Kala Keerthi Jayantha Chandrasiri literate celebrated ,director, stage plays, teledrama, films in a vibrant cruise for four decades

Kala Keerthi Jayantha Chandrasiri born in year 1959, is a Sri Lankan journalist, screenplay writer, television director, film maker , television presenter in Sri Lankan cinema Jayantha’s film Agnidahaya won seven golden awards and four silver awards at the Signis International Film Festival 2003. His two teledramas Dandubasnamanaya and Akala Sandhya are rated as two of seven Iconic Teledramas In the archives of Sri Lanka’s Television narration.Jayantha had excelled as a presenter of radio and television on numerous occasions. Lately his presentation of the popular TV Derana program Leya Saha Laya musical program for over two hours involving father/mother/son/daughter from the inception to end was commendable very well presented.
Jayantha had been born in his mother’s ancestral city in Bandarawela, owing to father’s occupation as the first ‘Tugboat” driver in the Colombo Port commission, a lucrative occupation as the one who had been entrusted to tore ships into the harbour after arrival. Father has had a good command of the English vernacular having read many English literature books and novels. Initially the family had come to Hendala and thereafter to a small village Kukulawala in Horambe, Ragama to where still Jayantha has links to.Jayantha is the eldest of five siblings with two younger brothers and two sisters.Jayantha had reminisced that his grand father who was his father’s mother’s brother in law had been a giant influence in his life when young. A native doctor who chews beetles, who also treated those bitten by serpents but a person of only a few words had only allowed Jayantha to remain in his room when he consulted patients to which even his own father was not allowed in. Silently he had taught him many when treating patients like if a patient comes with a sprain in his right arm he used to treat the left arm to cure to his utter disbelief gets cured. He had kept some empty clean tins in the garden which are to be filled with human urine when a patient bitten by a serpent arrives. The first treatment is to give the patient to drink the fresh urine in the tins.It is also a rule to beat the patient’s collaborator who comes prior to treatment. Jayantha recollects he sleeps daily with Seeya and Achchi who lived in front house but when fast asleep he is brought his dwelling.Jayantha confesses that he had been brought with immense love from his close relatives maily the women folks which later he had loved the female species more than the male relations. Jayantha reminisced how he went to Montessori under his teacher a burgher lady ‘Merli’ with his teat which other children were not allowed to keep sporting the ‘teat’. But the teacher had used a tactic by bringing remains of delicious food from her kitchen ,had said in order to consume the tasty food ,the teat had to be removed.
When small usually the son follows father’s profession. Jayantha’s father had thought otherwise having intent to make him a Naval engineering officer. He wanted Jayantha to be provoked to it .He had may be under someone’s advice had brought and given him a large box containing mechanical tools like bolts, nuts,hammers.mallets, wrenches ,spikes, drives ,bows etc.But for Jayantha all these items were characters like men, with heads but was not interested in father’s intention.Jayantha also reminisced how his ‘Seeya” had taken him to the cinema watch films.He had been very keen as at the beginningSeeya’ buys him snacks ,icy chocks and chocolates but he remembers he used to sleep before the interval who had to be inc=variable carried and taken home in a taxi .But in one film he had been interested in watching as there had been showing fish loitering beneath sea water, which was in the first colour film screened “Ranmuthuduwa” which he is still etched in Jayantha’s mind. Jayantha had quipped that his father had never taken him to watch films.

Jayantha had been educated at Heenkenda Madya Maha Vidyalaya in a rural set up. He had loved the school’s library, which had contained only two hundred books, which were all read by young Jayantha, observed by the librarian had bought and given more books to read at which period other students had hardly read library books.Jayantha had received double promotions in the school from the kindergarten, by the time he was in the 5th standard all other students had been well built in stature. Jayantha was never a sports lover or enthusiast . Reminisced in having won only in the ‘gunny bag’ race at the school’s sports meet.
As Jayantha grew, he had been more interested in portraying a role in a film having searched desperately for an opportunity by browsing the Sarasaviya newspaper for child vacancies for acting. In school Jayantha had been given double promotions from Kindergarten to second class skipping form one, then again from second form to fourth form and from then to sixth form. All students in comparison were well grown in stature as all were two years elder to him, he reminisced that she used to be given ‘toku’ by his colleague students.At this time Jayantha having heard so many stories related to him by his mother and grandmother had also developed skills to write well. While in year six the class teacher also the Sinhala ‘guru’ Seelawathi for the upcoming World’s Children’s’ Day had asked the pupils whether anyone could script a stage drama .Jayantha had raised his hand thinking that some more elder students too would raise their hands .But nobody had raised. Then the question arose as to who would direct it. Jayantha to then had never ever watched a stage dram had only seen theatre dramas like ‘Sokari”,”Kolam’ and “Rookada” performed by his village folks.The stage drama however had taken off the blocks had been a resounding success with accolades from many quarters. During the preparation stages the elder students had encouraged Jayantha by bringing him ‘siyambala’ and other fruits as an impetus.He remembers that his table was full of fruits.Though Jayantha was not the class leader he was talented in directing them by guiding in the correct paths. The stage play had become overwhelmingly popular, Jayantha too became somewhat of a hero having drawn the attention of all the tutorial staff.This exercise concluded to unprecedented tall altitudes was perhaps the beginning of Jayantha’s career in art skills.
As he grew there had been somewhat of a competition to view new films released among his school mates, on the first day itself.After viewing films Jayantha had developed a liking to be an actor at which time, even now. the ambitions of many had been to be a doctor, engineer , lawyer as traditional occupations .His English teacher had giggled at his idea of becoming an actor saying how could a ‘brat’ like you be an actor.Jayantha’s wish and fewer always had been to become a child actor.Twice his endeavours to become a child actor had been squashed when he had responded to an advertisement calling for child actors advertised in the “Sarasaviya” as he was too tiny.In the third instance in responding to another advertisement calling for child actors, held at the ‘Sudharshi” hall, the third time in response to another advertisement had faced a panel comprising of HD Premaratne, his assistant director Premaweera Gunasekera and Robin Fernando. He had been asked to read some ‘lyrics’ which Jayantha had asked for time and read to which Robin Fernando had remarked ‘good’.Jayantha to his astonishment had received a letter that he had been chosen to come to an office in Dematagoda at 6am with a parent to portray a small children’s role in film “Sasara Pathum” at 6 am.Jayantha had pacified his mother had got up at 4 am and gone with her had reached the destination around 6.30am.But the shooting had taken place at 6.30 in the evening in Eratne, Kuruwita, where he had only a few words dialogue to say to Ajith Jinadasa who was famous then. Jayantha laments to date even he had not seen his acting in the initial portrayal.
A foreign professor German dramatist Dr. Norbet J. Mayer had arrived in Sri Lanka to conduct acting workshops with the intention of forming a professional acting crew in coordination with the German cultural centre in Sri Lanka.An advertisement appeared in newspapers requesting to apply for it to which Jayantha too had applied. He had been called for an interview also at the Sudharshi Hall. Along with Jayantha Sriyantha Mendis too had been present, though not friends then. Also had got involved with another budding actor Kamal Addararachchi after a small quarrel had got friendly. Among the twenty five selected had been this trio and also UR Silva subsequently a famous lawyer .For three months continuously the crew selected had been trained under the professor.The writing of the script had been entrusted to Jayantha who could write well.The novice artistes were even paid a sum of five rupees for a day during the duration of the gruelling course, which was a substantial amount then.To Jayantha and the others had only understood the gravity of acting via this experience.When the professor left had advised the selected novice artistes, not to end at this, but he had only wanted to lay the foundation for the talented crew. Jayantha had confessed thereafter learning from the workshop how to act , he has been able to cure his acting’ fewer’. ‘

Then Jayantha and others wanted to commence a new drama named “Saraswathy’, the script had been written by Jayantha himself as he was competent to achieve. The problem of financing was a barrier, to which Kamal Addararachchi mother a very kind lady had agreed as she was financially stable with husband’s flourishing business enterprises. The play was staged at the Lionel Wendt arts theatre usually patronized by a high level audiences. After which on the stage play there had been articles acclaiming the portrayals in both Sinhala and English newspapers. This had been seen my senior journalist Upali Samaranayake of the Upali group too. Regrettably owing to many constraints the stage play “Saraswathy’ could not be continued as at which time Jayantha had joined the Upali group as a journalist, Sriyantha had got his first teaching appointment, also not knowing about advertising and how the play could be staged and taken forward.
Jayantha adds that the theme of the teledrama needs substance to interest viewers, watched by seventy thousand or more viewers. The substance selected needs to be researched and explored. Which of course takes time more than the time consumed for shooting. Until the demise of Premasiri Khemadasa all music for his stage plays.Tele’ s and films music had been provided by him Then he had found young Dharshana Ruwan Dissanayke who understood his music intentions. Jayantha had confessed that he is not a music lover but a ‘music addict’ which he had attributed to a part and parcel of his life which he needs to enjoy always.He has had an intention in early life of becoming a configuration artiste (rupana shilpiya) when young going a step further he wanted to be directing others thereby becoming a director. Stage Play ‘Hankithi 13’ the latest after a long time an original script was a successful stage drama made fifty appearances.

Thereafter in year 1985 Jayantha had produced the next stage play “Ath”, from where his journey had really commenced with a large cast and songs, basically was a platform in the performing arts led by professional artistes. Before that Jayantha had got an opportunity to portray a role is stage play ‘Silin Biling’ of Sushila Kottage where he acted as a ‘prompter’ which was based on the theme being, of making a play , with portrayals from famous actors like Nihal Silva. Jayantha was in the habit of visiting ‘Sudharshi’ off an and on where Murie Samarasinghe was met had voiced about a new film “Para Dige” directed by Dharmasena Pathiraja, to which an actor was needed for a frame in a night club.He had accepted and gone to the specified place with a friend having borrowed an attractive attire from a friend, though he knew he was not suited for such a role, where the main actor was Vijaya Kumaratunga.The cameraman had been Donald Karunaratne,in order that he was to be captured by the camera had occupied a seat in front of the camera close to the main actor’s seat. Before the scene the assistant director had asked to remove Jayantha from that seat. Asked to occupy a seat behind the camera.In the morning after eating ‘lata pata’ the duo had exhausted the money the duo had, hence had no way to get to home .Then Jayantha had seen W Jayasiri and told they had come as requested , but now we have no money to go home. Feeling sorry Jayasiri had given five rupees as bus fare to go home,This story was related by Jayantha in a television dialog.This story Jayantha had related to Dharmasena Pathiraja while in a plane when the duo later had gone to a film festival.
Subsequently the stage plays produced after “Ath’, were ”Oththukarayo’ ,’Mora’ had become exceedingly popular. Referring to “Ath” Jayantha attributed that it was a completely to the then stage play themes which had been subjected to discussion in many medias though the cast included not much known artistes then Kamal, Sriyantha and Jackson.The plays had been in significant demand having stages in about twenty days of the month all over the Island though ‘Sergeant Nallathamby’ stage play was also staged which Jayantha reminisced that had run neck to neck so much so the crew had been in the ‘natya bus’ always. It was said when ‘Ath’ was staged in the ‘government drama festival , ‘Ath: had been staged over one hundred times. Some acclaimed critics had added this is a natya revolt, an acrobatic play etc.It was said that even Sugathapala de Silva had added to an English newspapers that it was a spectacle .After which many producers were coming behind Jayantha which paved the way the produce ‘Mora” to which the main portrayals were by Dharmasiri Bandaranayake,Sriyantha Mendis and Daya De Alwis for which was awarded ‘the best screen play, best direction, best production , best actor etc.at the government drama festival. The best actor and the best producer were offered a scholarship to Berlin in Germany for the “Gimhana” workshop resembling a school for a few months offered by the cultural department then. Jayantha also reminisced about Somalatha Subasinghe who is highly respected by Jayantha despite having so many pupils she had offered a scholarship to Norway and Sweden to participate a young actors seminar and workshop extending to approximately one month. This trip had been extremely useful to Jayantha who and Somalatha Subasinghe had to prepare a research papers too.Also Jayantha recollected another vital scholarship he was bestowed to visit all states in USA participating in seminars, workshops and viewing many stage plays.
After dominance on stage Jayantha drifted to the television.Jayantha had been the sub editor of ‘Nawaliya” popular women’s newspaper when he was entrusted to compile a cinema tabloid section.Jayantha later had served as the Editor of Divaina for a number of years and had left in year 2016 for political reasons.This endeavour on reporting on cinema to attract readers had been very successful. In his words ‘wede negala giya’ with the circulation rising to unparalleled altitudes, the reason was that in addition to women ,men , university students too had bought this newspaper. Under him had worked a journalist cum photographer G Sivagurunathan to whom was entrusted to meet assistant directors of films for conversations for publication of views.At his request many not much known assistant directors were brought among them was a popular assistant director Nilendra Deshapriya who became close friends later on.In addition Nilendra was one who closely associated with many producers .One day Nilendra after his article was published in the ‘Nawaliya” had taken Jayantha to meet Sunil Ratnayake, managing director of Teleview institution. At that time Jayantha had been penning the story of “Weda Hamine”.When the story was related to Sunil Ratnayake he had immediately consented saying ‘Api Karamu’ which was a rare confession. This was how the production of ‘Weda Hamine’ had happened, also Jayantha’s access to the mini screen. This and all his subsequent tele drama were restricted to 14,12 maximum been 17 episodes which still remembered by viewers etched firmly in memories .Jayantha quipped that advent of television was an adaptation process, but one cannot just adopt needs to be interested in literature having read books, know what is direction , how to manage and control artistes of course on camera operative angles etc.

Jayantha emphasised that in all his creations he had achieved and exposed what had never been shown previously by others before to be special with continuous research and experimentation. It was in year 2002 Jayantha entered the cinema.Jayantha paid a high tribute to Tissa Abeysekera if not for hm he would not have been a film director who was described as a gigantic cinematic, great administrator , a huge artiste , Chairman of film corporation who knew exactly what his roles were, functions was able to identify the talented.Another reason for Jayantha’s films had been enormously successful was of the background music and songs.For his film “Maharaja Gemunu” released in year 2015, brick bats had been hurled as one who goes back to the Kings era.But Jayantha was one who was least concerned on them but still insists that he had made a new creation to which he added, takes complete responsibility for each frame and each dialogue. Jayantha had quipped that he is least bothered about drastic comments.
The relationship flanked by cinema and literature as a kind of deep-down blood affiliation. If not for literature, cinema would have been loitering though it had theatrical essentials. The society were not prepared to accept cinema as an art at the beginning. Should not be thought as the mechanical and technological nature is to be liable.To sustenance of his theory, Jayantha Chandrasiri recalls François-Marie Arouet aka Voltaire who said that no artwork could be considered a proper artwork if it cannot generate positive emotions on the enthusiast. He believes Tolstoy had the same sentiments. Of course, they levelled their opinions based on the literature that existed during their time and not cinema. The delinquent is that cinema was not acknowledged as an art at first. This was the case until the filmmakers such as David Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein entered the industry.However, Jayantha adds, cinema recognised itself as a medium that reached out to the enthusiasts at a quicker stride than literature or theatre. This was a phenomenon that the artistes never projected. If we observe widely as to what led to such a spectacle, the picture is clear. It was literature that made it conceivable. Most of the filmgoers are not readers of literature. But most of the authors in the cinema – say filmmakers and others – happened to be passionate or prolific readers. That’s why we great works such as War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Tales of Two Cities, Crime and Punishment, Wuthering Heights and Doctor Zhivago entered the widescreen. Chandrasiri’s argument is clear.Jayantha observes a wonder and a marvel in the literary thought. The cinema visual is light years beyond the language based on mere letters. But what we must not forget is what caused such a speedy journey. Extraordinary writing makes up the epidermis of the cinema visual which reaches culmination through a screenplay. In most of his works, Jayantha had toyed with folk psychology. It seems is his acquainted turf. Jayantha had portrayed roles in two films, Sagarayak Meda and Maatha. His maiden stage drama direction came through Hankithi Daha Thuna. His maiden television drama direction came through much acclaimed super hit .’Weda Hamine” His maiden cinematic direction was Agnidahaya in year 2002.
But his most prominent films included Guerrilla Marketing and Samanala Sandhawaniya in year 2013.Thereafter in Maharaja Gemunu,in year 2018 in Gharasarapa,then “Midunu Vishwaya.. Commenting on Guerrilla Marketing in that sense was a departure of sorts, though not completely, from what he had been leading up to. This, the most theatrical of all his films which owes as much to our folk cultural forms, particularly with Premasiri Khemadasa’s music, as it does to the theatre of Beckett and Brecht), also brought to light a basic problem in Jayantha’s world. It is still thought that Guerrilla Marketing was his best work, and not because it had a fondness towards seeing popular political figures from yesteryear being imitated and rather well at that. The portrayal about Jackson Anthony’s performance, one of the best performances seen in a Sri Lankan film until then which was primarily captivation – the rift between what can be explained and what cannot be, or between the mythical and the real – found its way to the director’s representation of that most contemporary of “magical” devices, advertising. “Guerrilla Marketing” was a cheap, crude advertising tactic, and the last scene, of our central character returning home along a road that has huge cut-outs of the man he “marketed”, is an impeachment on the giants he has released through his own cheap, rudimentary trickery. It also has some of the best performances that a Jayantha Chandrasiri cast in Kamal, Yashoda, Sriyantha, and of course Jackson, not to mention Sangeetha Weeraratne could ever have had.
Samanala Sandwaniya was a film for everyone and anyone made after a long lapse, It was a retreat, and a great one at that though here too, in the form of two clownish Laurel-and-Hardy-like jokers who cause a catastrophe at the park after mocking Yashoda, Jayantha steps out of line owing to his experience in his theatrical past, and without any obvious reference to “the mythical and the rustic”, it could be rationalised by both the liberal and the traditionalist. Maharaja Gemunu, which followed it, But what these two works necessitated was a return to Jayantha’s previous compositions. Whether Garasarapa resolved the fatal contradiction Guerrilla Marketing unearthed, whether he managed to bring together the historical flows of his plots with the romantic triangle in them needs to be applauded which contains many songs too.

His first television serial was “Weda Hamini” Jayantha had affirmed he wanted something to be said to the public which he had achieved to some extent, which later became a trendy classic in Sri Lankan television drama archives.]However his most noteworthy television direction came through Dandubasnamanaya. His television serial, Akala Sandya is credited as the first ever Sri Lankan teledrama to depict the concept of time travel. The others were “Rajina”,”Hathara Denek Senpathiy”, “Nananththara” and “Ves Muhunu” all which were well accepted and patronised.
For his endeavour of ‘Dandubasnamaya’ in 1995 with seventeen episodes, was awarded the best ‘Teledrama” director award at the Sumathi awards, then in year 2003 for “Agnidahaya” received Signis salutation award for best director. Also same year in the Presidential award ceremony .he received the best director’s award.For the “Hathara Denek Senpathiyo’ on year 2009 was awarded the best teledrama series award at Sumathi awards ceremony.Also at the same awards ceremony in year 2009 received the award for the best teledrama director. At a recent Sarasaviya awards ceremony Jayantha was crowned with the “Kala Keerthi” a national honour, conferred on him by President Maithripala Sirisena for the veteran filmmaker’s contribution to the country’s art landscape.

In a recent television dialog Jayantha conveyed he was happy about the creativity and updating endeavours of the present generation who are very matured of course with the latest technology which at times is not sufficient to them, which they even attempt to rupture them in search of enhancing the existing bounds .In all his creations he had emphasised on love which he had received from young days he needed to emphasise received from teachers, parents, elders, in laws .grandparents , friends, relatives. According to Jayantha love is indispensable, vitally important to one’s life, which is engraved in his heart .As he had received warmth from female folks in general he still possess a soft corner to women. He likes to move with the younger generation ready to advise them of any faults and misconducts.

Jayantha’s wife is Madumani Hapuarachchi a teacher had thought for a long time in Bandaranayake Vidyalaya and Heenkenda Maha Vidyalaya but had prematurely retired to look after Jayantha who was after an operationto look after him better.Both daughters are married. elder daughter Uththara Madu younger daughter Anjali Surakkana, son ,Sandalath a student in the Sri Jayewardenepura university studying literature.

Sunil Thenabadu e mail sthenabadu@hotmail.com WhatsApp 0061444533242