If laughter is the best medicine Vijaya Nandasiri could have been a drug store! The seasoned actor who has excelled as a comedy star in recent times passed away at Kalubowila Teaching Hospital due to a cardiac arrest on August 8, 2016. He was 69 at the time of death.
Vijaya was one of the few thespians who struck a balance between comedy and character roles. From the heartwarming Prince Maname in Prof Ediriweera Sarachchandra’s renowned stage play ‘Maname’ to the role of Mr Premachandra in ‘Nonawaruni Mahathwaruni’ and Minister Rajamanthri in the more recent movie ‘Suhada Koka’, Vijaya has had a trailblazing career in stage dramas, teledramas and films.
He has acted as Prince Maname for over a thousand times – a lifetime achievement for a stage drama actor. Other significant stage plays that he was involved in comprised ‘Sinhabahu’, ‘Mahasaara’, ‘Jasaya Saha Lanchina’, ‘Nari Bena’, ‘Ananda Jawanika’, ‘Suba Saha Yasa’, ‘Tharawo Igilethi’ and ‘Ekadapathi’. He also helmed several stage plays like Kusa Pabavathi and Vrushaba Raja.
His first film was K A W Perera’s ‘Nedayo’. Then he made appearances in films like ‘Yasa Isuru’ ‘Sandakada Pahana’, ‘Bengali Walalu’, ‘Sasara’ and ‘Rail Paara’. He tasted success with comedy when he starred in ‘Sikuru Hathe’, ‘Bahu Boothayo’, ‘Sir Last Chance’, ‘Mago Digo Dai’, ‘King Hunter’, ‘Ko Mark No Mark’ and ‘Suhada Koka’. He won The Best Actor award for his role of the match maker in ‘Sikuru Hathe’ in 2007 and later as the Best Comedian for ‘King Hunther’ in 2011. He also hosted the popular children’s quiz program called ‘Punchi Pahe Man’ on Sirasa TV.
He was married to actress Devika Mihirani whom he met on the sets of ‘Suba Saha Yasa’ in 1974. Devika was the main actress in Sri Lanka’s first teledrama ‘Dimuthu Muthu’. The couple have two children, Navanjana Mihirani and Rasanjana Suchitra.
Vijaya has always been a well loved figure among his colleagues in the arts scene. Here are a few comments from a few artistes who had starred opposite the veteran actor for a considerable span.
An admirable husband and father - Kusum Renu
Vijaya was one of the most gifted actors who emerged from the stage in our times. He was so dedicated to whatever he takes up, be it a stage play, teledrama or a movie. Even on the night before his death he had been acting in a stage play. This shows how dedicated he was to the field. If had not been so devoted to the art the audience would not have loved him in this manner.
Another striking feature about him is that he is a beloved husband and father. We used to be neighbours and we saw the bond he shared with his family with our own eyes. They are truly blessed to have a husband and father like him.
We first met when we were working on Prof Ediriweera Sarachchandra’s ‘Mahasara’. He played the king’s role and I was playing the role of the village beauty. Later we met on the sets of ‘Nonawaruni Mahathwaruni’.
We were fortunate enough to work for a long span then. It was a pleasure to work with him. He was always supportive towards the artiste who stars opposite to him in a scene. Apart from the brother-sister bondage we shared, we also managed to work as a team to make the series a success.
One of the most difficult chores for an artiste is to bring genuine laugher out of his audience. Vijaya was a natural at that. I believe that itself was a meritorious activity. Those merits are sufficient for him to go to a good place after death.
Cannot be duplicated - Lucky Dias
I have so many memories in connection with Vijaya. We had a rollicking time when we were shooting ‘Yes Boss’ together. When I was cast opposite him in the tele series my first thought was “how could I would meet up to Vijaya’s acting prowess”. Comedy was new for me then but he made me feel at ease. Soon we were planning certain gimmicks and punch lines to improve the series.
Five years later the program is still as popular as it was in the past. That is why they are running repeats of it on Sirasa TV. We were approached by the team to do a new season of ‘Yes Boss’ recently too.
Vijaya was also the main actor in my movie ‘Breaking News’. We completed the shoot of an extra song for the movie a month ago. ‘Breaking News’ is Vijaya’s final movie.
Nobody can boast of being the ‘King of Comedy’ easily. Vijaya is on par with greats like Gamini Fonseka and Joe Abeywickrama in this aspect. He too cannot be duplicated. He is one of a kind. His type of comedy was very different from the slapstick comedy found in abundance today. He made use of situational comedy.
He leaves a void which cannot be filled. It is a total loss to all three sectors, especially stage dramas. At the time of his death there were at least six stage dramas with him in the main role that was being staged island wide. All of these have come to a complete halt now. I think that they too would be buried along with him because there is no one else to take his place to do justice to the roles he played.
He had no competitors - Semini Iddamalgoda
When you are constantly in contact with a person you get to know the good and bad side of him or her. I have been acting beside Vijaya aiya for a continuous three years.
Therefore, he is one of the two people whom I really got to know and love in the arts field.
More than a fellow actor he became almost a part of my family for me.
He was a really humane person. He did not show any airs for anybody. Though he performed comedy acts with ease he never stooped to the level of becoming a joke in front of anyone in any situation. He always kept his place and did his job well.
I felt such grief when I got the news of his demise. He had no competitors in the industry. He is irreplaceable. All three sectors in the arts stream suffers greatly from his loss.
If you had a stressful day, you need to watch one of his teledramas. You would wake up with a smile the next morning and that feeling of happiness will last with you for a comsiderable time. That is the sort of effect he has on his fans. His performances are engraved in our memories for such a long time.
Due to what is happening in the world I do like to wish him to be reborn among us again. He deserves much more than that. I hope that he would attain nibbana.
A disciplined actor - Wilson Gunaratne
Vijaya was an actor with unlimited talent. He has dominated the drama, teledrama and movie field for many decades by portraying meaningful characters. We have acted together in three productions: ‘Nonawaruni Mahathwaruni’, ‘Kathura’ and ‘Yes Madam’.
Though he as a bit senior to me in the field he had a habit of seeking my opinion in matters whenever we were acting together. I thought he was a way better actor than me but he thought otherwise.
I was always given the boss’ role while he was my subordinate. We had a good rapport and our acting harmony went well with each other. We faced no difficulties at all when we were collaborating in a scene. Even off the sets he was a jovial character.
Another striking feature about him was that he was a very disciplined artiste. He was very punctual and dedicated to his tasks. There are only a few such artistes in the field with such valuable qualities today.
The Daily News tried to contact actors Rodney Warnakula, Giriraj Kaushalya and Priyantha Senevirathe for comments but the trio were out of the country, touring Australia for their latest stage play ‘Hathara Hina’.