Deshabandu for Tissa Abeysekara
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
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
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
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
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