The Nightingale of Sri Lanka, singer and actress Rukmanie Devi will be remembered at a special event on October 28 at Sausiripaya auditorium in Colombo 7.
The event in collaboration with the 30th death anniversary of this pioneering actress and songstress, an auto-biography titled ‘Mage Jeevana Withthi’ which she originally published in the year 1956 and together with a pictorial commentary ‘Yugayaka Swarna Geethaya’ (The Golden Song of an Era) compiled by Senior Journalist A.D. Ranjith Kumara will be published. The copy table book which comprises a collection of rare pictures of Rukmanie Devi is a Sarasavi Publication.
At the event scheduled to start at 3.00 pm, Professor Tissa Kariyawasam- an authority on Sri Lankan aesthetics, Dr. D.B.Nihalsingha – the celebrated film maker, actor Ravindra Randeniya and Nuwan Nayanajith Kumara are to make short speeches at the subsequent event chaired by the legendary Actor of “Kale Handa” fame – Stanley Perera.
The evening will be coloured by a musical performance featuring film songs and duets sung by Rukmanie Devi with the participation of a group of artistes including Prof. Sanath Nandasiri, Damayanthi Jayasuriya, Damitha Abeyratne Ravindra Randeniya, Luxman Wijesekara, Ishak Beg, and Kanchana Fernando. A documentary called “Rupa Chaya” based on the illustrious life of Rukmanie Devi produced by Dr. Tissa Abeysekara for the Government Film Unit will also be screened at this event.
This ceremony will also be presided over by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardhane and the Minister of Mass Media and Information, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa.
The Tower Hall Theatre Foundation is to conduct this ceremony with the sponsorship of C.T.V. and Ceylinco Consolidated Ltd.
The legend in Sri Lankan cinema and music
Born on January 15, 1923 as Daisy Rasammah Daniels in Nuwara Eliya, Rukmanie Devi’s father, John Daniel worked on a plantation and her mother Helen Rose was a teacher. She grew up in Colombo and had her early education at St. Matthew’s School and then moved on to St. Clare’s School, Wellawatte
As a little girl, Daniels showed an inborn talent to sing and dance. At the age of seven she was picked to sing Christmas carols. Impressed with her ability to sing, dance, and also to act, she was selected to perform a main role in a Christmas play, ‘The Shoemaker’s Wife’.
Watching her play this role much enthusiastically, Walter Abeysinghe, a drama producer sought permission from her father, to invite her to play the lead role of ‘Sita’ in his drama ‘Ramayanaya.’ Thus, in 1935 at the age of just 12 years she performed in this stage play, presented by the ‘Sinhala Natya Sabha’.
The popular play ‘Broken Promise’, was adapted into a film by B. A. W. Jayamanne, founder of “Minewva Dramatic Club” of Negombo. This was the first Sinhala film – ‘Kadawunu Poronduwa’, screened on January 21, 1947. Rukmani Devi, who also began her film career through the role of ‘Ranjani’ in this film, also became the first local actress. Her film career, which thus began spread over a period of more than three decades in which she had acted in close to 100 films including in Kadawunu Poronduva in 1947, the Sri Lanka’s first film with sound tracks. Among the other films she played in the former part of her career were Umathu Wishvasaya (where she played double roles as the first actress to do so), Kela Handa, Siriya Latha (Siriya Latha), Daiva Yogaya as Sheela Kumari, Dascon as princess Premila and ‘Nalangana’ as Prema.
A. D. Ranjith Kumara
With her first audio recording of the famous song “Siri Buddhagaya Vihare” with Master H. W. Rupasinghe in 1938, she captured the hearts of the masses and she shaped her career from that of an actress to that of an actress turned singer.
Her unique voice attracted many music directors, as her singing career moved from the stage to the silver screen. Some of the immortal songs she sang for films are Sandyave Sriya for ‘Kadawunu Poronduwa’, Pinsara Mage Soyura for ‘Kapati Arakshakaya’, Gala Kandeni, and Moranawa Preme Hade for ‘Weradun Kurumanama’, In the mid sixties she joined the sinhala calypso musical group ‘Los Cabelleros’ led by late Neville Fernando. They recorderd ever popular sinhala songs such as ‘Malbara Himidiriye’,’Menike Obe sinawe’ and ‘Sandak Nage’.
Married to veteran dramatist, actor and singer, Eddie Jayamanne, whom she fell in love with as a result of her close association with him, when performing in dramas produced by “Minerva Dramatic Club” founded by B.A.W. Jayamanne, they lived at “Jaya Ruk”, at Angurukaramulla, Negombo.
Among the awards, Rukmanie won the Best background Singer for the song ‘Doi doiya putha’ in the film ‘Ahasin Polawata’ at the inaugural Presidential Awards Ceremony in 1976 and Best actress Award for ‘Kele Handa’ at the ‘Deepasika’ awards ceremony conducted by ‘Lankadipa’ Newspaper in 1956 and she was the one and only Sri Lankan actress on the cover page of popular Indian Film Magazine “Filmfare” and was also featured in “My like and dislike” in 1958 in the Filmfare.
Rukmani Devi, the singing star, stage and screen idol died in a tragic motor accident near St. Mary’s Church, Thudella on October 28, 1978 when she was returning after a musical show in Uyanwatte, Matara.