Tribute to Premakirthi De Alwis , an illustrious lyricist, eloquent wordsmith& superlative broadcaster.

( Posted on July 1st, 2011 )

By, Claude Fernando ,Brampton, Canada

I still remember that mournful day. It’s my daily routine to listen to the news aired by SLBC.(National radio). The particular day was Feb.16th 1988. I turned on my radio, as usual to hear the mid day Sinhala news by 12.45 pm. The newscaster(I don’t remember his/her name) suddenly interrupted the reading &remained silence for about 2-3 minutes. I had an curiosity, why the news reading was put on hold. Out of the blue another familiar voice broke the stillness. He Premakirthi De Alwis, who made a most sorrowful ,heart-breaking announcement to the whole nation. It was about the brutal assassination of famous film star ,honest politician Vijaya Kumarathunga. I had no words to articulate after hearing that stunning news. Premakirth’s emotional& excitable voice clearly divulged that fearful & unimaginable message to the peace loving people in the country.

Yes, another miserable day came exactly one year, five months& fifteen days later. It was July 31st 1989. State-run radio disclosed a most terrible, shocking& heartbroken news in it’s 6.00 am. news bulletin. It’s an unbelievable headline to hear that the prominent news caster who stated about the Vijaya’s death, was also gunned down by an unidentified gang. I stood transfixed& poignant eyed to make out that horrible news.

True, Premakirthi De Alwis was shot dead! by merciless people at the age of 42. According to the media reports, they knocked the door of poor Premakirth’s half built house in Homagama in the dreadful midnight of July 31st 1989. Grabbed forcibly that humble person( innocent as a butterfly) out of the house under the cover of darkness for unknown reason while helpless Nirmala young wife of Premakirthi was weeping, screaming& appealing them not to harm to his husband. But heinous group ignored her cry& destroyed Prem’s invaluable life. (Unfortunately not a single “Good Samaritan” in the neighborhood came forward to rescue him.)

His corpse was found nearby ditch in that area by the astonished residents next day morning. Peaceful society together with entire nation raised their eyebrows with tearful eyes, sorrowful heart& confused mind to hear that most sad, inexplicable& pathetic incident occurred in the country.

Samaraweera Mudalige Don Premakirthi De Alwis was born in Colombo on June 03rd 1947. His primary education obtained from Maligakanda Maha Vidyalaya. Then entered to the prestigious Ananda College in Maradana. The young Prem was one of the brilliant students in Ananda College &became an editor of annual Sinhala magazine “Anandaya” as well as co-editor of the “Damma Jayanthi” monthly newspaper published by the College. He belonged to the same generation of Anandian who did the academic work with him. They were Bandula Padmakumara(current chairmen of Lake House &renowned journalist),Ranjith Lal Silva(Director of “Nimwallala” film), well-known journalist A.D Ranjith Kumara etc.(ex editor of “Sarasaviya” weekly newspaper).

Premakirth’s father was an employee of Railway Department(CGR) therefore he intended his son to be joined to the same place after his retirement. But young son never showed any interest to work in CGR, instead exhibited his enthusiasm towards Radio Ceylon/Sri Lanka Broadcasting co-operation to become a radio artist. Always imitated the voices& presenting styles of then legendary radio announcers such as D.M Kolambage, Karunarathna Abeysekara,Sarath Wimalaweera,Chithrananda Abeysekara,Thevis Guruge, Prosfer Fernando,Thilaka Sudarman De Silva etc. His father quickly realized& understood his son’s artistic talents& abilities. Then decided to meet Veteran Journalist Arthur U Amarasaena ,ex. editor of “Visithura” weekly cinema newspaper published by “dawasa” group. Young Premakirthi had gotten the job in “Visithura” as a feature writer, as being an experienced journalist in the media circle Arthur U Amarasena virtually identified young Prem’s hidden capabilities& talents.

In the meantime Premakirthi acquired a golden opportunity to join the Radio Ceylon on December 17th 1967 as a relief announcer. At that time he was guided by his mentor late Karunarathna Abeysekara,( an erudite wordsmith, lyricist &excellent announcer of Radio Ceylon). Premakirthi showed his exceptional skills as script writer, news reader & then slowly rose from there towards progress. He penned his maiden song in 1969 “hada puda asune senehasa mawune” sung by Rupa Indumathi& Malkanthi Peiris Nandasiri. In the same year He got a chance to write his first film song “parana coat parana coat” sung by late Freddy Silva for the film named “lokuma hinawa” directed by late K.A.W.Perera. Gradually Premakirthi became popular& marketable lyricist & wrote many more songs to the famous vocalists.

Those days avid listeners were attached only to the National radio, as no other TV or private radio channels were functioning like today. Ipso facto we used to listen to the lovely songs from the radio operated by SLBC. Premakirthi penned so many significant lyrics for famous songsters which deeply touched in our hearts. His creative writings were themed of with love, affection, friendship, ethical obligation, addiction of gambling(back the horses) as well as comical/ satirical

Among them are “adaraye ulpatah woo amma’,”kurullanta gee kiyanna”,”sihina sathak dutuwemi mama,”thani tharuwe” (Victor Rathnayaka),”Me nagaraya ma oba”,”eka mohothak,”oba dedunna akasaye”(Mervin Perera)’samanalaya mala ha”(Edward Jayakody),”bindunu pemata”(Rohana Weerasinghe,”Mal tharuna samaya”(Gunadasa Kapuge) ”aatha ran wiman”,”Adaraneeya neranjana”,”ratakin eha”(Priya sooriyasena),”miniseku pita nagi asaruweki”,”banen banda rajarata pedesin”(Sunil Edirisinghe),”Surangeeta duka hithuna”(Nanda Malini),”eda raa guwanthotupaledee ma”,”ma ha eda”,”Ma nisa oba,”Sundarathwayen piri””(Milton Mallawaarachchi),”sithin ma nosalee”,”(T.M.Jayarathna),”ananthayata ma igilena”(Srimathi Thilakarathna),”Maath ekkala amanapawa wee dabara”(Malini Bulathsinhala),”kakille rajjuruwo”,”handa mama udin yathe”’paan kiritha”(Freddy Silva) &many more beautiful songs that were highly embraced by listeners which are still echoing in our hearts.

In 1974 he was promoted as grade 2 announcer &program producer. Then he had marvelous chances to approach to the listeners. Presented most popular different type of programs such as “sanida sadaya”(every Saturday from 8 am to 12 pm with other announcers),”Sonduru sewana”(Monday to Friday 5 pm to 6pm),”sarisara puwath”(once a week). those days listeners were not able to connect the live programs over the phone. But Premakirthi experienced that new concept& initiated to connect the listeners on his”sarisara puwath ” &chatted with them on live. It was really successful & highly captivated by the radio fans during that time.

Although Prem was gradually rising at the zenith of the popularity, he too had to encounter the kind of political revengeful “guillotine” during the 1977 era. He was interdicted &sent compulsory leave for no reason by then arrogant ,envy controllers of the SLBC who didn’t tolerate his gleaming fame. They laid baseless, fabricated charges & appointed a special “disciplinary committee” to probe so-called “allegations” against him. Anyway the board of inquiry found him not guilty for any of the “charges” &exonerated him forthwith. Therefore Prem was reinstated for the same position by the management &advised him not to mention anything about his unfair, unethical interdiction to the listeners &urged him to resume his work as usual. He entered to the studio while live program was being aired, with annoyed state of mind. Actually Prem lost his rag at that moment& pulled the chair very fast upon entering,( which was kept beside the table). It fell on the ground& making a loud noise through the airing program Then talkative Premakirthi approached to the microphone &called to the listeners by using his common sense, as saying “samawanna hithawathuni mama Premakirthi de Alwi nawathath oba hamuwata awa ,ea obata asunu vihsala shabdaye putuwa peralena shabdaya misak mama vatuna shabdaya nemey”(Dear listeners, I beg your apologize , I’m Premakirthi back again after long silence. You may have heard a big noise just now. It’s the din of chair falling not the sound of me toppling on the ground. I’m always straight forward).

Again he was transferred to “rajarata sewaya”radio station in Anuradapura, where he met &made a good companionship with late Gunadasa Kapuge(already got punishment transfer to “rajarata sewaya”then),Ranbanda Senavirathna,Karunarathana Divulgane,Rathna Sri Wijesinghe,Jayathilaka Bandara,Mahinda Dissanayaka, Swarna Sri Bandara etc. (As far as I know Premakirthi who made suggestion to Karunarathna Divulgane to use his last name as “DIVULGANE”,(one of the names of village in Anuradapura district where present Governor of North-Central Province& popular singer, Karunarathana Divulgane was grown& became an inhabitant).

Premakirth had given a magnificent contribution as a compere for Victor Rathnayaka’s “SA” the greatest single song show, performing the introduction of meanings of the songs sung in that extravaganza.(late KDK Darmawaradana&Kularathna Ariyawansa was another partners who did that task with Prem).

When the visual media became popular in early 80’s in Sri Lanka he had gotten many opportunities to engage in various TV productions. Specially he penned nice unforgettable songs for the children programs named “dostara Honda hitha”directed by veteran artist Titus Thotawatta. (we still remember those popular songs).Prem was invited to present another well-liked production of National TV, named “Anduna”(the program which focused on unjustice &unethical things happened in the society &made revelations to the people as well as made aware of the relevant authorities for remedial solutions).Certainly It was one of the most marketable programs among the people because he presented “Anduna” showing only his “both eyes”(not full face) on TV screen. Viewers who watched that &wondered who the presenter was in that program. Every Sunday Premakirthi used to appear in the “breakfast show”in Rupawahini with other English ,Tamil presenters &made an enjoyable, pleasurable& pleasant morning for everyone.

Had Premakirthi still alive he would be at the age of 64 today .If so he could have been an exemplary example& a mentor for the current novice radio& TV presenters of private channels( some of them talk neither Sinhala nor English in Sinhala programs) & much more useful media tactics to learn how to speak in polite way & approach to the listeners or viewers through the faultless language while respecting our great mother tongue. Also being an expert lyricist He could have been writing many more lovable& inspiring lyrics for the common people through the renowned artists.

For sure, his sudden demise was an irreparable loss NOT ONLY for his loving wife Nirmala, daughter Surangi, son Poorna Sampath BUT ALSO the people who loved his significant lyrics &admired his remarkable skills.

Premakirthi De Alwis’s extraordinary creations could never ever be erased or deleted by any forces as they were almost deeply deposited in their minds &engraved in their hearts forever There is no any argument or debate regarding this.

In conclusion I would like to write the last line of very famous song”Me nagaraya ma oba muna gasunu nagarayai” which he composed for late vocalist Mervin Perera.

“Jeewithayama Heenayakei kiya Sithenawa”  (I feel that whole life is a dream)