Rukmani Devi

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Rukmani Devi was born as Daisy Daniels on January 15, 1923. W. R. Daniels who was manager of the Observer for many years, claiming to be a kinsman of Rukmani Devi told that she was born at Inuvil in Jaffna and that her parents were Mr. and Mrs. Daniels of Inuvil and was named Daisy Daniels. At the age of seven she was picked to sing Christmas carols. Watching her ability to sing, dance, also to act, she was selected to perform a main part in a Christmas play, “The Cobler’s Wife”.

The stage play was trained and presented by St. Clare’s School, Wellawatte. Then at the age of just 12 years she was picked to perform the stage play, “Ramayanaya” presented by ‘Sinhala Natya Sabha’. Since her performances were highly appreciated by the packed audience, well-known dramatist Dick Dias selected her to act in two of his stage plays, “Jana Kiharanaya” and “Mayawathie”. In 1936 her first recording of famous song “Siri Buddhagaya Vihare” with Master H. W. Rupasinghe brought her fortune. She captured the hearts of the masses.

With her unique voice she was in a position to be picked and selected by many music directors. Her singing career continued on stage and screen. She in fact was able to sing with pop groups in the latter part of her life.

B. A. W. Jayamanne, founder of “Minerva Dramatic Club” of Negombo took Rukmani to perform remarkable roles in his interestingly featured dramas, such as ‘Apparition’, ‘Broken Promise’, ‘Changing Fate, ‘Defeated Aim’, ‘Evasive Denial’, ‘Fanatic Faith’, ‘Grisly Guardian’, ‘Hasty Decision’ and lastly ‘Irangani’. Above-mentioned plays followed the English alphabet. As a result of her close association with Jayamanne during this era- she fell in love with Eddie and got married to him. They lived at “Jaya Ruk”, at Angurukaramulla, Negombo.

The popular play ‘Broken Promise’ was turned into a film by B. A. W. Jayamanne. This was the first Sinhala film – ‘Kadavunu Poronduwa’, screened on January 21, 1947. Thus Rukmani became the first local actress, acclaimed as “the Nightingale of Sri Lanka”. Her film career covered a period of three decades. At the time of her death, she had acted in around ninety films.

This writer can still remember B. A. W. Jayamanne’s drama “Seethala Nadiya” in which Rukmani Devi played the main role. This was staged at Mary Margaret Convent’s School Hall Mutwal, somewhere in 1958. With her there were many artistes like Joe Abeywickrema, Eddie Jayamanne, Mili Kahandawela, Eddie Junior and BAW. They jointly made the drama stunning.

Rukmani Devi, the singing star, stage and screen idol died in a tragic motor accident near St. Mary’s Church, Thudella on September 25, 1978. She was returning after her last musical show in Uyanwatte, Matara. Her funeral ceremony was attended by a very large gathering, mostly film makers and dramatists, friends, politicians and relations. One could remember how people stood on the walls of Negombo cemetery on September 28, 1978. In fact part of the wall collapsed. One can also remember the speech delivered by late President Ranasinghe Premadasa on that day acclaiming Rukmani’s life for art and culture.

The popular play ‘Broken Promise’ was turned into a film by B. A. W. Jayamanne. This was the first Sinhala film – ‘Kadavunu Poronduwa’, screened on January 21, 1947. Thus Rukmani became the first local actress, acclaimed as “the Nightingale of Sri Lanka”. Her film career covered a period of three decades. At the time of her death, she had acted in around ninety films.

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