SUSIL PREMARATNE PRODIGIOUS ARTIST, VOCALIST,COMPOSER ,TEACHER PLAYBACK SINGER AT APEX OF GLORY – by Sunil Thenabadu
Susil Premaratne prodigious artist vocalist., composer of music,teacher ,film playback singer with variety of talents was born as Malgawage Susil Premaratne in ‘’Andagoda, Ambalangoda. Susil Premaratne was a great performer skilled with varieties of talents rarely found in the field of Arts. The vacuum left by the demise of an artiste of his caliber in 2010 February can never be replaced.
This veteran artist not only entertained the public by his deep melodious voice singing in his own unique style but also enthralled the people with his fascinating paintings of natural beauty and comic stories (Chithra Katha).”Ru rese andina lese”, “Somnasa ho santhapaya hamuwe” and many of his songs recorded in 40s, 50s, 60s & 70s are still spellbound household favorites in Sri Lanka.
Susil Premaratne had acquired painting instincts through hereditary affiliations from father with his innate talents of this future artist had featured from his childhood. The untimely demise of his beloved mother left his fortune to be taken care of by his closely attached aunt. He studied in Dharmaraja College and later entered the Colombo Technical College to pursue arts and other creative work.
His father was the famous M. Sarlis Master who was held in high recognition as one of the leading artists of creative Arts.It is learnt that it was Sarlis Master who had drawn the paintings of most Venerable Seelvali thera which were later found hung in most ancient dwellings replacing the photo of Queen Victoria hitherto hung on the walls of dwellings. Susil was inherited with his father’s talents which helped him to rise to the apex of glory as a very popular singer with a golden voice and an artiste of performing arts.
At Age 16 Susil Premaratna was first introduced to Mr U.A.S.Perera known as Siri Aiya of Radio Ceylon by late Mr. Herbert M. Seneviratne. He associated with famous drama writer C.A. Fonseka, songstress V.P. Leelawathie and Violinist Vincent de Alwis at Radio Ceylon and became a regular artiste at Radio Ceylon (SLBC).The famous song Namawu Namawu recorded with the then popular singers Kingsley Jayasekera, Priscilla Opatha and Leela was true to form his cordiality with his associates. He was promoted as ‘A’ Grade artiste at the audition held by Mr Ratanashanka the Indian Musician assisted to Radio Ceylon in early 1950s.
In the latter part of 1940s Mr. Gabriel the Manager of Recording Department, Cargills Ltd influenced by his musical skills invited Susil for recordings with H.M.V. Records widely recognized publishers of music at the time.
In 1950 it was Susil who introduced Rita Jenevi Fernando as Latha the future Nightingale of Music in Sri Lanka since her voice was richly melodious as Lata Mangeshkar of India. He observed the innate talents of Lata and encouraged her to achieve her ambitious goal in singing.
“Ru Rese Andina Lese” (Poems of Gutthila Kavya) Ranwan karalin pesila, Kalu Kelani Nadee, Sonduru Komala, Preethi Madura, Mihiri Suwadda and Nanwamu Siri Lanka were some of the duets recorded with Latha in 50s.Contemporary artistes of this great personality were Dharmadasa Walpola, Mohideen Begg, Latha Walpola, C.T. Fernando, Vivian de Silva Boralessa, Chitra, P.LA. Somapala and Rukmani Devi.
His first duet sung with Lata was Ranwan karalin pesila and other duets were sung mainly with Mallika Kahawita and Indrani Wijayabandara. Sinhala Janasangeetha, Ko Ada Menika, Naran Dodam Amba, Nil Seley Adan, Raththaran Menik, Sakman Maluwedi were the popular duets sung with Mallika Kahawita and Sudu Piruwata with Indrani Wijayabandara. The duet Sanasanu Ma Prem Sayure Gililla sung with Surya Rani was a popular song in 50’s.Janaki m prema rani, dara matha, Ma Mawatha, Ma Sonduru, Ma hade Shoka, Mal Renu Natala, Pem Kusume, still remain etched in the ever-lasting memories of many.
Nearly a hundred songs were sung by him during his career of music are immortal and highly popular at the tall height of its composition of the melody, lyrics and his admirable voice captured by generation after generation sung by many on picnics, dinner parties. television programs and musical evenings.
He was the main playback singer for B.A.W. Jayamanne’s film ” Sengawunu Pilithura screened on April 20th 1951, singing a solo “Ma Hade Soka De and Manahara Gettha Gayala and Pem Loka Rajani with Rukmani Devi, the Queen of Silver Screen. He also sang a duet Prem Saure Gililila with Latishiya Peiris. In addition, he sang a solo number ” Ma Hade Soka De”.Most of Susil Premaratne’s songs were solo songs the lyrics were mostly of George Leslie Ranasinghe and Henry Caldera while most of the music compositions were of his own.
Susil as an artist made a few progressive steps on Paintings. Painting was a talent gifted by his late father a revolutionary painter well known for historical paintings of Buddhist culture. A household name for miraculous paintings particularly in Buddhist temples was his reputable father M. Sarlis Master.
He had joined Lankadeepa Newspapers as a young artist of drawing creative stories brilliantly guided by Mr D.B. Dhanapala the then editor of Lankadeepa Newspaper. Those stories of artistic drawing became so popular among its readers that an increase of the publication was high in demand.Some had said even if the newspaper contained only his ‘Chitra photos’ yet the newspapers would have been sold.But sans his ‘Chitra Photos’ the sales used to drop to unprecedented low levels.
His first creative story of comic drawings (Chithra Kathawa) was Hora Howla and “Mahahene Reeriyaka” was the second written by the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D Bandaranaike who had come to the Times group office in search of the artist Susil Premaratne.. Consequent to the overwhelming popularity of these story writings of artistry as appraised by its readers Lankadeepa tabloid edition ‘Lapatipela” was compelled to focus on Chitra Katha a drawings of mega stories Bili Pujawa and later Landesi Hatana. Blessed by the innovative talents in artistic drawings Susil extended his skills to Vanitha Witthi a publication of the Times of Ceylon with his startling performance of Arts in Ran Dupatha, Billy Poojawa, Landesi Dupatha,Ridee Kumari, Pahan Tharuwa and Hangi Mutthang of the children’s magazines.
In addition, he was engaged in detective stories to Rasavahini in the latter part of 50s.His creation was Wickrama like Sherlock Holmes in detectives and Tin Tin in stories for children.It is reported that Susil Premaratne has had a craze to watch western films about three a day on weekends to gain more knowledge for his drawings. Encouraged by this revolution of artistry various other publishers too started their own publications with drawings of stories (Chitra Katha) in 60s and 70s. Gamini Fonseka king of the silver screen was a painter himself and was a student of Susil Premaratne.
The effort by his wide knowledgeable skills to enrich music and painting art should be greatly appreciated. His deep voice of admiration and great works of paintings will remain etched in our lasting memories. In spite of his inestimable contribution, he was never recognized much This article is an attempt to reminisce with honor the immeasurable contribution made by him to the Nation. The vacuum left by his unbearable demise in February 2010 is never replaceable. An artiste of his calibre is certain would not be born in this century.
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