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Monday, July 2, 2007

Twenty years without Jothipala _ Daily Mirror

Twenty years without Jothipala

By Ramesh Uvais

The 20th death anniversary of Sri Lanka's most popular vocalist H.R. Jothipala who mesmerized the masses with his irreplaceable voice, falls next Saturday, July 7.

Though the country and the film industry in particular was unfortunate to lose him on July 7, 1987, he is regarded as the most popular people's singer even today.

His demise was a stunning blow particularly to the Sinhala cinema which is still struggling to find a versatile playback voice to replace Jothi. Some critics are of the view that Jothi's demise was one of the major causes for the apparent downfall of the Sinhala cinema.

Hettiarachchige Reginald Jothipala, born on February 12, 1936 studied at St. Lawrence College, Maradana and St.John's College, Dematagoda but never studied music as a subject even during the latter stages. As a schoolboy, poor Jothi used to spend most of his time in nearby tea kiosks listening to songs as his family did not possess a radio.

One of the luckiest things that happened to young Jothi was his meeting with director Cyril P. Abeyratne and Ceylon Entertainment's Chief Jabir A. Cader who after realizing Jothi's aptitude for singing agreed to give him the much-awaited break in their film Surathalee.

Jothi gradually began to taste popularity, as the Surathalee number 'Siriyame Sara' under music director T.R. Papa became an instant hit. It did not take long for him to rise to the top carrying along with him the tag of being the best with an excellent screen voice.

His popular number Puruthugeesikaraya sung to the tunes of the country's reputed musician Sunil Santha in Dr. Lester James Peiris' Sandeshaya helped him reach the pinnacle of success. Jothi, who was never known to be purse-proud always mingled with the common man and also cultivated healthy relationships with fellow artistes, although it is tragic that a section started to realise his worth only after his death.

Apart from enriching the Sinhala cinema as a playback singer in 328 films, Jothi had sung more than 5,000 songs in his career spanning more than three decades.

The father of four daughters also acted in several films after making his acting debut in Robin Tampoe's Sudu Sande Kalu Wala.

A unique feature in Jothi was his gifted knack in varying his voice to resemble the actor he sang for. The late Jothipala will always be fondly remembered as a man who endowed permanence in so many films, keeping them alive in public memory.

It is said that the late actor-turned-politician Vijaya Kumaratunga had always wanted Jothi as his playback singer, despite Vijaya himself being a talented singer.

Creating a world record, Jothi’s old film songs were used again in new films after the death of the prolific playback singer who produced ‘Sumithuro’ which was directed by his long time friend Roy de Silva.

Jothi received several top awards in his tuneful career spanning more than 30 years, but the best remark came from renowned Indian singer Mohamed Rafi who once told Jothi that Jothi should have been born in India and Sri Lanka was too small a country for him.

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