A self-taught musical prodigy, singer, acclaimed music director, playwright and journalist, Melroy is the fourth member of the Dharmaratne family with three brothers Christie, Maxwell, Ronald and two sisters Sweetie and Shirley. Melroy was born on the 12th of March 1947 in Colombo to Kularatne and Stella Dharmaratne.
He attended St. Benedict’s College in the Colombo suburb of ‘Kotahena’ where his talents in arts and music improved by the day. While at grade six, a clerical brother named John spotted Melroy’s talents and encouraged him to sing before an audience of school mates for over forty five minutes every Fridays after school. Having watched Melroy sing “Seetha Sunil Diya Dahara”, brother Edward, the head of music, invited him to sing at a concert named ‘Our Own Songs’.
Melroy was also a chorister at St. Lucia’s Church choir. Young Melroy was influenced by many famous radio singer of the time; Christopher Paul, Vincent de Paul Peiris, Mohideen Baig, Milton Perera, H.R.Jothipala and Sunil Shantha.
Melroy’s father passed away while he was a kid and his mother Stella who was the stronghold of the family, encouraged and nurtured the young talent in the family. With this inspiration and guidance Melroy and his younger brother Ronald performed at school events and other family functions and named themselves ‘The Dharmaratne Brothers’.
Not only as a singer, but Melroy gained popularity at school as a playwright and also a dramatist. Once he was invited to write a script for a stage play to be staged for the literature day which also featured Melroy as the main role.
In 1960 Melroy staged ‘Maya’ the first solo drama staged in Sri Lanka.
In 1964, Melroy started writing to a famous popular cine magazine at that period named ‘Kala’ (Arts) by the invitation of its editor Ariyarathna Kahawita. He is considered to be one of the firsts in Sri Lanka to write commentary on English films for Sinhala newspapers.
In 1966 Melroy and Ronald performed at a concert held at the Methodist College fair along with their niece Shiromie and reached finals.
The duo were joined by the elder brothers Maxwell and Christie and ‘The Dharmaratne Brothers’ started participating in various Musical Shows. Lyrics, Melodies and Music were mostly done by Melroy while at the early stages Ronald arranged music.
Melroy reminisces fondly of the great showmen of the era, Malcolm Andree and Jayatissa Hettiarachchi who supported them immensely and Vijaya Corea who gave them their big break in to recording songs.
Melroy joined the ‘Sawasa’ newspaper as a Columnist, when M. D. Gunasena Company started the ‘Dawasa’ venture. He also wrote feature articles for the cine newspaper named ‘Visithura‘ by the invitation of its editor Arthur U. Amarasena.
His cartoon series named ‘Sapinna’ for the ‘Sathuta’ newspaper marked him as a cartoonist as well.
His first novel ‘Malawunge Kathawak’ was published in 1971 which was eventually scripted to a film: ‘Kawuluwa’.
Melroy was not only the instrumental figure behind the child superstar Shiromie Fernando, but also composed and directed music for almost all of her songs. He wrote songs for other popular musicians of the time, such as “Ayubovan” for H. R. Jothipala, “Me Mai Gaha Yata” for Milton Mallawarachchi, “Kalu Kanndai” for Paul Fernando to name a few.
Latha Walpola and Milton Mallawarachchi recording a duet for a film titled ‘Pathini’ which was never completed. Music direction by Melroy Dharmaratne.
Directed by Sugath Samarakoon and the script by late K. D. Nicolas, the film had 4 songs which the theme song was sung by T. M. Jayaratne accompanied by a 32 piece orchestra. These songs were recorded by Donald Ivan at Joe Neth Studio Borella in 1978.
Many Sinhala hit songs carry his musical signature, such as H. R. Jothipla’s “Durakatanaya” written by Karunaratne Abeysekera, Paul Fernando’s “Egoda Godee” written by Ravi Ranasinghe.
Melroy also composed and directed music for a complete set of Children’s songs recorded on Sooriya label.
In 1976 Merloy married Theresa Antoinette, having fallen in love with her during the time they both served as log writers at the Supreme Court of Colombo. They have a beloved daughter named Sinali Mary Dharmaratne.
In 1977, Melroy went on to write and produce another stage drama production named ‘Nawa Magaka Yanno’ for the All Ceylon Short Drama Contest and won awards for the best actor, the best make-up, and for the best production. The play ‘Sivil Yuddhaya’ (Civil War) written by Melroy was staged ten times. He was invited by the other drama producers not only for writing scripts but also for composing music for their stage dramas.
In 2005, he released two more novels ‘Vineetha Rathisha’ and ‘Premaya Vairaya’ and another in 2014 ‘Paw Saha Pin’,
A singer, a lyricst, a composer, a music director and a script writer for stage dramas and films, a freelance journalist and a novelist. Should he not be proud to have achieved all such having minimal education in music?