Doyen of Sinhala drama | Sunday Observer
Sarath Kulanga:

Doyen of Sinhala drama

30 May, 2021

Among the ordinary people like us only a few, as if blessed by a God, can give life and breath to the characters written on a script. As if through a miracle such immortal artists among the mortals are born. One of the most celebrated artistes named Sarath Kulanga Fernando being a dramatist, director, musician and teacher has dedicated his own life to embellish the Sinhala drama culture. The scintillating performance by this veteran artiste in many fields such as stage drama, tele drama, films and music will bear testimony to his own unrivalled creative spirit. In an interview with the Sunday Observer he revealed his experience and memories.

Born in the year 1958 Sarath Kulanga was inspired by his elder brother Luxman Fernando who had led a western music band with many talented artistes such as Anil Bharathi, Vernon Perera and Dayananda Perera. In addition, Luxman Fernando had gained a popularity by making his contribution to Vesak dramas better known as “Pol kotan darama” as well.

A talented cartoonist

No doubt that this veteran artist Sarath Kulanga more like a multi-faceted diamond being a young cartoonist has enticed many readers’ hearts. The fact that the striking cartoons drawn by him had appeared in the “ Sathuta “ newspaper testifies his excelled dexterity in many fields.

As mentioned by this versatile artist Sarath Kulanga, It was Thakshila College, Horana that changed his life. The strongest foundation laid by the gurus such as Rohana Beddage, Gamini Haththotuwegama, Hemasiri Liyanage and Soma Gunathilake has sharpened the creativity of this veteran artiste Sarath Kulanga. With these, it is evident that he has distinguished himself as a brilliant artist in Sri Lanka.

Quintessential musician

The well-known fact is that though anyone can enjoy music not all but only a few can be gifted to be musicians. No doubt that this veteran artiste Sarath Kulanga, as pointed out by many artistes, has established an icon in the stage drama songs. The unique performance by Sarath Kulanga in the stage drama titled “Abuddassa kolama” directed by veteran artist Janak Premalal has been appreciated by both spectators and critics. Moreover, Sarath Kulanga has won awards for the best music in the ‘Yauwana Sammana’ festival. In addition, there can be found many stage dramas and tele dramas adorned by the Sarath Kulanga’s heart-throbbing music. For example, “Kok sanniya” by Premakumara Karunarathna, “Diga adu karayek” by Premakumara Karumarathna, “Ran mawatha” by Bandula Fonseka, “Kapruka” by Sarath Chandrasiri , “Samagi dam bala wikum” by Indrani Perera, “Sooryagrahanaya” by Janak Premalal, “Mahalla saha” by Saman Pushpakumara, “Sada athi reyak” by Bandula Fonseka, “Mister Mcmilan” by Chandra Sri Perera, “Gini” by Sarath Kumara, “Ata natiya” by Jagath Muthukumarana, “Sri Gajaba” by Wijaya Nandasiri, “Mama thawama pana pitin” by Anura Dahanayake, “Rukada Rajje” by D. Kumarage and “Deiyoth danne ne” by Sarath Kulanga.

When speaking of the music for tele dramas, “Thun denek” by Jayalath Manorathna, “Meth warusa” by Priya Ranasinghe and “Always break down” by Saddha Mangala Sooriyabandara. The most significant fact is that this versatile artist has won many awards for the best music in many film festivals.

Excelled performer

Not only in music but also in tele dramas and films his versatility has enabled him to be excelled. Undoubtedly it is evident that even the characters performed by this renowned artist have been engraved in our minds. Of all the stage plays the most distinguished ones are “Yerma” by Lalitha Sarachchandra, “Jasaya saha Lenchina” by Dayananda Gunawardana, “Kamare pore” by Dayananda Gunawardana, “Madura Jawanika” by Dayananda Gunawardana, “Nari Bena” by Dayananda Gunawardana, “Kapuwa kapothi” by Dr. Ediriweera Sarachchandra, “Mahasara” by Dr. Ediriweera Sarachchandra, “Abuddhassa Kolama” by Janak Premalal, “Raja Kapuru” by Janak Premalal, “Aragalaya” by Leslie Fonseka, “Siyaluma Ganga” by Leslie Fonseka, “Okkoma Rajawaru” by John, “Rathu Lantheruma” by Somadasa Peiris “Suuryagrahanaya” by Janak Premalal, “Italiye kathawak” by Sisil Gunasekara, “Mahalla” by Saman Pushpakumara, “Hathilis Ediriya” by Heenatigala Premadasa, “ Seema maim” by Hilarian Perera, “Suti Gamarala Ha Raigam Banda” by Athula V. Samaraweera, “Sarasavi doonkaraya” by Ginadasa Hengoda, “Otunna” by Daya Shantha Kariyawasam.

Speaking of tele dramas performed by Sarath Kulanga, what spring into our minds are “Wiridu karaya in Duu Daruwo” and “Charlie in Tikiri Hapannu.” These characters have proven to be lingering in our minds forever. In addition, the vital place occupied by the veteran artiste Sarath Kulanga in tele dramas is significant. “Thara dewi” by Lucien Bulathsinghala, “Senehewanthayo” by Nalan Mendis, “Kada Thira” by Thrishula Deepa, “Thambawita, Sathsara Nimnaya” by Priya Ranasinghe, “Isuru Soya” by Priya Ranasinghe, “Idikada Addara” by Priya Ranasinghe, “Kamitta” by Priyal Yatawara, “Wara peraliya” by Dharshana Piyarathna, “Mister Andare” by Anura Chandrasiri, “Samawenna sir” by Sumudu Wellagodage, “Punnchi Weerayo” by Channa Perera, “Sorry Madam” by Padmasiri Kodikara, “Swarna kinkini” by Barmin Lily Fernandi “Theertha tharanaya” by Barmin Lilu Fernando, “Manthree Thuma” by Saman Weeraman, “Mahadena mutta” by Ranasiri Fernando, “Dandana Mankada” by J. Nandasena, “Wilbedi danawwuwa” by Parakrama Niraella, “Hada pudasuna” by Ananda Wickramage, “Kethumathi Rajadahana” by Eranga Senarathna, “Yes Boss” by Suranjan Wijenama and “Pawana se Awidin” by Priya Ranasinghe. Moreover, Sarath Kulanga performs in a tele drama titled “Renagala Walawva” telecast on Rupavahini these days.

Even in films, his creative spirit has been highlighted. Speaking of films in depth, “Guru gedara” by Wijaya Dharmasiri, “Saroja” by Somarathna Dissanayake, “Bhahubuthayo” by Udayakantha Warnkakulasooriya, “Gini awi saha gini keli” by Udaya kantha Warnakulasooriya “Samawenna Raththarane” by Kandepola Kumarathunge “Bawa duka” by Dharmasiri Bandaranayake and “Peeter one” by Bandu Samarasinghe.

The lovable dictator

The well-known saying by veteran dramatist Sugathapala de Silva “ Director is a lovable dictator “ conveys the fact that director should be able to bring out the best in the artistes in a cordial manner. Sarath Kulanga has proven to be one of those lovable directors.

The stage drama titled “Deiyoth Danne ne” directed by Sarath Kulanga obviously has left an indelible impression on the spectators’ minds. The script for this play was written by Ajith Mendis. Amazingly, “Deiyoth Danne ne” is adorned by Sarath Kulanga’s alluring music. Another significant fact is that this stage play has been staged in many foreign countries such as New Zealand and Australia.

In addition several stage dramas directed by this versatile artist such as “Kolam pure”, “Midi wela”, “Alu deriya”, “Anda bhuutha” and “Nawathen polak” went on to win many awards.

A talented dubbing artiste

Sarath kulanga being a dubbing artiste has played a vital role in Sri Lanka. Some of the programs embellished by his voice still echoes in our hearts. For example, “Ishu wara” by Roy Jayawardana, “Apuuru Yahaluwo” by Padmasiri Fernando and “Always break down” by Saddha Mangala Sooriyabandara. In like manner it is evident that this veteran artist Sarath Kulanga’s creativity like a multi-facated diamond keeps on shining forever.

What rekindle our lives are none but memories and hopes. That is why we give the first place to them in our lives. The fact that Sarath Kulanga was fortunate to perform in the Lalitha Sarachchandra’s translation of Spanish dramatist Federic Garcia Lorca’s tragedy play titled “ Yerma” is the unforgettable memory in his life. In this play “ Yerma” he has given blood and breath to the character called “ Yuwan”.

A guiding star

When going down the memory lane, I can remember how this renowned artist taught us drama and theatre as a subject for the G.C.E Advanced Level examination at our school Sri Sumangala Collage Panadura. The role played by him as a teacher was remarkable. It was possible to discern the salient techniques used by him in teaching. Revolutionary steps taken by this guru at school on behalf of the students have been praised by many. Unlike ordinary teachers, he started to teach lessons to the students under a massive tree mainly because of his reluctance to confine children into a class room. He let the students get wet in the rain, feel the blowing gentle breeze and hear the chirping of birds rather than displaying images on screens. All he wanted was bringing out the inner humanity in the students. This renowned artiste’s home is synonymous with a celestial world in which many artists always linger. Therefore, many students including myself could expose ourselves to that environment. Moreover, in the year 2014 this gifted teacher, marking the end of his 36 years teaching career, retired from Sri Sumangala College- Panadura as an Assistant Principal.

Nirmani Kulanga’s creativity

Nirmani Kulanga, being Sarath Kulanga’s beloved daughter has inherited her father’s creativity. In stage dramas and tele dramas such as “Mama Thawama Pana pitin” her creativity has been witnessed by the spectators. In addition, she works as a drama and theater teacher at Sri Sumangala Collage - Panadura.

How to survive in the field

The veteran artiste, who has engaged himself in Sinhala drama and music for more than 45 years uninterruptedly, has led the traditional Sinhala drama culture towards a new vibrant era. Being a well-seasoned dramatist the precious advice he conveyed to our next generation is that those who have a kindling interest in the field of drama should study every area. In addition, he told that the new artistes should be acquainted with the new styles and genres that emerge in the world because it is impossible to flourish in the field without a proper knowledge. Further he stressed the fact that with the development of new technology the new generation can undoubtedly make a giant step forward.

The collapse of performing arts

As mentioned by Sarath Kulanga, due to tragic incidents such as the Easter Sunday attacks and Covid- 19 there has occurred a collapse in stage plays. At present under the prevailing situation of the country it has become impossible for the artistes to get involved in work. However, he said that it is too sure that there will dawn a new era sans fear and tears.

The most renowned artiste Sarath Kulanga , though unfathomed by a few is a treasure. Many critics and fans are found remembering of him with awe. We as a nation are indebted to his priceless service. It is not because of his performances nor because of his music but because he broke the status quo in the Sri Lankan stage drama culture. Indeed, the service rendered by Sarath Kulanga on behalf of Sri Lanka should never be underestimated.