Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tissa abeysekara

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Dr. Tissa Abeysekera was a veteran film personality who died on the 18th April, 2009.

[edit] Career

One of his earliest contributions to local cinema was writing the script for Dr. Lester James Pieris’s much loved masterpiece Nidhanaya.

He ventured into directing with a screen adaptation of Gunadasa Amarasekara’s novel Karumakkarayo. His film Viragaya remains one of the greatest Sinhala movies of all time.

THE versatile and outstanding film personality, creative writer and essayist, Tissa Abeysekara, has been honoured with the title of Deshabandu, at the National Honours held on November 14 by the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

Tissa Abeysekara who counts over four decades of service in the Sinhala cinema in the varying capacities of critic, scriptwriter, director, actor and academic, had also been an able and strong administrator with a vision when he was Chairman of the National Film Corporation from 1999 to 2001.

One of the brightest products of the now dwindling bilingual generation who came of age in the late fifties and the early sixties, Tissa began his artistic career as a short story writer writing in Sinhala, when he was still a teenage schoolboy. His short stories were prominently featured 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 to the notice of Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra, who hailed him as "an outstanding original voice in Sinhala creative writing who shows promise of developing into a major talent".

However a chance meeting with Dr. Lester James Peries in the early sixties lured him to the cinema, where he remained for the next forty years. Tissa developed into the finest and most accomplished screenplay writer, before he was thirty. Among the many scripts he wrote are those for 'Nidhanaya' and 'Welikatara'.

Having joined the Government Film Unit as a documentary filmmaker, he made over forty documentaries before breaking through as a feature filmmaker with 'Karumakkarayo' based on Gunadasa Amarasekara's controversial novel.

This was followed by 'Mahagedara' and then the highly successful 'Viragaya' based on Martin Wickramasinghe's greatest novel, which was considered unfilmable. 'Viragaya' is considered one of the finest Sinhala films ever made.

Tissa has won many national awards in films, for scriptwriting, directing and acting, and an equal number for his work for television.

In 1996, Tissa Abeysekara turned tables on the local English literary establishment by winning the prestigious Gratiaen Prize for the best piece of Creative Writing in English for that year by a resident Sri Lankan for a novella 'Bringing Tony Home'.

He has since been writing mostly in English, bringing out another collection of three stories, titled 'In My Kingdom of the Sun and the Holy Peak'. He is an essayist writing on a wide range of subject matter in both Sinhala and English.

In the last decade Tissa has built a reputation as a serious writer of fiction; writing in English, not only in Sri Lanka but in the South-Asian region.

He is an active member of the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, based in Delhi, and has presented papers at a number of literary seminars held in the sub-continent.

Tissa Abeysekara has served on the Boards of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, and the Aesthetic Institute of Sri Lanka, affiliated to the University of Kelaniya.

At present he is a Council Member of the University of Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo. He is a Trustee of the National Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka.

Widely travelled, Tissa Abeysekara has represented his country at seminars and film festivals, and was a jury member at the International Film Festival of Kerala, 2002.

At present he is the Director of the Sri Lanka Television Training Institute.

[edit] Death

Veteran Filmmaker Tissa Abeysekara died at the National Hospital last evening. The award winning film director died after being in the Neuro Surgical Intensive Care Unit since April 11. According to hospital sources he had died of Intra-Cranial haemorrhage.

Fellow film artistes and technicians took part in a special Bodhi Pooja at the Gangaramaya temple on Tuesday to invoke blessings on Abeysekera who was seriously ill .

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