W.JAYASIRI ILLUSTRIOUS LEGENDARY ACTOR, ACCLAIMED LYRICIST,TELEVISION PRESENTER WITH MULTIFACETED FACADES IN CELEBRITY FOR OVER FIVE DECADES

‘W JAYASIRI ILLUSTRIOUS LEGENDARY ACTOR ACCLAIMED LYRICIST,TELEVISION PRESENTER WITH MULTIFACETED FACADES A CELEBRITY FOR OVER FIVE DECADES

 

 

Weerapullige Jayasiri  was born on the May Day in, 1947, popularly known as W. Jayasiri, in Polwatte ,Weligama at his  maternal  ancestral dwelling before moving to  his permanent dwelling to No 550 ‘Sirisevana” Hirimbura,Galle , is a Sri Lankan illustrious actor in stage drama cinema and television.is a multifaceted personality. Is highly versatile actor from drama to comedy or whatever recently more conspicuously seen portraying the role of a Buddhist monk in robes which he had lamented to be an uncomfortable attire. Jayasiri is a multi-talented updated person as most of his friends worked as a script writer and lyricist radio and television presenter. Jayasiri affirmed that his mother had added that when he was only two years old had commenced reading newspapers had strangely quipped the word OSAP,OSAP an advertisement at the bottom of the front page of a newspaper. His Punchi Amma had observed this had suggested to his mother to get him to officially read letters at an auspicious time as he may read more other letters This had been completed even before he was three years old.by his Loku Thaththa had read him letters officially after having a Saraswathi pooja at an tender age .Jayasiri  is closely linked to many celebrated actors of yesteryear, unfortunately compatriots Daya Tennakone,Dharmasena Pathiraja,Premasiri Khemadasa,Sucharitha Gamlath,Sugathapala Silva are all deceased..Jayasiri does not read any newspapers as he regards most news are fake made up of fabricated news but gets updated only by surfing the net.  All talent he possesses is innate flair not genetic to hereditary affiliations had upheld that none in his present or past generations had been in this field. As siblings has three brothers only. His first school was Kithulampitiya CCC a Girls’ College. Then he was moved into Matara area had studied at Weligama Sri Sumangala Vidyalaya, for one year  up to the fourth standard, then at St Thomas’ College Matara up to SSC.It was at this school that many ‘Hela Haula’ members like Munidasa Kumaratunga had studied and taught , from where he was revoked  for misbehaving. Afterwards Jayasiri finally attended Vidyaloka College Galle influenced by his father’s friend a teacher WT Obeysekera..Jayasiri had passed first shy in  the university entrance, Those days the names of those who passed are published in the local newspapers. Having seen his name he had rushed to the bus stand where  his father had been waiting to board a bus. When Jayasiri informed father about the triumph he had strangely said  ‘why you want to tell me’ had boarded the bus and gone much to the disappointment of Jayasiri.To Jayasiri father was detached to him he had become close only when he wanted to beat him.All his dealings were with his mother. Jayasiri had entered  to University of Colombo in  year 1965 then called the ’Colamba Mandapaya’ of the Colombo University ,an Arts faculty controversially formed by the then Governor General William Gopallawa three years back,  just to accommodate his son Monty Gopallawa who had obtained a fewer number of marks. This arose the opportunity for many to enter the Arts section of the Colombo University which hitherto was non-existent .At that time there had been only three universities Vidyodaya,Vidyalankara and the Colombo University .The subjects Jayasiri had studied were  economics, Indian history, and Sinhala strangely not on Art..Jayasiri had learned a lot on art from the close association with Professor  Sucharitha Gamlath who became a close personal friendwhile in the university.. The manner he had met legend Sugathapala Silva was by sheer quirk through his senior student Bandula Vithanage who had produced a drama titled ‘Megha Garjana” a translation of Herald Pinters book ‘Collection’  who was a famous playwright, script writer actor and author of repute from Britain. Bandula had accompanied Jayasiri to meet them secretary of Kala Mandalaya WB Ratnayake when he was introduced to Sugathapala Silva a small made person which made Jayasiri so happy. Incidentally Jayasiri has had a ’drink’ with him too to celebrate the meeting on the same date.The cordial link had existed for almost five long decades.

There had been drama society in the university, where Jayasiri was elected unanimously, the  editor by vote. During his initial years the drama society had made at least three dramas a year including invariably one of Professor Ediriweera Sarathchandra’s., Also had organised drama festivals of Henry Jayasena,Gunasena Galappathy,Sugathapala Silva  During this era Sugathapala Silva had become a very close friend too of Jayasiri  After meeting Sugathapala Silva the interest in drama and art Jayasiri has had  increased to superior altitudes. At that time he was producing as the second edition ‘Harima Badu Hayak’ to which he had been selected to portray for a minor role which had paved the way for Jayasiri to meet loyalists like Tony Ranasinghe, Wickrema Bogoda,Prema Ganegoda,Namel Weeramuni Manel Weeramuni who were then stalwarts on stage so naturally Jayasiri was able to capture certain aptitudes they possessed. Also via his involvement in stage dramas had met well known personalities like of ‘Appe Kattiya’ fame apart from Sugathapala Silva ,GW Surendra,Cyril B Perera,Augustine Vinayagaratnam,Ajit Thilakasena,Hemantha Warnakulasuriya etc some stage plays that Jayasri contributed to the Ape Kattiya,,the other stage plays  which Jayasiri did not portray roles from year 1960 were Bodin Karayo,Thattu gewal,Harima Badu Hayak, Muthukumaru. Along with this crew Jayasiri had portrayed a role in “Hitha Honda Ammandi”, Nil Katu Roda Mal, Muthu Kumaru, Dunna Dunu Gamuwe.Jayasiri still regrets leaving the so accomplished Appe Kattiya group after a very minor misunderstanding until portraying a role in ‘Marasath”. in stage play was financed by Jayasiri produced by Sugathapala Silva which was another milestone in the annals of stage plays with a deep political story after rehearsing for a gruelling six months. Having patience which present day artistes cannot do. To collect the cast of twelve was very difficult proposition to collect for rehearsals and since could not be continued. .But a book on Marasath was published along with a video for stage play enthusiasts to read and watch.The main roles were depicted by Jayasiri with Jackson Anthony and female lead by Kaushalya Fernando a formidable trio.Jayasiri had reminisced about an incident after the show at the Ramakrishna hall, Wellawatta, when Neil Alles had been under the cover of the bus stand near the Roxy cinema to avoid a strong drizzle when Dayananda Gunawardena was walking with the drizzle. Neil l had called Dayananda had asked why you were walking in the drizzle.Dayananda had quipped that he did not feel the drizzle or the theme of Marasath.All had praised the drama to unparalleled tall elevations barring Dhamma Jagoda and .Benedict Dodampegama for not showing the cruelness of the story.It was also reminisced in another television dialog another stage play of Jayasiri,of three hour duration “Dhawala Beeshanaya” of Dharmasiri Bandaranayake  having rehearsed for over six months ,stage play Jayasiri portraying the role of a soldier along with Daya Alwis and Janaka Kumbukage . It was the first show at the Lionel Wendt which was houseful perhaps the first time such a large audience had thronged to the Lionel Wendt arts theatre even breaking gates of the Lionel Wendt. The enthusiasm and impetus the veteran Jayasiri derived from ‘Dawala Bheeshanaya’ had been stupendous.

After graduating Jayasiri’s first job was at SLBC in year 1968 when many others like Daya Tennakoon,U Ariya Wimal, Felix Anton ,Tilak Jayaratne and others too had joined with him.. Jayasiri was instrumental in forming a mercantile trade union under Bala Tampoe’s direction. For arranging a day’s token strike by the union members were penalised , when they resorted to a general strike involving many SLBC employees, after which Jayasiri was terminated from work after just three months.But in year 1970 Srimavo Bandaranaike came to power leading the ‘Samagi Peramuna’ party .Under this new government RS Perera was appointed as the minister of news. Radio and mass communication. On powered vested on him he recalled all sacked employees for work again.The employees then at the SLBC had thought Jayasiri and the rest were powerful elements of the then government. The program ‘Yawwana Lanka” was entrusted to Jayasiri to take off the blocks with young Sheela Paranamanage, the scripts were written by Wijayananda Jayaweera based on student  leaders of Latin America,England Europe,  having Marxist opinions. When the 1971 insurrection erupted Jayasiri and Jayaweerea were fired from the SLBC on the sixth day of the insurgency mainly for reading Marxism books and as close followers of Marxist viewst .Jayasiri had uttered in a television dialogue he does not like to be labelled as a Marxist but would like to be termed as a Trostky follower as his theories were more desirable as also as he is an intelligent free person..

At the SLBC  Jayasiri  had become a close friend of legend Karunaratne Abeysekera , Jayasiri  had called him ‘Machang’ along with stalwarts Bandara K Wijetunga,Cyril Rajapaksa,Alfred Perera,Asoka Tillekeratne and a host of others.Through their close association Jayasiri had been able to capture the talents they possessed to abundant proportions.. Jayasiri had began to excel as a lyric writer during his tenure at the Radio Ceylon. As a lyrics writer had  not written many songs, but for a few he had won awards too. the theme signature song of television channel ‘Swarnavahini’ had been written by him as requested by HD Premaratne to the music composition of Rohana Weerasinghe. Jayasiri’s aptitude as a lyrics writer had been proved in many instances having won awards too.

 

Jayasiri stormed into the cinema with Dharmasena Pathiraja with ‘Ahas Gauwwa’.Jayasiri added working with Dharmasena there were no class differences, all in the crew was regarded alike from the tea boy ,cleaner to the top level artistes like Vijaya, Malini including the director.In the film there had been a frame where the artistes go on a picnic like journey to Kalpitiya.The entire locations and ffames were similar to that unity.in the film ‘Bambaru Evith’ film at the Kalpitiya rest house where the crew had slept in the garden on marble mats the only room available was occupied by Malini Fonseka and Ruby de Mel while all others had slept on mats outside.Malini and Ruby duo too had said it is warm inside had joined the rest at mid night..Dharmasena Pathiraja was classified as the third world film maker.The ‘Soldadu Unnehe’ film the script was written jointly by Jayasiri and Pathiraja, reference to HA Seneviratne’s novel.When Jayasiri was questioned whether a proper dialog had developed by the theme he emphasized it was based on superiority and dominance ( paramadipaththiya) like a government who have the ammunition like our government which are not possessed with the people..In the ‘Bambaru evith’ film the lyrics of the song “handunagaththoth oba ma’ was penned by Jayasiri. There had been twin houses at Talakotuwa occupied by KDK Dharmawardena family, the other by Vijaya Kumaratunga and PB Illangasinghe a journalist at which in the week end there had been a ‘sadaya’ invariably..On such a day Jayasiri  and Pathiraja had visited PB as he entered his room he had locked the room asking to write a song..There had been paper and pens in abundance, he was asked to srcript a song and send through the aperture on the bottom of the door.He had written several scripts until the sixth script was accepted by Pathiraja.The script of the song was taken to maestro Premasiri Khemadasa who usually changes words by chopping and adding words but in this instance he had acceped the lyrics to the delight of both Pathiraja and  Jayasiri.

It was much later Jayasiri had met legendary Dharmasena Pathiraja of the Peradeniya Mandappaya, when he had come to meet KDK Dharmawardena who worked in the library of the university, which was a further boost to Jayasiri’s career.. Meeting him initially Pathiraja had asked his light to smoke a cigarette after which the duo had conversed and got to know each other , a real coincidence. There had been one Mithrasena from Thotalanga who had passed out as one of the pioneer graduates had made a plea to Jayasiri to help a certain guy who is talented to enter the drama arena. The guy was no other than Wimal Kumara de Costa whom  Mithrasena wanted to be introduced him to Sugathapala Silva.Jayasiri had requested him to be brought to rehearsals  of ‘Hitha Honda Amandi” held at the music room of Royal College Junior school, when they needed one character as Piyasena Ahangama was evading rehearsals .Sugathapala had given a script to Wimal Kumara de Costa to read which he had performed to meticulously to the entire satisfaction of Sugathapala Silva, This was the beginning of Wimal Kumara de Costa]s illustrious career having hitherto acted as a school boy at Gurukula College in AJ Selvadurai’s stage play Good Enakath.

.Jayasiri had affirmed that it was around the year 1980 he had got the real taste for art at the same time had been involved in serious politics having joined with Bala Tampoe ‘s political campaign when JR Jayewardena had reigned. At this time his salary from the SLBC had been a rupees three hundred and fifty, his family too had shifted from Galle to Battaramulla to a rented out dwelling to look after him..As Jayasiri was neglecting his employer the SLBC he had been served with vacation of post in the  year 1980 At that era life had been very easy everything was cheap travelling from Galle to Colombo by bus and to Kandy seventy two miles the bus ticket was priced at rupees two cents five and rupees two cents fifteen only respectively. Hence from one’s salary many needs could be achieved easily other than helping the family.Jayasiri was served with vacation of post for irregular attendance involved with Bala Tampoe’s trade union work, thereafter a series of losses in drama career, he decided to  go to Saudi Arabia for a work in a US company in search of greener pastures, an appointment connected to music videos etc.. After a period of five years had returned with some saved money had decided to live a lucrative life simultaneously had once more started to portray roles in dramas again. .

Jaysiri is also a close friend of renowned director Dharasena Pathiraja at that time he used to play cameo roles in stage dramas. According to him, he started to play major roles only after turned 40 years of age. His maiden stage drama acting came through Harima badu Hayak second edition in 1966. He played roles in de Silva’s popular stage dramas such as Dunna DunugamuwaMuthu Kumari and then in Pathiraja’s Eya Dan Loku Lamyek. He became popular with the films Seilama and Visidela, both directed by film maker HD Premaratne.His critically acclaimed stage drama acting came through stage drama Mara Sade in 1985, which is considered as a milestone in the Sinhala theater.] He was the lyricist of songs in popular film Bambaru Awith released in year In 2005, Jayasiri  had also translated the television script Sanda Mudunata which was originally written by director Samy Pavel in French. Some selected  stage dramas of Jayasiri are Dunna Dunugamuwa,Muthu Kumari.Eya Dan Loku Lamayek,Dolahak,Guti Kemata Niyamithai,Dhawala Bheeshana,No Return, Makarakshaya,, Handa Nihanda

 

Some of Jayasiri’s television serials are:Adisi Nadiya ,Ado,, Akala Sandya, Arungal,, Bim Kaluwara, Dandubasnamanaya and Dhawala Kanya where his portrayals were applauded and hailed.In Sidhu mega teledrama had portrayed the role of a Buddhist Monk impressing all audiences.

Jayasiri in his early life had met Sunila Abeysekera had fallen in love who was a Sri Lanka human rights campaigner and married her.The duo are blessed with two daughters. Sunila worked on women’s rights in Sri Lanka and in the South Asian region for decades as an activist and scholar. Quitting a  lucrative career as a singer, Sunila  briefly joined the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna then founded the Women and Media Collective in 1984. As head of the INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, she monitored human rights violations by all parties in the civil war. She received the United nations human rights award in year 1999 Didi Nirmala Deshpande South Asian Peace and Justice Award in 2013. She had campaigned for political prisoners who had been involved in the 1971 JVP youth insurrection .She is presently involved in political work with women through the socialist women’s front the women’s’ front of the JVP.Sunila’s involment with the JVP which Jayasiri is dead against had made the marriage to blast.But still the duo are in good terms speak to each other when they meet outside.Jayasiri with all his wide experience in the political situation in Sri Lanka has told the daughters to leave native Sri Lanka and to migrate in search of greener pastures.

At a television dialog Jayasiri recalled about his contribution to a newspaper owned then by  ‘TV Warnasiri and Mahinda Algama had published “Vika Sitha Parasathu “ to which he was used to  contributing many articles too..Once had written why all al praising WD Amaradeva, Nanda Malini,Victor Ratnayake ,Sanath Nandasiri etc under the cation ‘Critics listen to this” why not speak about HR Jothipala,MS Fernando and Milton Perera.The editor had published a photo with a cow and grass indicating Jayasiri to be the cow who eats grass with the article perhaps to embarrass him..After the demise of the trio Jayasiri reminisces that who is the cow who eats grass as the popularity clarity of songs they sang only are recalled and praised highly. His comment has proved correct in this era as proper recognition is made after the demise of these artistes. Jayasiri termed MS Fernando as the accomplished competent ‘folk’ singer who sang to his own lyrics and music. He lamented that with so many television channels there are many directors, actors, and actresses where the quality of most of them are at low ebb. Jayasiri also lamented at a television  dialog that in spite of his huge popularity there are  some unscrupulous elements who want to slash mud at him had been amused when he added he likes to have a drink while worshipping the Sri Maha Bodhiya. What he had meant was not enjoying with friends but only to have it in person while in isolation. When he is selected for the portrayal of role Jayasiri is more anxious .When he is selected for the portrayal of role Jayasiri is more anxious about the charisma to execute to the best of his ability and not any focus on his fee. Jayasiri had scripted a song for Bambaru Evith the song  “Udumbara Hinawenawa” written at the request od Dharmasena Pathiraja who directed the film though there were several  other accomplished lyricists then which film was the 4th best films in the 50 years of film history, then the song was ‘Sulang Hamai’ in 1973 for Sanath Nandasiri solo show ‘swarna pundala’, organised by Jayasiri and Mahinda Algama who insisted that Jayasiri scripts a song ,the lyrics were hailed as naming flower on many songs had been scripted but not on  ‘nidikumba malkekulu” . He had been based the lyrics to a labourer when attached to labour movement of Bala Tampoe, very intimately. Also while at Radio Ceylon for Madawala S Ratnayake’s program ‘swara warna”.to which had written five songs sung by WD Amaradewa ,Neela Wickremasinghe and Bandula Wijeweera etc  had not written many songs less than thirty. His other popular song was **‘Udumbara hinawenawa’ music of Premasiri Khemadasa vocalist TM Jayaratne also to the ‘Uththmawi’ teledrama directed by Thusitha de Silva . Again for a few other tele dramas like one of Lalith Ratnayake tele drama  “Tetta Viyali” sung by TM Jayaratne to the musical score  of Premasiri Khemadasa..

 

Swaroopa’ (Self Image), Dr. Dharmasena Pathiraja’s  latest film,  a story based on world renowned Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’Starring W. Jayasiri, Nita Fernando, Thusitha Laknath, Reeni de Silva, Daya Tennakone, Wimal Kumara de Costa, Lakshman Mendis, Vishvajith Gunasekara and D. B. Gangodatenna, ‘Swaroopa’ narrates the story of Gregory Samson and his family of father, mother and sister.  It is set in the backdrop of social transformations taking place in late colonial and early postcolonial Sri Lanka. The story takes place within the contours of a rented apartment of a middle-class family depending solely on the income of Gregory who is a travelling salesman for a pharmaceutical company. Gregory bears the bulk of the financial responsibilities for the rent of the apartment, the violin lessons for his sister, and the general upkeep of the family. One fine morning Gregory wakes up to find himself transformed into a giant insect. The book on Swaroopa has been published by Jude Srimal for Nirmala Prakashana, the book is now available in leading bookshops around Colombo. Behind the screen cinematography is by Donald Karunarathna, editor Elmo Haliday and the musical score is by Nadeeka Guruge.

  1. Jayasiri recently released his latest book ‘Mathaka Samaga Latta Lotta’, a personal experience on his 50 year long journey on stage. small screen and cinema.In this book Jayasiri has presented entertaining, unforgettable, and exciting memories in cinema, stage drama, television and radio working with a vast array of people including actors, actresses, directors, producers and many others. The book is an entertaining read for anyone who is interested in Sri Lanka’s cinema, theatre, radio and generally anything related to Sri Lankan arts.

 

From the foregoing What W Jayasiri had achieved for himself and the art is Sri Lanka is enormous. All followers and fans would  wish Jayasiri longevity and good health to be engaged in more portrayals.

 

Sunil Thenabadu in Brisbane e mail sthenabadu@hotmail.com WhatsApp 0061444533242