In conversation with the wonderful Dulanjali Ananda | Sunday Observer

In conversation with the wonderful Dulanjali Ananda

3 September, 2023

This week I reached out to Dulanjali Ananda, a news anchor, compere, talented vocalist and the daughter of the celebrated musician Gratien Ananda.

In conversation with Dulanjali here’s what I found out:

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? A public personality?

A: To be honest, signing just came to me with my family. I never had it in my mind that I was someday going to be a singer. Growing up myself and my brother were really shy. We have participated in a lot of productions with our father but we always stayed behind the scenes. When we were kids, I was in the choir and I have participated in several tv programs as a family where I have sung and I have also contributed my voice to various musicals. These were all good experiences but it was never a dream to become a singer or a public personality.

Q: How did you get into compering and new anchoring?

A: I always kind of had an idea that I was comfortable in front of the camera? Right after school, I got various opportunities to be a tv presenter in Sinhala medium. However, I refused all of those opportunities because I was in the corporate field at the time and I wasn’t really interested in doing anything else. But then I guess it was pointed out to me that I have a talent in news anchoring. And then I decided to apply to be a news anchor with Rupavahini.

I followed the regular process, went for the screen tests, and followed the procedure, was behind the scenes for a while. This is when I realized that my raw talent was recognized and groomed. The Channel Eye News Director, my co-host at the time, and everyone around me were so helpful, nice and nurturing and I am truly grateful for the opportunity. It was in fact a very nice feeling.

Q: How did you get into music?

A: Initially, I went for TV programs simply to sing duets with my father and my brother. It was challenging, because some of these songs were initially sung by immensely talented individuals like Latha Walpola or Sujatha Aththanayaka. It felt like I was in the deep end but I went with it. After that my brother did his own album at the age of 16.

He wanted me to do a few songs which my mother had written. One was a ‘ra tharuwak’, written by my mother, music done by my brother and sung with my father. This was my first and only duet with him. I did a few more songs for my brother’s album including ‘Paya hiru lova’ and ‘sanda kumari enne paya’ which was a duet with Ruchira Paliyaguru. This was again written by my mom, it was a song draft that was meant to be sung by my father and Nanda Malini.

Thereafter I met Achala Solomans who listened to a lot of my brother’s songs and liked it. He wanted me to do a song. That was a song called ‘nidahase’, for which he did the music and lyrics and produced by Mario Ananda Productions (my brother’s production company). Besides this I have done together with my brother a tribute song to my father and a tribute song to my mother.

I am a choir singer, I participated in competitions in 2015 and I am now going to be in the caste of a new musical. The thing is besides the ensemble part of singing, I haven’t really been out there as a solo artist yet. But I do what I like as I go along.

Q: How is it to be on camera?

A: The thing is it is not easy but you should show that it is extremely easy. Make sure you are relatable. I enjoy it because I get to meet people and I learn a lot. I simply want to convey a good message and remain unbiased. One important thing you have to understand being on camera is that children are watching you and you have influence on young minds. It is really not your place to give perspective about a certain thing. You simply have to deliver facts.

Q: What is the secret to being a good compere?

A: I think the secret is to know that when show time comes you have to make sure, you take it easy and be comfortable and relatable to your audience. But do the homework to adjust to the situation, don’t expect everyone to give you all the information, you just have to rise up to the occasion and be a team player.

Q: What is it like growing up with a famous father?

A: It was lovely. My father was a very simple man, we never had this celebrity life. It was very easy for us to be in that atmosphere. It was a good thing to see how thaththi was appreciated and not just for his singing but for the generous soul he was. And this appreciation came from people who didn’t know him as much. He lived such a godly life and it was wonderful that people have acknowledged it. I have seen tears in people’s eyes remembering my father, that was very heartwarming.

Q: How has he influenced you?

A: He has influenced me to be how I am. Both my mother and father are very generous people and I believe me and my brother have gotten that quality from them. I have the ability to do what I do and then just step onto the road and go about my life. We are ordinary people. We were groomed in such a way and I am so grateful for that.

Q: How would you describe yourself as a musician in two words?

A: Artist undercover.

Q: What is your favourite style of music?

A: I like everything. I like a lot of 90s music and a lot of varieties ranging from Amaradewa’s music to Shakira’s to Clarence, Micheal Jackson and a lot of old Hindi music. Most of which my dad used to play on the piano when we were kids. Currently, I am the biggest fan of Mario Ananda.

Q: Do you prefer compering over being a vocalist?

A: The thing is as a singer I don’t do it as much, so I have the bigger heart to it but I believe I enjoy both parallelly.

Q: What are the projects you have in line for the rest of the year?

A: I have my compering, TV presenting and I am also part of Mario Ananda productions, we do documentaries, theme song productions, and short films, mostly for children.

I collaborate on a lot of things, sometimes I am his assistant director too. There are some projects that are ongoing.

We want to make sure forgotten people are celebrated. Children should be groomed into a sport so they say no to drugs and alcohol. We want to be here for the people and the future generations of Sri Lanka.

Pix: Thilak Perera