Amarasiri Kalansooriya, an actor who created a niche in the cinematic world, bade farewell today (April 1). He was popular for his unique performance style and his ability to seamlessly switch between comedic and serious roles. He will be remembered fondly for his contribution to the Sri Lankan film industry.
He also leaves a legacy as a diligent entrepreneur. He is admired not only by his fans but also by those around him for his compassionate nature as an exceptional human being.
He was 82 at the time of his death.
When he was a little boy, Amarasiri Kalansooriya’s parents moved to a modest home in Bahirawakanda. His father supported the family through his successful business. Kalansoorya, his older brother, his younger brother, and his parents lived a contended life as a family unit. Yet, tragedy struck when Kalansoorya’s mother died when he was six years old. Just as they got back on their feet after their mother’s untimely death, his father too passed away when he was just 15 years old.
At a moment when life would only look dull and miserable, Amarasiri Kalansooriya mustered the resolve to take up several jobs to survive. He eventually launched his own business, just like his father, and let it be his pillar of strength amidst all the misfortunes his family faced. He then rented a small space at No. 32, Wadugodapitiye Road, to kick-start his business. Kalang moved on to opening his own textile shop called ‘My Inn’ and eventually owned a couple of stores. Despite the countless obstacles he had to overcome, his father would have been proud to see his son follow in his footsteps and forge his own path to success as an entrepreneur.
Kalansooriya meets the love of his life during this period. Now in his prime, Kalansoorya takes note of this young woman who visits his shop frequently. By name, she is Ajantha Thalatha Kumari Ekanayake. She was a well-educated girl who went to Pushpadana Girls’ College in Kandy and was selected to attend Peradeniya University at that time. It is not long till fate binds them together and they fall in love. Since Ajantha was from an elite family, her family opposed their relationship at the beginning. However, they received their blessings to be wed and have their fates forever intertwined. From then on, his family and business became his priorities.
Kalang was loved by many people, mostly as a result of his acting career. He made his acting debut in the film ‘Hanthane Kathawa, directed by Sugathapala Senerath. Due to his lack of a wealthy or elite upbringing, Kalansooriya was nearly an outcast among the group of actors that attended the film’s auditions. Yet, this one man put those discriminations aside and acknowledged Amarasiri, which ultimately sparked their close friendship. He was none other than Vijaya Kumaratunge. With the blossoming of their friendship, Amarasiri Kalansooriya entered the film industry by playing a supporting role, and Vijaya Kumaratunga was cast as the lead in the film ‘Hanthane Kathawa’ as if by fate. Then their friendship developed into them getting close enough to become business partners. However, Vijaya Kumaratunge could not give his all to the business since he was so immersed in the world of theater and film as an actor. Without harboring any resentment for Vijaya, Kalansoorya continued to expand his business. The bond they shared was special, as Kalang held a soft spot for his close friend, Vijaya, and he was constantly reminded of his untimely death and how much he missed him.
In 1977, due to riots and political unrest, all of Kalansooriya’s shops—which he had laboriously built up—were burned down in front of his very eyes. It seemed as though misfortune haunted him like a ghost. But Kalansoorya persevered despite the obstacles he faced. Not only did he manage to get the business back up, but he also got more involved in the film industry.
Amarasiri Kalansooriya acted in Dharmasena Pathiraja’s “Ahas Gauva,” Lester James Peris’ “Akkara Paha,” and Ranjith Lal’s “Nimvalalla.”
Kalang’s second film, ‘Parithyagaya, won him the O.C.I.C. and won more awards from the university. In 1982, he won the University Cinema Award for Best Supporting Actor, and in 1986, he won the University Cinema Award and the President’s Award. It is also noteworthy that Kalang won an award for the first time for his performance of Dharmasena Pathiraja’s ‘Ahas Gauva’. In 1975, he was awarded the best actor award at the 7th Writers and Critics Awards for his acting prowess.
Although the number of films he acted in is less than fifty, his portrayals in films like ‘Bambaru Avith’, ‘Anupama’, ‘Parithyagaya’, ‘Wajira’, ‘Sakwithi Suwaya’, ‘Yasa Isuru’, ‘Ahas Maliga’, ‘Doriange Sayanaya’, ‘Mal Warusa’, ‘Pooja’, ‘Podi Vije’, ‘Dolos Mahe Pahana, and Sagarayak Meda’ made him an unforgettable actor to his audience. Playing Malani Fonseka’s lover, ‘Nimal, in Premaratne’s ‘Apeksha’ not only opened the doors of commercial cinema for Kalang but also took his acting career to new heights.
He was a contented man in his later years, someone who had conquered life in all aspects. He lived a wonderful family life with a wife who cherished him, cooking green porridge every morning with love and care, and two daughters and a son who adored him as their father. With the marriage of his eldest daughter, he was once again blessed with two adorable granddaughters. Kalansooriya enjoyed running in the playground close to his house and exercised every day. He loved reading and watching films of his time, which reminded him of his youthful days as an actor.
He was undoubtedly adored by all those who were around him. As the saying goes, “Though death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”. Kalang’s death might be a terrible loss, but he will never be forgotten and will always be regarded as a legend. Rest in peace, Amarasiri Kalansooriya.