Yesteryear’s Sinhala film comedians
Humour is an essential ingredient in our performing arts. Even in our
Thovil ceremonies we come across comic scenes between the chief drummer
and the devil dancer. The aim here is to entertain the tired audience
and to relieve their boredom and monotony. Our Kolam and also Sokari
dramas put the audience in rollicking laughter. Jasaya and Lenchina is a
case in point. Our celebreated dramatist John de Silva had myriads of
comic sketches in his dramas.
William Shakespeare the bard in English literature had not failed to
introduce comic scenes in order to add humour in his plays. They are
found in his works Merchant of Venice, Taming of the Shrew and Midsummer
Nights Dream etc.
Mid 20th Century
Late Charlie Chaplin one time ace Hollywood Comedian gave inspiration
to our dramatists who had humorous characters in their works. Plays like
Kapuwa Kapothi, Vedahatana in Sinhala and He comes from Jaffna and Well
Mudliyar in English staged in the mid 20th Century had humour and satire
as their themes.
Dramas most of which were staged at the Tower Hall Theatre had two or
three comedians including females. One such was Sivamma Dhanapala. There
emerged drama groups like the Minerva Group from Negombo led by B A W
Jayamanne, he produced a good number of plays like Kadawuna Poronduwa
((Broken Promise) Avataraya (apparition).
Another group had as its head Sirisena Wimalaweera from Tangalle. He
had players like Rodee Kella, Seedevi, Amma and Pitisara Kelle etc. Like
Jayamanne Wimalaweera took his plays round the country.
These two groups later took to film making Jayamnne got the credit
for making the first film. That was Kadawuna Poronduwa shown on January
21, 1947 at Kingsley Theatre, Colombo. This film ran to crowded houses
mostly because of the comic scenes of Eddie Jayamanne who had as his
companion Jemini Kantha a Malay lass from Badulla. It is stated that
this film was so popular that people from rural areas hired vehicles to
see this film screened in the major cities.
A feature in this film was that the comedians played the role of
husband and wife. This was because at that time in Tamil films too there
was a couple as comedians. An example was Krishnan and Mathuram as we
saw in Chandralekah. In Kadawuna Poronduwa Eddie Jayamanne played the
role of Manappu while Jemini Kantha played the role of Jossie. Their
dialogues and songs were on everyone’s lips at that time.
Eddie Jayamanne who was called the local Charlie Chaplin continued as
the comedian along with Jemini Kantha in other films Kapati Arakshakaya
up to Peralena Iranama. From there onwards his comedian partner became
Mable Blythe. She hailed from Nuwara Eliya.
It is no exaggerating to say that Jayamanne films became immensely
popular and acclaimed by the masses because their comic interludes.
BAW could not resist this temptation when he decided to produce
reputed novelist WA Silva’s work Kele Handa.
Here Eddie Jayamanne played the role of Anda and Mable Blythe was
brought in for a comic role Missie created by BAW.
In fact there was no such a character in the original novel and
therefore W A Silva vehemently objected to having an additional
character called Missie. But BAW insisted and convinced him that without
this new comic role the film would not be a Box-Office hit. Finally W A
We see now that the then filmmakers deliberately introduced comic
scenes for crowd pulling. For this purpose they copied Tamil films which
had comedians like “Krishnan Mathuram, Thangavely, Pulimuttai.
Ramaswamy, Nagesh etc. in Hindi their counterparts were Om Prakash
Johnny Walker, Agha David and Bhagvan. The last acted in a Sinhala film
Dostara in 1956. BAW Jayamanne through his Minerva group introduced
several versatile comedians such as Hugo Fernando, Bertram Fernando.
Pitipana Silva, Anthony C Perera, Eddie Yapa. All of them were from
Of them the real maestro was Hugo Fernando who besides acting was a
Music director, background singer, dialogue writer etc. Christy Leonard
Perera although not from Negombo was another sought after comedian. He
first came to limelight in Radala Piliruwa another work from Novelist W