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DateLine Wednesday, 21 November 2007

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Hema Nalin Karunaratne:

Presenter who touched many hearts

Pictures by Palitha Gunasena

He is a familiar face visiting your home every weekday with Hathata Hithata Hadawathata. His unique style of presentation touched hearts of many. With simple words and a dash of charisma he keeps the audience glued to their seats.

Hema Nalin Karunaratne, compere cum director programmes of EAP Networks (Pvt) Ltd, was born on August 27, 1962, in Castle. He received his primary education at St. Mary's College, Mathugama before completing higher studies at Royal College. His father, G.B.C. Karunaratne, was an electrical engineer and his mother, E.L. Perera, was a teacher. Nalin has a brother, Jeewantha, who is 10 years his senior.

"I wanted to be in the media sector since my school days because I was good at art related work. My aim was to join the radio or press after finishing school. Those days we did not have television," Hema Nalin expressed adding that he joined the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation on February 1, 1983.

Nalin started off as a production assistant trainee but his innate talents were not to be left undiscovered. His ability to pronounce certain Sinhala words clearly caught the eye of those around him and soon he was given the chance to present a small trailer.

After this first break the young lad found many opportunities to voice in programmes coming his way. Soon he was juggling his work as a production assistant with his skills as a narrator.

Hema Nalin Karunaratne with the Sumathi award for ‚ÄúJiwithaya Lassanai‚ÄĚ which won the most popular teledrama of the year award.

"Only one of my family members were connected with the media field. She is Praba Ranatunge, my mother's sister and the first female news reader for SLBC," he pointed out.

"My first narration was on a bomb blast which occurred around July 1983. My debut programme as a compere was related to a Sandesha Kavya. Later I compered a children's programme called Mang Podi Kale."

Though he was receiving much repute as a compere, Nalin showed much interest towards compiling programme. His first programme was Prathiba, a programme focused on talent search.

With the spotlight falling on him, Nalin was on his way to fame and success. He got a number of opportunities to train abroad and chose the SLTTI. During his training sessions in countries like Malaysia, Germany and London he studied the techniques behind successful foreign programmes. It was this research, which formed the basis of the highly successful programme 'Nine Five'.

"I was influenced by programmes like 'Beyond 2000' and 'Lonely Planet'. I discussed and pieced together my discoveries with the other producers and soon the programme took shape. It became a hit," he said.

Though years have flown by many people can still remember most episodes connected with the programme. When asked to name a few of its highlights, Nalin was quick to mention the Hummanaya blow holes.

"Basically it was discovered through 'Nine Five'. Bandula Nanayakkarawasam, the lyricist, told me about it and invited us to include it in the programme. Another memorable event was when we showed an episode of a deer caught in a snare.

This clip was taken while an American professor was doing research on monkeys. It was an emotional piece and there were many requests to re-telecast the episode," Hema Nalin said adding that the human-interest stories were the key to the success of the programme.

What should a person possess to become a successful compere?

"First of all you should have a good voice. You need to possess knowledge related to particular areas. With those in tact you can start training a person."

"If you want to develop your presenting skills remember there has to be some kind of attraction. Time to time certain presenters become popular because of their style and something more which can not be explained. It is part of the person's personality."

With the dawn of the millennium a programme comprising 2000 artists and school children was organised by the Rupavahini Corporation. Nalin was to compere this mega event but politics invaded his path.

"I was asked to drop some of the artists from the programme and when I disagreed I knew my time was up. I was interdicted and right after that I got an invitation from Swarnavahini. I joined the group in June, 2000 as a creative director," he said.

At Swarnavahini Hema Nalin compered programmes like Sundara Senasurada and Hansa Wila along with a number of live programmes.

"I was the one who proposed the motto of Swarnavahini Sri Lankiya Abimanaya (Sri Lanka's pride). I decided that I could not join a private station, which did not have a theme. It should be nationalistic and aimed at the betterment of the society," he explained. "As a media institution you have a responsibility towards your audience. Money and fame are not the only factors to consider. I wanted a reason to work at Swarnavahini."

Swarnavahini is involved with many programmes of national importance. This year alone the channel was at the forefront in bringing the State Children's Drama Festival, Shilpa 2007 and the Colombo International Book Fair. It caters to masses through documentaries like Maha Sinhale Wansa Kathawa, Dutu Nodutu, Perawadana, Loke Wate etc.

"We may not get the best ratings for such programmes but our vision is to try our best to cater to our viewers requirements. You need money to survive but that does not mean you can show anything you want. You need to work towards your theme. It is due to the things that you do that you become number one in the heart of a person."

What is your future goal?

"To continue as director programmes because this country needs good television programmes for people to develop good morals and values. They need good entertainment. The television should encourage and make way for really talented people to emerge in society."

"We have passed the period when viewers need to play a role in deciding the future of our country's television. Viewers let the Indian teledramas and its influences come here and now it is too late to turn back.

"The teledrama industry is in big trouble. Many channels including Swarnavahini include mega teledramas in their programme line up. Only a few artists benefit and we have jeopardised the chances of many talented people. The audience should think about this situation. Start thinking Sri Lankan."



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