Conganige Joseph Malsi Jackson Anthony, affectionately known as Jackson Anthony, was a multifaceted Sri Lankan artist who left an indelible mark on the realms of film, theatre, and television. His remarkable career spanned numerous creative roles, from actor and director to producer, singer, screenwriter, and historian. Born on July 8, 1958, in Podiwee Kumbura village, Ragama, Sri Lanka, Jackson Anthony’s journey through the world of entertainment was as diverse as it was prolific. He graced the stage, lit up the screen, and captured hearts with his myriad talents.
Early Life and Educational Pursuits
As the son of Konganige Benedict Anthony and Podivee Kumbure Rolin Perera, Jackson Anthony hailed from a family deeply rooted in his hometown of Podiweekumbura, Ragama. He was one of five brothers, with elder brother Senaka Titus Anthony making a name for himself as a journalist. Jackson’s educational journey began at Hapugoda St. Mary’s Junior School and St. Mary’s College in Bandarawela. Later, he attended Galahitiyawa Central College in Ganemulla. For his higher education, he enrolled at the University of Colombo, where he earned an honors degree in Sinhala language and Literature. Subsequently, he pursued a master’s degree in Mass Media at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
The Dramatic Odyssey
Jackson Anthony’s early foray into the world of drama began during his university years when he acted extensively in stage plays. He graced productions like Neville Dias Subasinghe’s “Vaaruwen Yana Minissu” and “Manavayo,” as well as E. M. D. Upali’s “Methanin Maruwenu.” These performances paved the way for his participation in iconic stage plays like “Marasad,” “Madhura Jawanika,” “Loma Hansa,” “Dhawala Beeshana,” “Ath,” “Mora,” and “Tharavo Igilethi.” His exceptional talent earned him recognition at the National Drama Festival, where he was honored as the Best Actor.
Silver Screen Sensation
In 1993, Jackson Anthony ventured into the world of cinema, leaving an indelible mark with notable films like “Guru Gedara,” “Chitti,” “Ayoma,” and “Loku Duwa.” However, it was through movies like “Bawa Duka,” “Bawa Karma,” “Gini Awi Saha Gini Keli,” “Aswesuma,” “Agni Dahaya,” “Sooriya Arana,” “Mille Soya,” and “Randiya Dahara” that he solidified his status as a silver screen sensation in Sri Lanka. His magnetic presence and exceptional acting prowess captivated audiences.
Jackson Anthony seamlessly transitioned into television, where he graced audiences with unforgettable performances in serials like “Palingu Manike,” “Ella Langa Walawwa,” “Suseema,” “Weda Hamine,” “Kadulla,” “Pitagamgarayo,” and “Akala Sandya.” Notably, his portrayal in the serial “Pitagamkarayo” earned him the Best Actor award at the Sumathi Awards. In the movie “Tharanaya,” he took on the role of “Thangappan,” a train man practicing dark magic. His commitment to authenticity was evident as he learned low country dance from Sedaraman Gurunnance of Handapangoda for his role in the film “Bawa Duka” and the nuances of hunting for “Sooriya Arana.”
In 1992, Jackson Anthony made his directorial debut with the teledrama “Esala Kaluwara.” This marked the beginning of a remarkable journey behind the camera. He continued to showcase his directorial brilliance with productions like “Daskon” in 2014, which garnered acclaim and awards at local festivals. His directorial work extended to the big screen with films like “Julietge Bhumikawa,” “Paradeesaya,” and “Aba.” “Aba” was particularly noteworthy, receiving accolades in various film festivals. Jackson Anthony’s multi-faceted talent shone bright as he won the Best Actor award at the Derana Film Awards 2015 for his role in “Address Na,” a film he directed.
A Maestro of the Arts
Beyond his achievements in entertainment, Jackson Anthony’s creative endeavors extended to various domains. He served as the Creative Director of Swarnavahini, producing the popular musical program “Hapan Padura.” His conceptualization and presentation of shows like “Maha Sinhalaye Vansa Kathawa” and “Maha Sinhalaye Yatath Vijitha Vansa Kathawa” on Swarnavahini showcased his deep cultural insights.
Personal Life and Family
In his personal life, Jackson Anthony shared a deep connection with his partner, Kumari Munasinghe, who was also an actress and singer. They were blessed with two sons and a daughter. His eldest daughter, Madhavee Wathsala, emerged as a television presenter, actress, and singer. The elder son, Akila Dhanuddara, made his mark as a television presenter, model, and actor. The youngest son, Sajitha Anuththara, also became a television presenter, singer, and award-winning actor, known for his role in “Sooriya Arana.” The family celebrated a joyous triple wedding ceremony on January 18, 2019.
A Unique Blend of Faith
Jackson Anthony was a devout Catholic with a profound enthusiasm for Buddhist studies. His commitment to understanding and sharing the wisdom of Buddhism was evident in his television show on Sri Lankan Buddhist history and a discussion program on the Buddhist channel.
A Tragic Farewell
Tragedy struck on July 2, 2022, when Jackson Anthony and his younger brother Saman Anthony, along with a friend, were involved in an accident at Thalawa in Anuradhapura. Their vehicle collided with a wild elephant, leading to injuries that would change the course of Jackson Anthony’s life. He spent 15 months in intensive care battling the aftermath of the accident. Sadly, on October 9, 2023, the world bid farewell to this versatile artist as he succumbed to his injuries. He was 65 years old.
Jackson Anthony will always be remembered as a legendary figure in the Sri Lankan entertainment industry. His contributions as an actor, director, and creative visionary have left an indelible legacy that continues to inspire and captivate audiences. His remarkable journey through the world of art and culture will forever be etched in the annals of Sri Lankan cinema, theatre, and television.