Ronnie Leitch: a legend who made a nation laugh

Last week we lost an incredible man of talent; Ronnie Leitch. He was a famous Sri Lankan entertainer, a multitalented stage presence, a loving father, and a wonderful human being. Well-known among fans as “Thattaya”, he was a light-hearted being who had the incredible ability to make everyone laugh. He was a simple and happy soul, and his demise will forever be a loss to this country.

This legend was born on 19 October, 1950. He joined the music industry in the1970 at the age of 20. Showcasing his talent with numerous musical groups, he slowly seeped into the hearts of his fans.

He stepped into Sri Lankan cinema in the movie ‘Annathara’, following which he starred in a great deal of popular cinematic creations such as; Ninja Sri Lanka (1997), Jolly Boys and Les mystères de Sadjurah (1997), Leader (2009), Cheerio Darling, and Johnson and Gonson (2001).
The highlight of his music career was when he was invited to collaborate with the popular music group Gypsies. He sang the very iconic song “Thattaya”. This earned him a beloved stage name, and marked the glorious beginning of his solo music career.

With unbelievable talent and a truly lovable personality, he became a celebrated musician and refreshing comedian, and a household name among Sri Lankans in no time.

We spoke to some of his fans, friends and colleagues in an attempt to celebrate his memory, and this is what they had to say about him.

Fans remembered him thus:

“Sri Lanka lost a legend and an icon, and heaven just gained one. It was shocking to hear of Ronnie Leitch’s demise. May his beautiful soul rest in eternal peace. I am sure heaven is now filled with a much more fun atmosphere than ever.” Shemal Jayasundera, 25

“I have been listening to his songs since I was in school. His music is very enjoyable; it’s a great loss for the music industry.” Samudra Kularathne, 55

“He was not really in our generation, but he was hilarious and a solid personality; truly a born entertainer.” Bhanujith Wijesinghe, 22

“He was a truly unique entertainer. His performances were always full of life and never failed to make everyone laugh. Everyone in this country will miss a person like him.” Antoinette George, 27

“He is a beloved personality. It is not easy to make people laugh just by a smile in the world we live in, but he was the one person who could do that. We lost a good energetic entertainer and a humble soul. It’s a great loss, but he’s sure to be in a better place! People with simple lives are always in better places!” Amodya Alwis, 32

“Today, we lost one of the most iconic human beings. Ronnie Leitch will be remembered and missed for centuries to come. Truly devastated to hear about his passing. What a talent he was.” Rehana Ismail, 24

Friends from the industry had this to say:

Yureni Noshika (Actress and Singer)

“He had a very infectious smile. We always had a good laugh. He was such a wonderful person – his presence, itself, can light up a room. My last memory of him was when I met him a month ago; again he made me laugh very much. He was a legendary entertainer. Sri Lanka will never be able to fill this void. There was also so much to learn from him, his humility was amazing, he was nice to the smallest person in set.”

Sachini Nipunsala (Presenter and Dancer)

“I have personally met him only once when he came to one of our programmes. He was very humble. From what I gathered, he was always young at heart. I hope he rests in peace.”

Dushyanth Weeraman (Singer and Musician)

“Oh, I just loved him. It didn’t matter to him who he was or who he was around. He just needed to have humour and laughter everywhere he went, all the time. Ronnie Leitch was always so excited to meet anybody and everybody, so he could tell a joke and crack you up. Every time you met him, he would greet you as if you were the most important person he’s met. And it didn’t matter to him where he was or what the situation was. I think he always felt that it was his duty to make people around him laugh. His knowledge of Sri Lankan movies and music was insane. He would know the credentials of almost any movie or song in Sri Lanka.

He was such an entertainer that knowingly or unknowingly, he hit the sweet spot of finding the formula of being a successful entertainer in Sri Lanka. I say this because ‘Thattaya’ AKA Ronnie Leitch never had an off-peak in his career. I would say he had a calendar full of bookings (work) throughout almost all the years of his career. Basically, he was wanted by everybody. His brand was suitable for any audience.
In my opinion, he had the perfect entertainer’s brand to fit any audience and to be successful in this part of the world. Maybe most of us didn’t see his humility because his humorous personality was always overshadowing it. But I strongly feel the secret for his success was his humility and humbleness. A lesson to learn for all. We will miss you Ronnie aiya. May you get back all the joy you gave us in abundance.”

Piyal Perera (Gypsies)

“Ronnie was a huge part of our band for so long, so it is very sad. He was a natural comedian; he didn’t have to try at all. Actually, speaking of how he became part of our band; he was a friend of our bass player Thilak and he used to bring Ronnie along when we went for outstation shows to entertain us. He was hilarious and we all saw how talented he was. That is why we wrote the “Thattaya” song for him. We wanted him to make the world laugh, the way he made us laugh. From there onwards, the rest is history. He was a very nice person; all he wanted to do was make others laugh. We will really miss him.”

Lanthra Perera (Lead Vocalist, Doctor)

“‘Yes of course Putha’. Uncle Ronnie never said no; that word did not exist in his vocabulary. He always had the biggest smile and the warmest hugs. I will never forget this one instance we invited him to be a part of an act for one of our song performances at a concert, and he didn’t think twice; as always said ‘Yes, of course putha.’ He was a true entertainer and an amazing human being. We will treasure his memories forever in our hearts. Rest in Peace Uncle Ronnie!”

By Pujanee Galappaththi
Photo Krishan Kariyawasam