H. R. Jothipala

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Hettiarachchige Reginald Jothipala (Sinhala: එච්.ආර්. ජෝතිපාල; 12 February 1936 – 7 July 1987), popularly as H. R. Jothipala, was a Sri Lankan playback singer in the Sinhala cinema as well as a film actor. Considered as the best playback singer in Sri Lankan film history,[1] Jothipala lent his voice to all classes of actors ranging from Eddie Jayamanne to Ranjan Ramanayake.[2] He also worked as an opera singer.[3] He died in July 1987 at the age of 51 year from cardiac arrest.[4]

H. R. Jothipala
එච්.ආර්. ජෝතිපාල
Hettiarachchige Reginald Jothipala

(1936-02-12)12 February 1936

Died 7 July 1987(1987-07-07) (aged 51)

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Resting place Borella cemetery
Nationality Sri Lankan
Other names Hadawatha Raththaran Jothi
  • St. Lawrence College, Maradana
  • St. John’s College, Dematagoda
Occupation Actor, Playback singer
Spouse(s) Blossom Winter
Children 4
  • Hettiarachchige Reginald James (father)
  • Ahaliyagoda H.K. Podinona Perera (mother)

. . . H. R. Jothipala . . .

Jothipala was born on 12 February 1936 in Dematagoda, Colombo, Sri Lanka as the first child in a middle-class family.[5] His father H. R. James was a tailor in Matara and mother Ahaliyagoda H. K. Podinona Perera was a nurse. Their home town is Matara, Sri Lanka & They later moved to Colombo.[6] He attended St. Lawrence College in Maradana and St. John’s College in Dematagoda. He has four younger sisters and one younger brother.[7]

Jothipala would visit tea kiosks to hear music as his family didn’t own a radio.[8] He cleaned medicine bottles at the Sulaiman Hospital on Armor Street, Colombo. Later he worked as the peon in M. D. Gunasena and the company.

He was married to Blossom Winter, they had four daughters together. He came to be known by his initials “H. R.” and was loved as “Hadhavatha Raththaran Jothipala”, meaning “golden-hearted Jothipala”, due to his kindness to people of all ages, communities, and families.[9]

Nadarajah, one of the best radio tabla players in the country at the time, was living at Kosgas Junction in Grandpass, Colombo. One day he heard Jothipala singing and chose to sing Hindi songs at the weddings of the Colombo aristocracy.[7]B. S. Perera, the famous film music director who was the head of the radio orchestra who first recognized Jothipala’s talents. In 1952, there was a program on the radio called ‘Adhunika Peya’, which showcased the talents of amateur singers, courtesy of the Queen Sweets Company. He competed in this competition and became the winner. From there he went to the radio program “Jayagrahi Pelapaliya” and won first place.[10]

In 1955, he missed three golden opportunities to become a playback singer. At first, he went to meet Wimalaweera master who composed music for the film Podi Putha. During the audition, Wimalaweera informed Jothipala that his voice is not right, where it trembles and not sweet. In February, Jothipala and Chandrasena went Negombo and met B. A. W. Jayamanne and Rukmani Devi. Even though they satisfied about his voice, Jothipala could not go to India for playback as he did not have a passport. In the third time, he met A. B. Raj, director of the film Perakadoru Bena. He refused Jothipala due to having rough voice.[10]

Jothipala made his debut as a playback singer on Cyril P. Abeyratne’s Surathalee, singing “Siriyame Sara”, in 1956.[11] Jothipala has said that he contemplated taking his life when he went with his friends to watch Podi Putha and found out that his song was not included. Later when Surathalee producer Jabir A. Cader wanted to hear one of his songs to consider him for the film, Jothipala almost passed on the offer as he did not possess enough money to create a record.[7] He was helped out by veteran musician Stanley Omar who financed him for the sum of 35 rupees – a large amount of money at the time. Jothipala’s song on the film, “Siriyame Sara,” still remains popular in Sri Lanka, having recorded the popular number under the direction of T.R. Papa at Wahini Studio in India.[10]

Jothipala has worked with many reputed directors of Sri Lanka. In the early stages of his prolific career, Jothipala got the chance to work with the prolific filmmaker, Lester James Peries on the movie Sandeshaya. Jothipala sang the song “Puruthugeesi Karaya” for the film, which was composed by the legendary Sunil Santha and written by veteran lyricist Arisen Ahubudu.[12]

. . . H. R. Jothipala . . .

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. . . H. R. Jothipala . . .