Daily News Online

Wednesday, 7 December 2011



In memory of Henry Jayasena

In the event Bastain Koralage Henry Rodrigo Jayasena was not unfortunately subjected to the medical misadventure which caused him to succumb to his death he would have today passed his 80th birthday and living today hale and hearty.

The 11th November 2011 however is the day that marked the second death anniversary of legendary Dramatist, renowned Actor, Lyricist, Translator and Author popularly known as Henry Jayasena. Late Henry Jayasena was a firm believer of Shakespeare's memorable phrase" All that live must die/passing through nature to eternity". Decease had already taken its toll on him. He was actually aware that as we learnt in school, "To every man upon the earth/death cometh soon or late". During the time his commenced his long career, he initially stood tall on the modest unsophisticated Lumbini Theatre in the early 1960's.

Henry Jayasena

He had confessed many times as a much adored artiste that his heart lies in theatre. Henry Jayasena could be easily and definitely classified as one, alongside amongst the elite of eminent literary figures in the annals of theatre in Sri Lanka, like Professor Ediriweera Sarathchandra, Sugathapala De Silva, Dayananda Gunawardena, , Gunasena Galapaththy etc. His numerous contributions to the theatre and cinema spanned for almost 4 decades. He retired from his acting career in the year 1999 while he was under treatment for the acquired dreaded decease colon cancer.

The entire treatment process took around one and a half years. On his personal experience and suffering he had written in detail a book titled "Balha Gilano - the story of a cancer patient" purely to educate the masses. However he lived for a further 10 years leading a normal life. His death was sudden and was shocking to many as he had recovered fully from the dreaded 'colon cancer' was a very unfortunate to have died following a medical misadventure when he was hale and hearty.

He was in such a good normal health condition when he possessed the strength during which time he revived his famous drama Hunuwataye Kathawa an adoption of Bertolt Brecht's 'The Caucasian Chalk Circle by deploying experienced, talented and mostly novice actors along with a few who were involved earlier in the likes of Nimal Jayasinghe and Chula Kariyawasm.

The role of judge 'Azdak'is ideally portrayed by Nalin Pradeep Uduwela while that of 'Grusha' by Ruwini Manamperi.

Henry Jayasena was born on July 6, 1931 in a village called Bendiyamulla in Gampaha. He was the youngest in an unfortunate family of six children, four elder brothers and a solitary sister.

His father was Albert Rodrigo Jayasena who was once the Private Secretary to Sir Solamon Dias Bandaranaike was a well versed person. He had quipped that when his parents were parted. He was left alone to grow up with his mother He grew under difficult times. When the family was united his father got all children to memorize celebrated phrases of Shakespeare although he did not understand the contents of them. He had quipped that he was brought up in such an environment, where I fostered no fear of language.

He grew up in the rural hamlet of Bendiyamulla, was initially educated at the Gampaha branch of Lorensz College exposing him to both Catholic and Buddhist cultures taking an active part in both church and temple activities, subsequently at Nalanda College, Colombo.

His first stage play was when he portrayed the role of Prince Rohitha in the stage play 'Harischandra' in school at Nalanda College. It was late Dr Gunapala Malalasekera an eminent Civil Servant who first predicted a great future for him in the field of acting after the famous educationalist observed the talents of little Henry Jayasena while acting in a school concert at Nalanda College. His contemporary notable and distinguished classmates were Karunartane Abeysekara, Dr Harischandra Wijayatunga, Dr Hudson Silva, Dr Dharmasena Attygalle,Hon. Rupa Karunatilleke and Stanley Jayasinghe most of whom have predeceased him.

Since leaving school he opted for a career as an Assistant Teacher of English at the Dehipe Government Primary School in Padiyapellela in the Nuwara Eliya District in the year 1950 at the tender age of 19. He initially ventured into stage acting by producing the drama 'Janaki' in the same year while he was a teacher. As he wanted to pursue a career in the Government service, he got through the General Clerical Service Examination and secured a job at the Public Works Department (PWD). While working in the PWD with his immense innate creative abilities he was able to produce a number of new plays The first of which was 'Manamalayo' in the year 1953, then 'Vedagathkama' in 1954 and 'Paukarayo' in 1959.

Then the vastly improved Dramatist created 'Janelaya' and the famous 'Kuweni' in 1962. Subsequently he produced 'Thavath Udesanak', 'Manaranjana Wedawarjana', 'Ahas Maliga', 'Hunuwataye Kathawa', 'Apata Puthe Magak Nethe', 'Diriya Mava Saha Ege Daruwo', 'Makara',(The Dragon) 'Sarana Siyath Se Puthuni Habha Yana' in the years 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973 ,1975 respectively. With these creations the name of Henry Jayasena became a household name in Sri Lanka owing to the massive revolution he made in the field of creative arts.

As a gesture of appreciation for his contribution towards literature, theatre and music, Henry Jayasena was honoured by the OBA of his 'alma mater' Nalanda College by conferring on him the title of 'Nalanda Keerthi Shri' on September 27, 2003 which was given for the first time was a timely gesture towards honouring one of Sri Lanka's prodigious son. It is also interesting to note that the actor received the award at the "Malalasekera Hall" of the school, named after the first principal of Nalanda College late professor Gunapala Malalasekera.

The Media Secretary of the organizing committee said that the idea behind this award was to honour their past pupils, who have emerged as distinguished personalities in society by serving and nourishing in various arts like aesthetic, drama and film fields with their many talents. It was under the guidance of U A S Perera at Nalanda College that Henry Jayasena and many other students made their way into the theatre and other fields of Arts.

For his roles as Piyal in 'Gamperaliya', Azdak in 'Hunuwataye Kathawa', Lalith in 'Dahasak Sithuvili'his was once more honoured by his 'alma mater',Nalanda College on 25th June 2006.Henry Jayasena had many hopes and aspirations. He said "he would like to a bit more" in 2006.While taking part in a Tele drama he confessed he would dedicate most of his time to work on the "Manel Trust".

In memory and for the love he had for his late wife Manel, Henry established " Manel Jayasena Health Care and Educational Trust Fund in Sri Lanka to coincide with her 68th birthday together with his son Sudaraka.

He was an elegant communicator equally eloquent in both Sinhala and English. He was gracious humble and possessed immense humane qualities. Henry Jayasena was always in the forefront in the dying art of Sinhala Theatre. He was a link of a generation of very imminent artistes such as Ediriweera Saratchandra,Gunasena Galapathtthy, Dayananda Gunawardena , Dhamma Jagoda and Sugathapala de Silva who together pioneered the cultural renaissance and ushered in and sustained the golden age of Sinhala Theatre in Sri Lanka. In this aspect Henry Jayasena was simply a genius.

The veteran Dramatist married the talented actress Manel Ilangakoon in the year 1962. She acted as the lead actress in Jayasena's drama 'Kuweni' for which she won the best actresses' award as well as for her singing.

She started to act just one year after their marriage. She was so talented and it was like a duck to water. She had been a Bharata Natyam teacher prior to marriage and was well versed in dancing. She made a very valuable contribution to 'Hunuwataye Kathawa' (Chalk Circle) portraying the main female role as 'Grushe' For 32 long years, opposite the main male character of Judge Azdak portrayed by her husband. Their only son Sudaraka during his early years acted for the little Prince Micheal.

Actress Manel predeceased him after 42 years of married life on the July 24, 2004 following a prolonged renal failure. Prior to her prolonged illness in the year 2004 February 25th Manel was felicitated at " Janakala Prasada Pranama Ulela" at the John de Silva Memorial Theatre for her 40 years of dedication to the stage and for completing 32 years of uninterrupted acting in the drama "Hunuwataye Kathawa"

Henry Jayasena's debut in films was in Sri 296 in the year 1959. During the 1960s he acted in several films. The portraying of the role of Piyal opposite Punya Heendeniya in 'Gamperaliya' became an award winning role in 1964.

Then he portrayed the role of Lalith in G D L Perera's 'Dahasak Sithuwili' in 1968. He played vivid roles in contrasting characters in 'Hansavilak', 'Gehenu Geta', 'Kaliyugaya', 'Raththaran Neth', 'Wena Swargayak Kumatada', 'Suhada Sohoyuro', 'Heta Pramada Vedie', 'Beddegama', 'Soldadu Unnehe', 'Kaliyugaya', 'Ammai Duwai' and 'Sandakada Pahana'.

Some of the roles portrayed by him in the above films were leading characters, while in some others they were supporting roles. In each role he very clearly demonstrated and proved his prowess as an actor. He created a further image in society through his portrayal of "Sudu Seeya", the isolated intellect in "Doo Daruwo', the much acclaimed Tele-Drama. This Tele drama attracted an enormous interest among almost all television viewers.

Henry Jayasena retired from Government service in the year 1975 to devote his entire time for the Theatre and Arts. Before he retired, he held the positions of Deputy Director of the National Youth Services Centre (Arts and Sports Division) and at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (Programmes Division).

Late Henry Jayasena will remain a model in the field of Art and Culture and as one of the most influential Dramatist of our times. There is no doubt that his enduring works in theatre and his diverse performances in cinema and television remain as a rich cultural legacy of the nation.

It should be the wish of every follower of the theatre and arts that the tremendous efforts of late Henry Jayasena rendered to these fields would be sufficient enough to shorten his life through Sansara until he attains Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.



<< Artscope Main Page


Donate Now | defence.lk
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)


Produced by Lake House Copyright 2009 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor