Today is the 75th Birth Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s undisputed playback king H.R.Jothipala. He is considered Sri Lanka’s most popular singer even today.
Hettiarachchige Reginald Jothipala was the most prolific playback singer in the Sinhala cinema and many believe that its golden era in the seventies was also due to the exceptional voice of Jothi. The old boy of St. Lawrence’s College, Maradana and St. John’s College, Dematagoda made his debut as a playback singer in Cyril P. Abeyratne’s Surathalee singing ‘Siriyame Sara’ in 1956, but prior to that he had sung for the late Sirisena Wimalaweera’s ‘Podi Putha’. This song was mysteriously slashed from the film when it was released.
According to records, Jothi was selected for the film by music director B.S.Perera but it had been rejected by the Indian film composer who had said that Jothi did not possess a screen voice. He thereafter rendered his voice to all classes of actors ranging from Eddie Jayamanne, Ananda Jayaratne, Gamini Fonseka, Vijay Kumaratunga, Sanath Gunathilaka, Ravindra Randeniya and several others, to young generation stars like Damith Fonseka, Lal Weerasinghe and other newcomers. In the early stages of his melodious career, Jothi clinched the rare opportunity of working with prolific film maker Dr. Lester James Peries’ ‘Sandeshaya’ in which he sang the evergreen number ‘Puruthugeesikaraya’, which was set to tune by music maestro the late Sunil Santha and penned by veteran wordsmith Arisen Ahubudu.
Though this gifted singer as a policy, appeared only on the Independent Television Network. ITN has conserved his video footage. Though glory was forced upon him, he was always the humble man who preferred to have his feet firmly placed on the ground. Indeed Jothi was too big for Lanka and that is why his memories are everlasting.