Cletus - An illustrious thespian of three mediums | Sunday Observer

Cletus - An illustrious thespian of three mediums

29 August, 2021

In the nineties and the eighties, filmgoers had a craze for going to movie theatres to watch films munching bites and Masala Wade. That trend is no more. Veteran actor Cletus Mendis who thrilled many generations is an actor of three mediums such as stage drama, films and teledramas.

He had proven his versatility in many ways. We must never lose sight of the fact that Cletus, though kind and sensitive hearted, stands against injustice. As noted by veteran actor Dr. Gamini Fonseka, Cletus Mendis is too sensitive. The obvious fact is that his sensitivity and humanity had ennobled his personality. That is why he still stays in our hearts.

In 1971, his sister had sent young Cletus to Katupothe to learn business. But neither did he want to continue his business studies nor flourish in the business world. He came back to his village and began to teach karate and Gymnastics to the Youth addicted to drinking and gambling, with the intention of helping them to get rid of their bad habits. On the other hand, Cletus can be said to be a philanthropist.

Long journey

Cletus together with his friends had exhibited a drama at church feats. It was Cletus who did the main character. Surprisingly, young actor Cletus could win everyone’s heart as a talented actor. In 1973, he faced an interview conducted by Henry Chandrawansa and met the veteran artiste Sugath Samarakoon at the interview. In 1977, Cletus received an opportunity to work in a film Wanagatha Kella (The girl in the jungle). It was the first time that this young talented artiste became a fight director in a film.

Later young Cletus together with his friend Sarath Wijerathna did a drama titled Diveskon. He distinguished himself as a talented actor in the drama. Perhaps, Cletus might have thought that acting is a vast subject. That is why his mind was bent towards learning acting as a subject. In 2004, Cletus joined the Sucharithaya with Sarath Wijerathna.

When Cletus followed an acting course conducted by veteran dramatist Jayasekara Aponsu, he met Udayakantha Warnakulasooriya as well. Sometime later, Thomas Perera said to be one of Cletus’ friends had introduced Cletus to Dr. Tissa Abeysekara. Later he met Dr. Lester James Peries through Tissa Abeysekara. At that time, Dr. Lester was making a film titled Veera Puran Appu. Dr. Lester, having discerned Cletus’ skills at Karate and Gymnastics, had cast him as one of the Veera Puran Appu’s soldiers. This was his maiden cinematic appearance.

His performance in this film had opened many avenues for him. As the time rolled on, young Cletus had established a unique identity in the field by playing different roles. In the stage play titled Julius Caesar, Cletus did the character of Octavius. Gamini Fonseka gave blood and breath to the main role Julius Caesar. Among the spectators who had flocked to watch the stage drama had been Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra.

Prof. Sarachchandra who was impressed by Cletus’ performances had cast him as the Prince Maname in the Maname stage play. The highest achievement that an actor can achieve is the golden opportunity to play the role of Prince Maname. In the end Cletus achieved it. The advice and instructions Cletus received from Prof. Sarachchandra had paved the way for him to be stable in the country as a renowned actor.

It is evident that when filmgoers wanted to break away from the familiar faces of the Sinhala Silver Screen, Cletus entered the Cinema. Cletus made the long anticipated difference in the film culture. He had played the villain character to the heroes such as Gamini, Sanath, Ravindra, Ranjan, Jeewan and Shashi.

He was not confined to one category and had done the maximum justice to different roles, covering a wide range from village folk to the town folk. His delivery of mood, dialogues and expressions was unique and different from characters. Never had we felt a strangeness or alienation when he played the roles such as Upathissa in Vijaya Kuweni , Jinadasa in Viragaya, purohitha in Maha Raja Ajasath, Molligoda in Ahelepola Kumarihami and Douglas in Jaya pita jaya.

Cletus had been cast in many Sri Lankan epic historical films such as “ Ahelepola Kumarihami, Veera Puran Appu, Maha Raja Ajasath, Vijaya kuweni and Aloko Udapadhi, mainly because of his brave personality and deep voice. Cheriyo Captain directed by Roy de Silva is another amazing film in which Cletus did the character of Alphonsus.


Cletus Mendis is a dedicated actor. In the film titled Pem Raja Dahana he had to jump into the sea for the underwater sequences. Despite the warnings of officials, Cletus jumped into the sea and began to swim. Cletus who got a cramp in his muscles, failed to continue swimming. Mervyn Jayathunga who noticed the incident from a distance cried out “Cletus, Cletus.” In the end, all the artistes including Mervyn Jayathunga rescued Cletus by means of a rope.

In another instance, Cletus had to jump from a building for a film, but he hit his neck on the ground and received serious injuries. Even now he undergoes medical treatments for his neck. “I still have a pain but, now, I am used to the pain in my neck,” said Cletus.


Veteran actor Cletus had to face even bitter experiences. Challenges have made him strong. In the film titled Obata Divura Kiyannam directed by Sunil Soma Peries, one of the actors had humiliated and mocked at Cletus to dishearten him. But in the end, Cletus had asked that actor to apologise to him for his misbehaviour. “We should not react to them because we can learn lessons from such challenges,” Said Cletus.

In the film Randenigala Sinhaya, Cletus played the character of a henchman which was a challenging character. The film was screened before the term Heroin had been alien to Sri Lankans. To play this character, Cletus had to make a lot sacrifices. But Cletus could not win the award that he deserved due to personal agendas and personal preferences.

Cletus is not only an actor but also a film director. Parapura directed by Cletus and produced by Basil Jayasooriya and Srimali revolves around three brothers played by Ranjan Ramanayake, Chili and Kamal Addaraarachchi’s son. The villain character is played by Sanath Gunathilake.


Veteran actor Cletus Mendis had acted in more than 200 films for over 45 years. He said, “No one can stop me. I never try to stop other artistes. We should not envy anyone. There is no doubt that your actions will boomerang back on you. You have to be responsible for your family, your parents, your wife and your children. You should not tarnish their reputation. “

Characters played by Cletus will bear testimony to his creative spirit. The King of the Sinhala Cinema said to Cletus, “You have substance to become a good actor.” Indeed his prophecy has come true. Cletus is a born actor of three mediums.