D. R. Nanayakkara

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Don Ruter Nanayakkara (1915–1989) was a leading character actor of Sri Lankan cinema. Playing lanky villains and comedic characters, Nanayakkara gained popularity in films like Rekava, Kurulu Bedda and Sikuru Tharuwa.


Nanayakkara was born in Kolonnawa in 1915 and attended the Kolonnawa Govt. School and St. Matthew’s College, Dematagoda. As a young adult, Nanayakkara showed interest in theater and became a regular attender of stage plays. At one such drama around 1936, he was noticed by playwright Sirisena Wimalaweera who took him into his troupe of players. Beginning with Amma, Nanayakkara appeared in many of Wimalweera's plays; these include Seedevi, Pitisara Kella, Rodi Kella and Maggona Charlie.[1]

Nanayakkara debut in film came when Wimalaweera adapted Amma into a motion picture in 1949, two years after the release of the first major Sinhalese film Kadawunu Poronduwa. Nanayakkara dabbled as a vocalist in Wimalaweera's films singing two songs for Amma. He continued to appear in Wimalaweera's movies up to Wimalaweera's death in 1963.[2]

Nanayakkara's had one of his most celebrated performances in Rekawa (1956) which is considered a landmark in film. He appeared in the critically acclaimed role of Sooty, the protagonist's father who is a thief and attempts to use his son's supposed healing powers to gain wealth causing a death and his son's condemnation by the whole villages.[2]

Nanayakkara continued his celebrated villainous roles in Kurulu Bedda (1961), Sikuru Tharuwa (1966) and Binaramali (1969).[2] He won the Sarasaviya Best Actor Award for his role in Bicycle Hora in 1968.[3] In 1984, Nanayakkara was one of the Sri Lankan actors chosen to appear in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; He played the village headsman.[4]

In Kathuru Muwath (1971) he played the lead role of the Kathuru Muwath. He had major roles in many of K.A.W. Perera's other films like Kapatikama (1966), Duleeka (1974), Lasanda (1974) and Nedeyo (1976),. Working with Lester James Peries again in Baddegama (1981) he played another major negative role as the Medicine Man.

Other film appearances include Chandiya (1965), Parasathumal (1966), Ahasin Polawata (1978), Siribo Aiya (1980) and Dese Mal Pipila. Nanayakkara's last film Ahas Maliga was screened five years after his death.[1]



Year Film Role Other notes
1949 Amma Saranapala film debut
1956 Rekava Sooty
1961 Kurulu Bedda Kaithan Baas
1963 Sikuru Tharuwa Village Headman Sarasaviya Award for Best Actor (1964)
1965 Chandiya
1967 Parasathumal Head Servant
1968 Abudasse kale
Bicycle Hora Sarasaviya Award for Best Actor (1969)
Dahasak Sithuvili Man on bus
1969 Binaramali Village Headman
1971 Kathura Muwath
1972 Lokuma Hinawa
1973 Sinawai Inawai
1974 Duleeka
1976 Nedeyo
1978 Vishmaya
Sandawata Ran Tharu
Ahasin Polawata
1980 Siribo Aiya
1981 Baddegama Exorcist
1984 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Shaman
Welle Thenu Maliga
1988 Sandakada Pahana
1994 Ahas Maliga posthumous release


  1. ^ a b Uvais, Ramesh (August 15, 2005). "DR: The prolific character actor". Daily Mirror. 
  2. ^ a b c Savarimutthu, Ranee (1977). On the Development of Sinhala Cinema, 1947-1967. Colombo, Sri Lanka: OCIC Sri Lanka. 
  3. ^ Gunatilake, P. K. Ishante (May 11, 2008). "He brought a unique touch to the Sinhala silver screen". Sunday Times. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  4. ^ Fernando, Susitha R (June 1, 2008). "Dr. Jones returns to Colombo with the Crystal Skull". Sunday Times. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 

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