Rukmani Devi aka Daisy Rasammah Daniels: A Stellar Career

Wikipedia on Daisy Rasammah Daniels or Rukmani Devi … at …

 Daisy Rasammah Daniels, known popularly as Rukmani Devi (15 January 1923–28 October 1978: Sinhala: රුක්මණී දේවී) was a Sri Lankan film actress and singer, who was often acclaimed as The Nightingale of Sri Lanka“.[1]

She made it to the silver screen via the stage and had acted in close to 100 films at the time of her death. Having an equal passion for singing as well as a melodious voice, she was Sri Lanka’s foremost female singer in the gramophone era.[2] After her death, she was awarded the Sarasaviya ‘Rana Thisara’- Life Time Achievement Award at the 1979 Sarasaviya Awards Festival.[3]

Personal life: Rukmani Devi, was born as Daisy Rasammah Daniels to a Tamil Colombo Chetty Christian family on 15 January 1923 at Ramboda in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. Second, in a family of five, her father, John Daniel worked on a plantation and her mother, Helen Rose was a teacher.[4] She grew up in Colombo and had her early education at St. Matthew’s School and then moved on to St. Clare’s School, Wellawatte.

She was married to veteran dramatist, actor and singer, Eddie Jayamanne, whom she fell in love with as a result of her close association with him when performing in dramas produced by “Minerva Dramatic Club” founded by B. A. W. Jayamanne. They lived at “Jaya Ruk”, at Angurukaramulla, Negombo.

Career: As a little girl, Daniels showed an inborn talent to sing and dance. At the age of seven, she was picked to sing Christmas carols. Impressed with her ability to sing, dance, and also to act, she was selected to perform a main role in a Christmas play, ‘The Shoemaker’s Wife‘. The stage play was trained and presented by St. Clare’s School, Wellawatte. Watching her play this role much enthusiastically, Walter Abeysinghe, a drama producer, sought permission from her father to invite her to play the lead role of ‘Sita’ in his drama ‘Ramayanaya. Thus, in 1935 at the age of just 12 years she performed in this stage play, presented by the ‘Sinhala Natya Sabha’.

This marked the beginning of an illustrious career that would span over four decades. As her performances were highly appreciated by the packed audience, well-known dramatist Dick Dias chose her for two of his stage plays, “Jana Kiharanaya” and “Mayawathie”. She was now flooded with stage dramas, as she became Mayawathi in Charles Dias’ ‘Mayawathi’, Juliet in a Sinhala adaption of Romeo and Juliet, playing the lead female role in all of them. Rukmani performed her singing career as a simple singer on Sri Lankan radio in the mid-1940s.

 Rukmani Devi sings before a public audience at Dewalapola in May 1976.

Gabriel Gunaratne, who was in charge of recording songs at the then His Master’s Voice (HMV) Gramophone Records Company, was the permanent music director of the company. She was introduced to the H. W. Rupasinghe one day in October 1938 by Gunaratne. Rupasinghe, who saw Rukmani’s singing prowess, chose her for the first album, which was launched by Master His Voice No. 9300.[2] With her first audio recording of the famous song “Siri Buddhagaya Vihare with Master “H. W. Rupasinghe”. in 1938 at the age of 15, she captured the hearts of the masses and she shaped her career from that of an actress to that of an actress turned singer. This song was recorded to 78 rpm (gramophone) record label HMV with the number N-9300 and issued in 1939 by the Cargills Ltd, local agents for HMV.

Her unique voice attracted many music directors, as her singing career moved from the stage to the silver screen. Joining Rupasinghe Master’s band as a regular singer, she faced three challenges at the time. That is, she had not studied Hindustani classical music properly as well as had to compete with renowned singers of that year such as Lakshmi Bai, Annie Boteju and Susila Jayasinghe. The third was the language challenge. She did not know how to read or write Sinhala and she used to write it all down in English. Due to the vocal training given by Rupasinghe Master through those songs, she soon became a simple classical singer as well as the most popular young singer on the His Masters Voice record company. During 1938–45, she recorded 44 songs for HMV Records. Rukmani sang almost all the Sinhala songs composed in Hindi and Vanga classical songs sung by Kumari Jutika Roy, then popularly known as “Bhajan Songstress” in India.[2]

It was also, around this time that her name underwent a change from Daisy Daniels to the well known ‘Rukmani Devi’. There are two schools of thinking as to how the name “Rukmani Devi” originated. According to one school, the late H. W. Rupasinghe maestro created the name, while the other believe that Jayantha Weerasekara and Michael Sannas Liyanage who is in his 90s, created it.[5] Entering the stage, Rukmani had the opportunity to perform in Noorthi dramas such as JanakiharanayaRohini and Mayawathi.[2] Since 1940, B. A. W. Jayamanne, founder of “Minerva Dramatic Club” of Negombo took Rukmani to perform remarkable roles in his dramas, such as ‘Apparition’, ‘Broken Promise’, ‘Changing Fate, ‘Defeated Aim’, ‘Evasive Denial’, ‘Fanatic Faith’, ‘Grisly Guardian’, ‘Hasty Decision’ and lastly ‘Irangani’. Above-mentioned plays followed the English alphabet.

The popular play ‘Broken Promise’ (Kadawunu Poronduwa), was adapted into a film by B. A. W. Jayamanne. This was the first Sinhala film – Kadawunu Poronduwa, screened on 21 January 1947. Rukmani Devi, who also began her film career through the role of ‘Ranjani’ in this film, also became the first local cinema actress. Her film career, which thus began spread over a period of more than three decades. According to Sri Lankeya Cinema Vanshaya (pp 637 – 638) written by Nuwan Nayanajith Kumara, from Kadawunu Poronduwa in 1947 to Ara Soyza in 1984, Rukmani Devi had played different roles in 99 films, up to the time of her death. Rukmani Devi won the first place in the “Popular Singing Series” in the 1953 Radio Artists Classification Test.[2]

An equally talented singer, some of the immortal songs she sang for films are Sandyave Sriya for ‘Kadawunu Poronduwa’, Pinsara Mage Soyura for ‘Kapati Arakshakaya’, Gala Kandeni, and Moranawa Preme Hade for ‘Weradun Kurumanama’, Nindede Rathri Yahane for ‘Peralena Iranama’, Mavila Pena vi Rupe for ‘Kela Handa’, Pem Sihina Loke Maya for ‘Mathabhedaya’, Melavi Yanna Hada Mage for ‘Daiva Yogaya’, Suva dena Sita Sanasum for ‘Ladalu’ and Doi Doi Puta for ‘Ahasin Polavata’. In 1975 Rukmani sing “Pem Rajatahane” with Milton Mallawarachchi. Rukmani made duets with amateur singers since the 1960s, such as: song “Ada Handapana Paya Hari Lassanai” with Sujatha Perera (Attanayake), “Gang Ivuru Paduru Gane” with Sidney Attygalle, “Kokilaya Keviliya”, “Denna Piriye Dethata Oya Detha” with H. R. Jothipala, and “Ithin Palak Nehe Kumariya” with J. A. Milton Perera.[2]

In the mid sixties she joined the Sinhala calypso musical groupLos Cabelleros’ led by late Neville Fernando. They recorded ever popular Sinhala songs such as “Malbara Himidiriye”, “Menike Obe Sinawe” & “Sandak Nage”. Rukmani Devi was also featured prominently on the airwaves of Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in South Asia.[2]

Death: Rukmani Devi, died in a tragic motor accident near St. Mary’s Church, Thudella on 28 October 1978. She was returning after a musical show in Uyanwatte, Matara. Her funeral ceremony was attended by a very large gathering; film makers and dramatists, friends, politicians, relatives and her beloved fans.

She was the most celebrated Sri Lankan artiste and a statue in memory of her was erected at the Kanuwana Junction. The road on which the Rukmani Devi Museum in Negombo is located was also renamed ‘Rukmani Devi Mawatha’ by President Ranasinghe Premadasa, on 28 October 1990.


  • Best background Singer for the song ‘Doi doiya putha’ in the film ‘Ahasin Polawata’ at the inaugural Presidential Awards Ceremony in 1976.
  • Best actress Award for ‘Kele Handa’ at the ‘Deepasika’ awards ceremony conducted by ‘Lankadipa‘ Newspaper in 1956.
  • Voted Best Actress with a majority of 16,221 votes at the ‘Reader’s Contest’ conducted by ‘Dinamina‘ Newspaper in 1955.

In popular culture: She was the one and only Sri Lankan actress on the cover page of popular Indian Film Magazine “Filmfare” and was also featured in “My like and dislike” in 1958 in the Filmfare. The second generation Toyota Hi-ace is known in Sri Lanka as the ‘Rukmani Model’, because she was travelling in one when she had her fatal accident.


Attack on Grave Site: On 12 August 2011, a former mayor of Negombo and a former Minister of the Parliament Mr. Ananda Munasinghe was allegedly charged and arrested by the Negombo Police for dislodging the statue of Rukmani Devi, erected on her grave by one of her fans Mrs. Sriyani Achala Dissanayake. Several popular media bloated this incident as an attack by an unidentified group of criminals to Rukmani Devi’s grave,[6] and a protest rally to this incident was organised in Negombo on 14 August 2011.[7]


  • Ada Handanawa Himiyani Yasodara
  • Adara Nadiya Gala
  • Adara Pana Suda
  • Adaraya Nisa Harde Bandena
  • Adarayai Karunawayi
  • Alokaya Hama Thana Pathire
  • Anna Sudo Ara Pata Wala– (with Mohideen Beg)
  • Ara Ramani Pem Handa Akase– (with Dharmadasa Walpola)
  • Ase Geethe Madura Jeewe– (with Dharmadasa Walpola)
  • Asure Nisa Me
  • Chandra Mage Ko Ane
  • Dadi Kala Matha
  • Dalwaw Bathi Adara Pem
  • Danno Budunge
  • Deerghayu Siri Labewa– (With H. W. Rupasinghe & Kokila Devi)
  • Denna Priye Dathata Oya Datha
  • Deviyan Ko Saman Deviyan
  • Dewa Gini Mawa
  • Dharmaraja Maraji– (With H. W. Rupasinghe)
  • Doi Doiya Putha
  • Dushmantha Aho Kimado
  • Gala Kandeni
  • Giye Aida Mawa Thanikara
  • Hada Gilei Ama Mihire– (with Mohideen Baig)
  • Herdhey Pina-aei
  • Jaya Mangala Gatha
  • Jeewithe Ma
  • Kiyanna Rankanda
  • Koheda Yanne Ran Menike Oya
  • Lakmenige Darukela– (with H. W. Rupasinghe & Kokila Devi)
  • Mage Prema Raja
  • Manike Obe Sinahawe– (with Neville Fernando)
  • Mata Mata Gamini Mata– (with H. W. Rupasinghe)
  • Mawa Penwala
  • Muhude Pathule Kimidee– (with Mohideen Baig)
  • Muniraja Diyana Swami– (With H. W. Rupasinghe)
  • Muni Sri Dalada– (With master H.W.Rupasinghe)
  • Nilambare Paya– (With master H.W.Rupasinghe)
  • Pem Rajadhane Ahas Maligavo– (with Milton Mallawarachchi)
  • Pem Rajaya
  • Pem Sagare
  • Raja Sri Mangala– (With H. W. Rupasinghe)
  • Sandyawe Pena Pena– (with H. W. Rupasinghe)
  • Saranawewa Wasana– (With H. W. Rupasinghe & Kokila Devi)
  • Siri Buddhagaya Vihare– (With H. W. Rupasinghe)
  • Siri Pada Kamal– (With H. W. Rupasinghe)
  • Silpa Satara Loke– (With H. W. Rupasinghe)
  • Srimuni Gautama– (With H. W. Rupasinghe)
  • Siriyavi Mage– (With Mabel Blyth)
  • Sudata Sudey– (With Mohideen Baig)
  • Thayam Mayam
  • Thribhuwana Jana Puja– (With H. W. Rupasinghe)
  • Wandimee Sadaren– (with H. W. Rupasinghe & Kokila Devi)
  • Wasanawantha Kala Laba– (with Dharmadasa Walpola)


Year Film Role Ref.
1947 Kadawunu Poronduwa Ranjani
1948 Kapati Arakshakaya Mallika
1948 Waradunu Kurumanama Swarna
1949 Peralena Iranama Sunetha
1950 Hadisi Vinischaya Kanthi
1951 Segawunu Pilithura Kusumalatha ‘Chandralata’
1952 Umathu Vishwasaya Susila / Padma
1953 Kele Handa Malini
1954 Iranganie Iranganie
1955 Mathabhedaya Kusuma
1955 Perakadoru Bena Malini Gunathilaka
1956 Dosthara Chandra [8]
1957 Siriyalatha Siriyalatha ‘Agnes’ ‘Kusina’ / Sriyawathie
1959 Daivayogaya Sheela Kumari
1960 Kawata Andare Andare’s wife
1960 Nalangana Prema / Asha [9]
1962 Daskon Premila
1963 Mangalika Mangalika
1964 Samiya Birindage Deviyaya Wife Chandra [10]
1964 Heta Pramada Wadi Rupa
1965 Sathutai Kandulai
1965 Laa Dalu
1966 Sampatha
1967 Rahas Dupatha
1967 Rena Giraw Clubgoer [11]
1967 Pipena Kumudu
1967 Magul Poruwa
1968 Abuddassa Kale
1969 Paara Walalu
1969 Romeo Juliet Kathawak [12]
1970 Nim Walalla
1971 Sahanaya [13]
1971 Seeye Nottuwa
1971 Samanala Kumariyo
1972 Veeduru Gewal Auntie
1972 Hathara Wate Manike
1972 Ihatha Athmaya Emily ‘Pissu Amma’
1973 Suhada Pathuma Chamila’s mother [14]
1973 Hondata Hondai Chammi’s mother
1974 Hadawath Naththo
1974 Lasanda Chai Jayawansa
1974 Jeewana Ganga
1974 Dinum Kanuwa
1974 Sagarika
1975 Kohoma Kiyannada Samanthi’s mother
1975 Jeewana Geethaya
1975 Hitha Honda Minihek Rukmani
1975 Obai Mamai Sheela
1975 Sukiri Kella Soma Dharmapala
1975 Lassana Dawasak Nilanthi’s mother
1976 Nayana
1976 Kawuda Raja Nilanthi’s mother [15]
1976 Wasana Mrs. Rajadasa
1976 Harima Badu Thunak Auntie
1976 Unnath Dahai Malath Dahai
1976 Hariyata Hari Mrs. Gunathilake
1976 Onna Mame Kella Panapi
1976 Saradielge Putha Kumari Hami ‘Manike’
1976 Adarei Man Adarei
1976 Nedeyo Sara
1976 Ran Thilaka
1977 Sudu Paraviyo Rajesh’s mother
1977 Sri Madara Mercy de Soysa
1977 Chin Chin Nona [16]
1977 Tom Pachaya Ranawaka
1978 Kundalakeshi Queen
1977 Deviyani Oba Kohida Elizabeth’s mother [17]
1977 Sajaa
1977 Hithuwoth Hithuwamai [18]
1978 Madhuwanthi Maduwanthi’s mother
1978 Apsara
1978 Ahasin Polowata
1979 Samanmali Mother
1979 Monarathenna Biso [19]
1979 Anusha Mrs. Ratnayake
1979 Nuwan Renu Nuwan’s Mother ‘Silawathie Hamine’
1979 Jeewana Kandulu Geetha’s mother
1979 Amal Biso
1979 Ran Kurullo Sujatha’s mother
1979 Podi Malli Nalika’s mother
1979 Tak Tik Tuk
1980 Silva
1980 Sinhabahu
1981 Sathara Diganthaya
1981 Hondama Naluwa
1981 Bamba Ketu Hati
1981 Senasuma
1981 Jeewanthi
1982 Thana Giravi Clara
1982 Sakvithi Suwaya Tissa’s mother
1982 Sudu Ayya Mrs. Ranatunga
1982 Kadawunu Poronduwa remake Song Performer
1982 Sithara
1983 Hithath Hondai Wadath Hondai
1983 Sandamali Sandamali’s mother
1984 Ara Soyza Vadigapatuna’s mother


  1. ^Rukmani Devi – Queen of the Silver Screen
  2. Jump up to:ab c d e f g “The unadulterated golden song in the music of this country: “Rukmani””. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  3. ^“සිංහල සිනමාවේ කඳුළු බිංදුව”. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  4. ^“The Legacy of Rukmani Devi”. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  5. ^Rukmani Devi – Lanka’s Queen of Melody
  6. ^“Rukmani Devi Statue Attacked”. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  7. ^“Former MP remanded for removing Rukmani Devi statue”. Retrieved 14 August 2011.
  8. ^“Gunaratnam–Meyyappan–Dosthara”. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  9. ^“All about the film “Nalangana””. sarasaviya. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  10. ^“All about Samiya Birindage Deviyaya”. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  11. ^“All about “Rena Giraw””. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  12. ^“Romeo Juliet Kathawak”. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  13. ^“All about Sahanaya”. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  14. ^“All about Suhada Pathuma”. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  15. ^“All about the film “Kawuda Raja””. sarasaviya. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  16. ^“Chin Chin Nona, who came before Tom Pachaya”. sarasaviya. Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  17. ^“Deviyani Oba Koheda”. sarasaviya. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  18. ^“All about “Hithuwoth Hithuwamai””. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  19. ^“All about Monarathanna”. Sarasaviya. Retrieved 11 September 2020.

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