The play Sergeant Nallathamby was one of the first Sri Lankan plays to be a financial success. It was hugely popular, even playing in the Middle East to Sinhala audiences. After its run, a slew of similar comedies like Ralla, Commando Diyasena, and Vadamaarachi appeared in Sri Lankan theaters inspired by its success.
Silva was born on January 10, 1954 in Kirulapone and grew up in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. He came from a poor family, and began his theater career with Wesak dramas. He subsequently had roles in stage plays like Amal Biso and Le Kandulu. He first played Sergeant Nallathamby in the play Neinage Suduwa.