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Jackson Anthony: A Multifaceted Legacy We Didn’t Fully Grasp

Masterful Transformer of Characters and Directorial Brilliance

by Gayan Abeykoon
October 25, 2023 1:30 am 0 comment

“I am not such a big man. I am Podiwee Kumbura Benedict Anthony’s son.” At his 60th Birth Anniversary celebration, attended by fellow fraternity artists, this is how he chose to introduce himself. It’s a testament to his unique identity. Despite being a multifaceted giant in our country, he remained remarkably humble, never once indulging in self-promotion. Sadly, we have now bid him farewell. On October 9, he left our midst, drawing the curtains on his vibrant thespian career.

He was born Conganige Joseph Malsi Jackson Anthony in Podiwee Kumbura village, Ragama, on July 8, 1958, to both Benedict Anthony and Podivee Kumbure Rolin Perera. Jackson was the third in a family of five brothers. Most probably, you might not know about his elder sister.

Jackson’s mother, Podivee Kumbure Rolin Perera, had given birth to a baby girl. Unfortunately, she was stillborn. His elder brother was Senaka Titus Anthony, and the other three younger brothers were Sudath, Saman, and Mohan. He did not hail from an artistic family background. He studied at several schools, including Hapugoda Junior School, St. Mary’s College in Bandarawela, and Galahitiyawa Central College in Ganemulla.

From Stage to Silver Screen

Jackson Anthony specialised in Sinhala language and Literature at the University of Colombo and completed his master’s degree in journalism at the University of Jayewardenepura. What made Jackson stand out from others was his versatility. Jackson is encyclopaedic, multi-talented, and well-read in every field. Gifted with inborn skills, Jackson came to be known as a versatile performer among school students and university students.

Later, he had the opportunity to perform in several stage plays, such as Neville Dias Subasinghe’s Vaaruwen Yana Minissu and Manavayo, as well as EMD Upali’s Methanin Maruwenu. Through his unrivalled performances, Jackson came under the spotlight. Later, he played various roles in stage plays like Marasad, Madhura Jawanika, Loma Hansa, Dhawala Beeshana, Ath, Mora, and Tharavo Igilethi. Jackson embarked on a long journey to conquer the silver screen, navigating all difficult situations. His maiden cinematic appearance came through the film Guru Gedara in 1993.

What testified to his versatility is his natural performances evident in films, including Bawa Duka, Bawa Karma, Gini Awi Saha Gini Keli, Aswesuma, Agni Dahaya, Sooriya Arana, Mille Soya, and Randiya Dahara. Characters played by Jackson will bear testimony to the fact that he prioritized the quality of creations to give the best for the people. Not that he read what was written in the script. Delving into the plot, he has lived his characters. His natural facial expressions and voice modulation contributed to the embodiment of characters. Changing the pitch and the tone of his voice, Jackson portrayed characters naturally.

From Teleplays to Directorial Triumphs

For instance, in Appachchi teledrama, he played the title role. How he delivered Appachchi’s dialogues is different from Padme Ayya in Gini Avi Saha Gini Keli. Jackson has enthralled his audience through his natural acting. Hence, he is regarded as one of the best character actors in our film industry. Jackson never contributed to mega teledramas woven around meaningless plots. The characters played by him in teleplays such as Palingu Manike, Ella Langa Walawwa, Suseema, Weda Hamine, Kadulla, Pitagamgarayo, Akala Sandya and so on remain memorable in our hearts forever.

In most landmark creations such as Pathiraja’s Kadulla, Bandaranayake’s Bawa Duka, and Bawa Karma, Jackson has stamped his unique identity. Kadulla teleplay can be viewed as a depiction of social changes that took place in old Ceylon. He has made a name for himself not only as an actor but also as a director. Films and teleplays directed by him had garnered recognition and immense popularity.

His maiden teledrama direction was Esala Kaluwara. After Esala Kaluwara, he directed Daskon, which went on to win awards at several local award festivals. There is no need to mention that he has left an indelible mark on our film industry by directing blockbuster films such as Julietge Bhumikawa, Aba, Paradeesaya, and Address Ne. What is remarkable is the fact that all his cinematic creations have touched millions of hearts.

Distinguished Career in the Spotlight

He won the Most Promising Director award for Julietge Bhumikawa at the Critics’ Awards Ceremony. Additionally, he received the award for Best Actor at the Derana Film Awards 2015 for his role in the film Address Na. Throughout his thespian career, he earned more than 20 Best Actor Awards at local award ceremonies such as the Sarasavi Awards, Presidential Awards, and OCIC Awards.

What holds true is that Jackson Anthony is a multifaceted diamond. He can be regarded as an actor, announcer, television host, lyricist, film and teledrama director, writer, artist, newspaper columnist, and explorer. Significantly, he is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Kelaniya. Better known by his nom de plume, Panaputra Kuhubu Peniya, he has contributed to the enrichment of Sinhala literature through his writing prowess.

When speaking of his remarkable service to Sinhala literature, it is worth mentioning that veteran lyricist Premakeerthi de Alwis gave Jackson the well-known pen name “Panaputra Kuhubu Peni,” following his first name and surname: “Jack” (Pana), “Son” (Puthra), “Ant” (Kuhubu), and “Honey” (Peni). His literary works, such as “Kanda UdaGindara,” “Ebawin Bihi WiyaManame,” “Malini Nyaya,” and “Panaputhrage Mathaka Wasthuwa,” have adorned our bookshelves. His songs are still enjoyed by us. For instance, “Sithe Susum Niwena Gayana,” “Desa Piya Gath kala Mata Mewenne Obe Ruwa,” “Lade ukula Uda,” “Re Tharakawo,” “Dewiyo Sithana Dewal,” and teledrama theme songs. Unfortunately, Jackson is no more. Needless to say, his loss will create an irrepressible vacuum in our film industry. Indeed, Jackson Anthony is a book we misinterpreted.

Isuru Thambawita

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