Freddy Silva (1938–2002) was the most popular Sri Lankan comedian of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. He appeared in over 450 films ( of which 300 were screened at the celebration of fifty years in Sinhala Cinema).
Silva was born Halpeliyanage Morris Joseph de Silva in Puvakaramba, Moratuwa an only child. Silva's father was an overseer for the Moratuwa Urban Council and his mother was a member of Salvation Army. Growing up he was fascinated with singing and dancing.
In the 1950s Silva performed the Alanson Mendis composition "Bar Bar Bar" in front of Sir John Kotelawala and was warmly received. He used this opportunity to get a letter of recommendation from Kotelawala which he presented to Livy Wijemanne of Radio Ceylon to secure a job as a radio artist.
Silva's first recording was "Mottapala." He followed the song with "Bar Bar Bar" now updated with music by P. L. A. Somapala. It was a success. Subsequent efforts teamed Silva with the late Premakirthi de Alwis. Their work include comedic songs like "Aron Mama", "Pankiritta", "Nedeyo", "Handa Mama", "Kekille Rajjuruwo" and "Parana Coat" (from Lokuma Hinawa). Silva's crowning achievement is considered the tune "Kundumani."
Silva got his first screen role through a chance meeting with K. A. W. Perera in 1963. At that time he was living with H. R. Jothipala and Roy de Silva and frequented parties as a guest entertainer. Perera cast Silva in Suhada Sohoyuro alongside L. S. Ramachandran and Vijitha Mallika. He appeared at a dance on the beach singing "Diya rella verale hapi hapi" and went on to be cast in mainly comedic roles.
The serious side of Silva was seen in Sekaya (1965), Lasanda (1974) and Sukiri kella (1975). In the 1975 film he played a mentally handicapped character and in preparation for the role lived with a real handicapped boy in Koralawella.
By the 1980s producers were reluctant to make a film without Silva fearing that the movie would flop. He was then living an extravagant life and saved little. In 1989 Silva was awarded the Ranathisara award by leading film weekly Sarasaviya. A turning moment came when his friend Vijaya Kumaratunga (who he appeared alongside in ten films the last being Yukthiyada Shakthiyada) was murdered. He cites this event as leading to the downfall of cinema. Still Silva stayed busy appearing in 15 of the 26 films made in 1992.
By the late-'90s Silva received no work and lived in poverty with a pension of 2000 rupees from the Sri Lankan Film Corporation. He called his home a broken down garage that served as bed room, living room and kitchen on Emmanuel Church Road, Rawatawatte. Silva passed away in October 2002.