Authors Film Directors

Tissa Abeysekara

 

Tissa Ananda Abeysekara (7 May 1939 – 18 April 2009) was a Sri Lankan filmmaker, writer, director, producer and political critic

Early life

Tissa Ananda Abeysekera Guneratne de Fonseka was born in Maharagama, a railroad town 12 miles southeast of Colombo to Sir Arthur Solomn de Fonseka and Agnus de Fonseka (Nee Rupesighe)Tissa’s grandfather was Sir Carolis de Fonseka, who was a Mudliar to the British and is the great-grandson of Sir Solomn de Fonseka, who was a Gate Mudliar, although Tissa hails from the House of Greenlands in Havlock town. Tissa’s father declared bankruptcy in 1949. Due to poor health, Tissa was not sent to school until age 11. Tutored at home at first, he had his formal education at Dharmapala Vidyalaya.

 

Career

Abeysekera began his career as a short-story writer, writing in Sinhala, when he was still a schoolboy, and he got some short stories published in the Dinamina and Janatha national newspapers. Barely out of his teens, he published a collection of Sinhala short stories, which received favourable reviews, bringing him praise from Ediriweera Sarachchandra.A chance meeting with Dr. Lester James Peries in the early 1960s lured him to the cinema, where he remained for the next 40 years. He received co-credit for some Peries films, and the screenplay he wrote for Welikatara launched him on a career as Sri Lanka’s foremost screenplay writer. Important screenplays were those for Nidhanaya and Welikathara. In addition, he made over 40 documentaries for the Government Film Unit before breaking through as a feature filmmaker with Karumakkarayo, based on Gunadasa Amarasekara’s controversial novel. This was followed by Mahagedara (1983) and Viragaya (1988), based on Martin Wickramasinghe’s novel, which was thought unfilmable: Viragaya is considered one of the finest Sinhala films ever made.In 1996, his novella Bringing Tony Home won the Gratiaen Prize for the best piece of Creative Writing in English by a resident Sri Lankan. He continued writing mostly in English, bringing out another collection of three stories, In My Kingdom of the Sun and the Holy Peak.He was chairman of the National Film Corporation from 1999 to 2001. He was subsequently the director of the Sri Lanka Television Training Institute. Abeysekara served on the Boards of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and the Aesthetic Institute of Sri Lanka, affiliated to the University of Kelaniya, as a council member of the University of Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo, and as a trustee of the National Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka.

 

Screenplays and dialogues

  • Gamperaliya (1963), dialogue
  • Delovak Athara (1965), dialogue
  • Baduth Ekka Horu (1966), screenplay
  • Binaramalee (1966), screenplay; Sarasaviya Award for best screenplay
  • Welikathara (1967), screenplay and dialogue
  • Akkara Paha (1968), screenplay
  • Nidhanaya (1969), screenplay; OCIC Award for best screenplay
  • Veeduru Geval (1971), screenplay and dialogue
  • Puran Appu (1976), screenplay and dialogue; Presidential Award for best screenplay.
  • White Flowers for the Dead (1977), screenplay; Presidential and OCIC Awards for best screenplay
  • Kulageya (1990), screenplay; Sarasaviya Award for best screenplay
  • Gurugedara (1991), screenplay and dialogue; Sarasaviya Award for best screenplay
  • Loku Duwa (1992), screenplay; Presidential Award for best screenplay
  • Sakman Maluwa (2002), dialogue
  • Kusa Paba (2012), screenplay
  • Senasuru Maruwa (2012), screenplay and script

 

Published works

  • Ipanella (short stories)
  • Pitagamkarayo (novel)
  • Ayale Giya Sithaka Satahan (essays)
  • Rupa-Svarupa (essay on film)
  • Cinema Sithuvili (on the art of film)
  • Bringing Tony Home A story in three movements (Forbidden Territory, 1988; first US publication by North Atlantic Books, 2008)
  • In My Kingdom of the Sun and the Holy Peak (Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2004)
  • Roots, Reflections and Reminiscences (Sarasavi Publishers, 2007)
  • Wiwurtha Arthikaya, Rupavahiniya, Chithrapata Sansthawa Saha Sinamawe Arbudayaya (1991)
  • Wiragaya – Screenplay (1993)
  • Guru Gedara – Screenplay (2011)

 

Awards

  • 1978: Presidential Award -Best Supporting Actor Award, Veera Puran Appu
  • 1983: Sarasaviya Best Director Award, Mahagedara
  • 1988: Sarasaviya Best Director Award, Viragaya
  • 1996: Gratiaen Prize, Bringing Tony Home
  • 1998: Kala Suri
  • 2005: Deshabandu
  • 2007: honorary doctorate, University of Colombo

 

National honours

  • 1997: Kala Suri State Honour for contribution to film
  • 1998: Sarvodaya National Award, for Contribution to the Communication Arts
  • 1998: Vishwaprasidini State Honour for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts
  • 2005: Ranathisara for Lifetime Achievement in Film in Sri Lanka at the Sarasaviya National Awards.
  • 2005: Deshabandu, National Honour by the Government of Sri Lanka

 

Death

Abeysekara died on 18 April 2009, at Colombo National Hospital after having been admitted for a heart condition (Myocardial infarction). The BBC stated: “The void that he has left can only be understood if one looks at a washed away painting and understands and realizes that its beauty can never be glorified or recreated again. A memorial service was held at the Chapel of the Hope of the World, Ladies’ college Colombo, to commemorate the anniversary of his death.

 

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