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
"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 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
"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