By Walter Jayawardhana reporting from Los Angeles

One of Sri Lanka’s most senior journalists, author , lyric writer, film script writer, short story writer and director of films Dharmasiri Gamage (64) died suddenly while traveling with a team of visitors from Germany to Minneriya in Sri Lanka , September 19 Sunday.

Gamage who was on assignment to the newly published Irudina, a popular weekly to write a new series on travel, was suddenly taken ill while traveling and admitted to the Dambulla hospital where he was pronounced dead. Friends said he died of internal bleeding of stomach ulcers.

A state funeral is organized by a committee of the nation’s leading artists and writers on Wednesday for this most respected writer.

A self educated man Dharmasiri Gamage entered the world of journalism at a time when political party alliances played a lesser role to become a journalist in Sri Lanka and when he won the first prize of a short story contest organized by the then popular evening daily the Janatha. At that time Gamage was working as a bill clerk at the Colombo restaurant, The Bake House at the eye hospital junction.

K. M. Sirisena one of Sri Lanka’s doyen of journalists, who was then the deputy editor of the Sinhala daily the Lankadeepa (then owned by the Times) who was constantly in search of new talent went personally to visit Gamage at the restaurant and invited him to become a member of the Lankadeepa editorial staff.

Gamage returned Sirisena’s favor to the whole nation when he became the editor of the Yovun Janatha, a later development of the Janatha, by training hundreds of young men and women in the field of journalism and writing who still consider him as their teacher.

Two years ago Gamage visited Southern California with his close friend maestro W.D. Amaradeva for a musical show in Los Angeles and widely traveled the United States and Canada with this correspondent to write very interesting pieces of travel in the Silumina, that later became part of a book.

Professor Sunil Ariyarathna , a leading critic of Sinhala music said Dharmasiri Gamage entered lyric writing in 1955. Since then he had written hundreds of lyrics for songs for pop singers like H.R. Jothipala as well as for more classical ones like W. D. Amaradeva. Professor Ariyarathna says his songs started becoming very popular in the sixties and that popularity remained until his death. He wrote the lyrics for the first song in 1955 for G.S.B. Rani Perera. He became extremely popular at first by writing the lyrics for the film Ambapalee, a Bengali film dubbed in Sinhala. Ariyarathana says the love song, Sulang Kurullo Hemig Igilli, the lyrics of which written by Gamage and sung by Harun Lanthra brought the poetic standard of Sinhala love songs to a new height.

The lyrics he wrote for the film Senasuma Kothaneda including “Sansara Gamane Thanha Aasha” sung by Amaradeva to the music of Khemadasa remains one of the best acclaimed Sinhala film songs ever in the history that also became extremely popular. Professor Ariyarathana said Gamage was a bridge between the old and the new lyricists of Sri Lanka . “He neither belonged to the Colombo school of poets nor to the modern day free verse writers . He was something in between,” he said. A felicitation volume on his service published last year listed 222 songs the lyrics of which were written by Gamage. An earlier publication , Sulang Kurollo , published the lyrics of 55 songs written by him.

Gamage also wrote scripts for films Eya Den Loku Lamayek, Siripala and Ranmenika and Sarungalaya and directed the film “Pooja”.

Mahinda Dissanayaka said Dharmasiri Gamage , some time ago traveled to North Central Province, not for any economic gain but to assist various artist who were performing for the Raja Rata Sevaya of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Service.

to encourage budding artists of the area by writing lyrics for them when he could have done the same thing in Colombo for better known artists in the capital without any trouble



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