He is one of the most famous singers in the country, but he says he does not have a good voice. For the last three decades, he has been one of our most recognizable citizens, but he says he is not good looking. So, what is it then that has made this man and his band so infectiously popular across all age groups, language barriers and income classes? It is his humour. “When you write something about your life, that relates to a lot of people”, he says. “People are fed up with this serious stuff.” Perhaps it was also his sense of humour that helped him woo a bombshell fourteen years his younger, who he married when he was thirty. Now, he is the father of two beautiful daughters and two talented sons who have their own band with their own recent hit single.
He is the epitome of a kana bona Moratuwa miniha – a man with an extra large appetite for all that life offers. Some may call him a libertine, but he is clearly a man who loves his country, albeit one who is disillusioned with what he sees as the hypocrisy of its people. This is a theme that reflects strongly in his band’s last album, which was strongly satirical about Sri Lankan society. His songs have have always been simple and catchy. The country has danced to them at parties and weddings, sung them on trips, and watched the music videos on television.
However, his success has not been without controversy. His sound has been hijacked to communicate political propaganda against his will, and he had a much publicized skirmish with one prominent son of a politician. His popularity and influence would make him an ideal political candidate, and he has been approached by political parties. However, this is something he clearly finds distasteful. “To me the political situation in Sri Lanka is like a toilet”, he says. “When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. But, nobody likes to live in there. It’s in such a pathetic situation.”
The man himself interviewing Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Anura Bandaranaike, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, a UNP-er, and some JVP comrade with a very large plug.
The first interview I ever did was with Sunil Perera in 2005. It appeared in two parts in The LT magazines of July and August of that year, and later Serendipity magazine ran an edited version of it in January 2006. Timothy Senaviratne took the photographs and Deshan Tennekoon did the design and layout. The man was so open and displayed so much of his, er, personality that I couldn’t publish everything that happened at the interview.
Here are the PDF files of the two parts of the interview as they appeared in the LT magazine. I am warning you: it’s not short. (If you want to go straight to the sex, it’s at the start of the second part).