exist.For this Janaka says need an interference from some system like workshop or school which unfortunately we in Sri Lanka is lacking.

Deviating from the above Janaka’s attention was drawn attention by the presenter Chapa to his stage play “Adaraneeya Sanwardayak’,directed by Sunil Chandrasiri where the main role was portrayed by Janaka and Saranga in year 2010 which carried aways all awards at the state drama festival. Chapa had occupied a centre seat had developed somewhat of a communiqué with Janaka on stage.The story revolves around a radical youngster is brought to a commander of the army cantonment to get four names of culprits verbally torches him , but this incident had not caught the eyes of any revolutionary parties is a mystery to many which should have been the theme drama for many dramatists. It was said that dramas and films on this theme are produced in their numbers in western countries which happened to link with societies. Unfortunately, this award winning play had not got linked like those counterparts. The play had run to packed houses but not so much as a few weeks after the receipt of awards the producer, director Sunil Chandrasiri had unfortunately breathed his last following a sudden heart failure. Though Janaka had endeavoured to prolong staging it purely as a mark of respect to Sunil Chandrasiri it had proved futile .Janaka regretted that a dialog had not commenced on this theme though bagged several awards even at the usual university level. Chapa was of the view that at least the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the Peratugami parties could have propelled this stage play following the terrorist insurrection of the 1970’s, 1983 black July and the thirty years old ethnic war as so many involved them are still living. In this stage play Janaka had to solely keep the audience in suspense for forty five minutes as during which time Saranga portraying the only other main character had not spoken a word. For this endeavour Janaka should be accredited as importantly there was not a even single ‘yawn’ in the audience perceived. This was explained by critics as a ‘vishvakarma wedak’. Jayantha Chandrasiri the renowned playwright and actor ,director had commended that Janaka had gripped the audience so tightly not allowing to fall while verbally torturing, mentally his colleague performing the opposing character. This was similar to the real torturing during the insurgency epochs. Regrettably many revolutionary leaders like Rohana Wijeweera, Velupillai Prabhakaran are ignored not recalled or reminisced which is an utter catastrophe. This is a genuine misfortune to our country. During this same television dialog Janaka was praised highly of his skills to compose ‘Kavi”. One that was highlighted was that of a ‘Guru’ describing his figure, his loads of talents possessed ,effectiveness to students. What had prompted Janaka to write another particular ‘Kavi” was in relation to some inhabitants in ‘Malegama’ village nest to Janaka’s, whose profession was practise of their competence in beating drums, ‘bahi thowil’ , exorcism, dancing ,reading horoscopes and alike vocations etc for their living descending from generations. They were considered to be in a low caste people who had to sit in stools not on chairs not clad properly mostly bare bodied were a set of unpretentious human beings. They were not allowed to enter into dwellings from the front door, it was always via the rear door.The end consequence was that all this generation had fled the village perhaps as they did not want to live with this acute disrespect.

During the conversation with Chapa it was revealed that those in the south mostly has had a inferiority complex feeling as they were in lower caste not financially sound, which had led them to take up arms as the only alternative then unfortunately met with their deaths. It had been same with youngsters in the south north and east to take to arms. There was no solution or even no signs of developing a resolution. In this country these unfortunate persons are forgotten even courageous leaders like Rohana Wijeweera and Velupillai Prabahakaran. It is unfortunate that no one had commenced even a debate or dialog on this calamity .The real sense of this catastrophe was revealed by one high court Judge Alles who after delivering his judgement and left our shores. The administrators should find the causes not allowing such a calamity to happen again. But regrettably the present politicians are deaf on this grave issue. Janaka stated that there is a huge void in this regard unresolved also no endeavour is made by the tone-deaf politicians.

In addition to winning several awards for his portrayal of in “Adaraneeya Sanwardayak”(Pedro and the Captain) Janaka had been adjudicated in year 2000 as the best stage actor in the play ‘Beehama Buhumi in the state drama festival directed by Sunil Chandrasiri. In the same year for his portrayal in film ‘Saroja’ of Somaratne Dissanayake received the ‘best actors’ award. Janaka’s maiden television acting came through “Siva Rahasa Pura” directed by Wimalaratne Adikari.His first cinematic portrayal in “Sihina Deshayen” in year 1996 directed by Bodee Keerthisena, while his maiden stage play direction in year 2009 in “Sulanga Mata Katha Karai”.For his portrayal in “Isiwara Asapuwa” in year 1996 was awarded the best upcoming actor in the Sumathi Awards ceremony. Janaka’s theatre and cinema work had not been that huge unlike in mini screen. The characters portrayed were in films like Paadada Asapuwa,Hel Tamba,Suvisalpura,Sayane Sihinaya,Kema Lasthi,Eka-Adhipathi,Mamai Anduwa,Makarakshaya,Dhawala Beeshana,Adaraneeya sanwadayak,Handa Eliyata Wedi Thiyanna,Puthra Samagama,Nonawaru Samaga Mahathwaru,Jana Mithura,Kolamba Paars, Banku Weeraya,Jayasirita Pissu,Sudarshi,Debidi Bro etc.

It need to be reminisced that having watched his acting in Dharmasiri Bandraranayake’s ‘Dawalabeeshana” , ‘Makarakshaya ‘stage plays Janaka had been invited by Wimalaratne Adhikari to portray the role of Dr Thaanbugala “Isiwara Asapuwa’ which was praised by viewers, critics and scholars. It was added by Janaka that any actor needs to research and explore the finer points in portraying otherwise will not be successful particularly the world has now become very small with the advent of sophisticated technology particularly as in our native country there is absolutely so such rigid platform to learn the craft with a national policy. In this scenario one has to undeniably surf on the net on what is happening in the sphere to study scientifically and precisely as changes are taking place abruptly.

Among the three acting media theatre, mini screen and cinema Janaka has been more frequently seen in the mini screen. To reminisce the latter media, one that comes to the minds of followers is the tele drama “Salsapuna” directed by Nalan Mendis ,where the main role of Prabath, a husband’s role was portrayed by Janaka a teledrama that had telecast continuously for five long years.The others in the huge cast were Ramya Wanigasekera, Manel Wanaguru,Damitha Abeyrartne, Iranganie Serasinghe,Mischell Dilhara,Roshan Pilapitiya,Amaya Adhikari,Rohana Beddage etc .Janaka remarked that the talented knowledgeable cast consisted of educated personnel as such even during leisure times during shooting, they were able to converse on valuable topics which is not performed in the present day casts, when invariably Janaka lamented like going to office and back it was just monotonous ,perform the role and return home. In this character ‘Prabath’, Janaka described having a different flavour that existed, a role which was cunning what the society blamed,denounced, disliked. The character Janaka added had been refused by two other popular actors , but Janaka after careful reading and scrutiny had found there was something in it, where he could impress. Janaka had found the viewers had appreciated saying they are awaiting till Prabath arrives. Janaka is an unassuming down to earth person who never at any instance boasts of self. In this instance he conveyed in a media discussion the popularity of ‘Prabath’ was alleged by audiences. This portrayal had been the very first time a villain role was that of the charisma of the main character portrayed. This teledrama had been directed initially by Indians later handed over to our own crews and directors. This role was a massive change to Janaka deviating from the traditional lover’s role. Janaka in a discussion quipped it was the intelligence and competences of the director Nalan Mendis, camera crew that had helped in the success of this tele drama.Janaka had lamented about the standards of our teledramas commencing from the 1990 decade to date, which he had discovered on reading literature he possessed .On perusal there had been a downward trend,tendency or the standards have been more or less static to date which is a huge concern to the industry which is heading to a catastrophe. Janaka also emphasized on a vital area also during a dialog that there are many who have stopped watching low quality tele dramas etc in our channels focussing on more worthwhile programs in many foreign channels via satellites viewing willingly more fascinating programs. The authorities should focus on how to draw these viewers back to watch our local programs. This is a appalling situation that needs to be focussed on and remedied soon . Janaka in another media dialog quoted an important assertion made by Dr Jayalath Manoratne “ what should be concentrated is on is “Ranga Pe Noyuthude” not on “Ranga Pe Uthude” which is very useful to all novice actors.


Janaka had stressed several times over the media the dire need for an institute with state patronage to groom blossoming artistes who are there in abundance. He believes acting talents must be refined and finer-points to be taught at an academic level. Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg and the like gathered life’s changing rhythms to mould a way of scientific acting method. They taught how to grasp many complicated aspects in life and project them in acting.

Artistes who have mastered those techniques have built a credible way of acting. They have mastered how to creep into nooks and corners in real life and adapt those situations in their performances. A great example quoted by Janaka is the late Nihal Silva’s performance in the Brecht play ‘Punthila’ directed by Helena Lehthimaki. The actor who was confined to the comedy role of “Seargent Nallathambi”, after attending Helena’s workshop performed in ‘Punthila’ to show the real material he was made of. His performance then could be easily kept on par with any world-class actor. Although it was so, he did not receive any evaluation.

Janaka has dominated the mini screen for nearly four decades had portrayed roles in over seventy tele dramas to be one among the most who had contributed to the mini screen .In alphabetical order the names of the teledramas are: Acid ,Adaraneeya Niagara. Aeya, Anantha Sihinaya, Aparna, Apayata Giya, Gamanak, Bhoomarangay Bus Eke Iskole, Devana Warama, Dhawala Yamaya,Divithura, Diyawadana Maluwa Duvili Maliga Ekas Ginna ,Esala Kaluwara Hiru Dahasak Yata Hiru Thaniwela Ahase Holman Bottuwa, Hopalu Arana Ilandariyo ,Ingammaruwa, Isiwara Asapuwa Itu Devi Vimana Katu Kurullo, Kutu Kutu Mama, Liyagala Mal Mal Pipena Kale, Malee, Maya Agni Maya Mansal Mehew Rate,Monaravila Namal Arana Nenalaa Nil Mal Viyana, Nisala Vilthera Paata Paata Minissu, Pembara Maw Sanda, Podu ,Poori, Pura Sakmana, Ranga Soba Rangamadala Samugani, Rathriya Romeo And Dante, Sadgunakaraya, Sadisi Tharanaya, Sakee, Salsapuna, Sanda Ginigath Rathriya, Sanda Kinduru,Sapirivara Sasaraka Ima Sasara Seya, Sihina Piyapath, Sinansenna Anuththara ,Siva Rahasa Pura, Snehaye Daasi, Sudu Gindara Sulangata Madivee Swarna Veena.Tharuka, Tharu Kumari , Tharumalee Thisara Peraliya, Thodu Vasudha, Vinivindimi Wansakkarayo

Another successful venture of Janaka Kumbukage is his you tube channel “Lines and Beyond” which he is very triumphantly conducting overwhelmingly superseding many others who are conducting similar you tube channels .To date among others Janaka had interviewed Dharmapriya Dias, Buddhi Vithanarachchi,,Nita Fernando,Yasodha Wimaladharma,Sriyantha Mendis,Ireasha Hemamali , Gihan Fernando, Kavindya Jayasekera, Dr Sunil Wijesiriwardena,Kamal Addararachchi etc

Janaka Kumbukage in the context of the foregoing could be named as one of the most versatile actors who had undergone study on the art and cinema via many workshops before attaining this accomplishment as an competent actor in all media who had travelled to many overseas countries portraying vivid roles in stage dramas.He tied the nuptial know with Anusha in year 1994 is the father of aa son who is currently indulged in higher education, reading for his Masters in the Gold Coast  University in Australia Janaka is a role model to be emulated by all budding actors.

Sunil Thenabadu E mail sthenabadu@hotmail.com WhatsApp 0061444533242