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Old Memories never fade

(Reproduced from the Daily Mirror of January 2, 2002)

By Ramesh Uvais

Tragic but true, the past year - 2001, has witnessed the demise of prominent figures who had made their mark in the film and music industry. They'll certainly be missed not only by their families but also by the entire industry and fans.

Fate struck a cruel blow on music fans here, when popular songstress, and music directress Malani Bulathsinhala who held millions spellbound for over three decades was snatched away on March 29 last year. However hard one tries, death is something no one is fully prepared for - and more so when it comes as a shock.

Sri Lanka's first female Visharada in music was in Los Angeles when she met with her death. With hundreds of songs to her credit, she won several awards including the prestigious Sarasaviya award for the Best Singer in 1989. A devoted music teacher, she later rose to be a Deputy Director in the Education Department.

Among her music students were the likes of Deepika Priyadharshani Peiris, Champa Kalhari and Sanjeewani Weerasinghe. Himi Nethi Pemakata, Sende Ahasa Wage, Sithak Kelesada, Ma da Obama Wiya are some of her immortal numbers that would linger in our memories for generations to come.

In May, talented dubbing artiste, Roy Jayawardene passed away creating a void in the dubbing trade.

The son of yesteryear film star Dommie Jayawardene, Roy had dabbled in more than 400 roles in his career. Like his father, he too acted as the villain in most films and teles that came his way, but still shone with his individual brilliance. He also acted in more than 100 stage dramas of which the role he played as Grandpass Sergeant in Neinage Suduwa is still remembered by his fans.

Herbert Ranjith Peiris who was no stranger in the film, stage and music scene left the world stage on July 7, just a day after his film Hai Hui Babi Aachchi - directed after 17 years - was screened. A great character who loved humour, made award winning films including Senakeliya, Silva, Ektemge, Era Soysa and widely-watched teles like Irata Muwawen, Hiru Sandu Hamuwe, Wadiya, Lokanthaya and now showing Hiru Thaniwela. A pioneer of the Peduru Party concept, he was not only a film and tele-drama maker but also an artist, lyricist and screenplay writer. He wrote Freddie Silva's popular number 'Balla' and also was behind the direction of TV visuals for Gypsies 'Singnore'.

Comedy king Freddie Silva's illustrious career came to a tragic end with his death in October. Born in Moratuwa in 1938 he started his career in 1960 with the popular hit Bar Bar. With more than 450 films and about 2000 songs to his credit he was the most sought after comedian in the sixties and seventies. Apart from being a film actor and vocalist he also produced several dramas.

Another popular vocalist who introduced a new concept to the Sinhala music scene, Maxwell Mendis was a man who danced to his own tunes in the music scene. A product of St. Sebastian's College, Moratuwa he crept into the limelight with famous numbers like Ratak Watinawa , Seda Sulang Hamanne and Mama Bohoma Bayawuna.

Another film actor cum producer Piyaratne M. Senarath - father of filmstar Sureni Senarath - was lost to the film world in September. Born and bred in Kalutara, he started his career with small roles in Pickpocket and Dehadaka Duka while later making substantial appearances in Cyril Malli, Kolamba Sanniya, Yasa Isuru etc. As a film producer he made Amaraneeya Adare, Dr. Susantha and Loku Tahththa.

The same month we lost one of our veteran comedians, Samuel Rodrigo. Popularly known as Amaris Aiya, he was 80 at the time of his death.

Born on 22, September 1921 in Moratuwa, he showed an exceptional interest in humour from his school days at the Colombo Olcott Vidyalaya. The best thing in his life happened in 1952, when he joined Radio Ceylon's Wihilu Thahalu - that broadcast comedy sketches. It did not take long for Amaris Aiya to become a household name in the country and that popularity remained undiminished till his death. His popularity multiplied after teaming with Berty and Annesley in Vinoda Samaya.

On December 14, the death was recorded of veteran actor Herbert Amarawickrama who made his debut in the sixties. He performed in a wide range of roles in about 100 films including Gamperaliya, Wasana, Lokuma Hinawa, Gopaluhanda and Lasanda. A product of St. Joseph's College Colombo, he was also a pioneer in forming the SLFP.

Lawyer - cum lyricist Randbanda Seneviratne also passed away in December. 

A product of Anuradhapura Central, he later passed out from the Peradeniya University. Among his lyrics, 'Davasak Pela Nethi Hene' sung by Gunadasa Kapuge became immnesely popular. They say the size of your funeral is the last and most conclusive test of your popularity. And of course, the funerals of the above bore ample testimony to this saying.


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Last Updated Date: September 25, 2003 .