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Tribute to Dr. Tissa Abeysekera

Nation has lost a man of unparalleled talent

President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a condolence message on the passing away of film personality Tissa Abeysekera said he was deeply grieved by his death.

Tissa Abeysekera, one of the foremost personalities in Sri Lankan Cinema and the Arts, was a master of almost every aspect of Cinema from the writing of screenplays to acting and directing.

In addition, he was an outstanding figure in the field of tele-drama and use of the television medium for documentaries and building public awareness, the President stated in the message.

He added: “ He was a true gift to Sri Lanka in a variety of fields that also embraced writing, literary criticism and the infusion of modern attitudes to writing in both Sinhala and English.

The many awards he has received for his work in cinema, television and literature are proof of his undoubted excellence in all of these demanding areas of cultural activity.

Tissa who devoted his life to the enhancement of Cinema and was a mentor to many who have won acclaim in television was also a committed socialist, who until the end remained a member of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party.

His passing away leaves a gap in Sri Lankan arts and culture that will be very difficult to fill in the near future.

I am saddened by the loss of a good friend and a source of inspiration in many areas of important social and cultural activity. The nation has lost a man of unparalleled talent and gem of humanity.

I take this occasion to extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Asanka, daughters Aparna, Noriko, Charulatha, Svetlana, and son Dimithra.

May he attain Nibbana.”

President Mahinda Rajapaksa

Contributed much to uplift cinema

National Freedom Alliance in a letter of condolence has said they were deeply saddened by the death of veteran film maker , script writer , critic and academic Tissa Abeysekera who passed away at the National Hospital Colombo after a brief illness.

His death means that the country has lost an internationally acclaimed literary personage, a great critic in art and a rare bi-lingual academic, said in a letter issued by National Freedom Alliance President Wimal Weerawansa.

He was the scriptwriter of the films Welikathara and Nidhanaya. He was the director of the film Karumakkarayo, which was based on Gunadasa Amarasekera’s novel. He also made Cinematic creations, Mahgedara and Viragaya. He displayed his skills as an actor in movies like Weera Puranappu.

He contributed much to raise the cinema industry in Sri Lanka during his tenure of office as the Chairman of National Film Corporation.

It also said that Tissa Abeyesekera believed in adopting Marxism to suit to one’s own culture and country to make a better tomorrow.

Wimal Weerawansa President, National Freedom Alliance

Inspiration to younger generation

The Institute of Sinhala Culture (Sudarshi) records with deep appreciation the invaluable services rendered by Dr. Tissa Abeysekera with his varied creative talents as an outstanding film maker, script writer, actor and author to promote high quality in contemporary cultural life.

As an intellectual, he carved a special niche for himself with a broad vision for social justice. With an excellent knowledge of culture and the command of Sinhala and English languages he earned the recognition and respect of contemporary Sri Lankan society.

Dr. Tissa Abeysekera was an inspiration to the younger generation specially those interested in aesthetic pursuits.

We wish him the Bliss of Nibbana!

Dr. Leel Gunasekera Director/Secretary Institute of Sinhala Culture

Doyen of creativity

Dr. Tissa Abeysekara, my schoolmate at Dharmapala Vidyalaya, Pannipitiya in the early 1950s and since then my lifelong friend for nearly six decades has departed leaving an indelible impression of awe and admiration in the minds of all Sri Lankans devoted to indigenous culture, literature and the arts.

The students of our generation enjoyed the best of both worlds with English as the medium of instruction and equal emphasis being given for the study of Sinhala language and literature.

Tissa was a voracious reader who had a good memory and in due course became a vast storehouse of knowledge. In later life he acknowledged with great humility that all the formal education he received was at Dharmapala which was complete and comprehensive and had stood him in good stead in his literary pursuits. While still in college Tissa attempted a review of Dr. Lester James Pieris’s ‘Rekhawa’, the forerunner to a new generation of true to life art forms. Lester saw the streak of brilliance in young Tissa; took him into his fold and moulded him to be a great film director of our times.

Tissa Abeysekara was unique to the extent of being a genius in the two fields in which he excelled namely, creative writing and innovative film making.

He made his debut in the Sinhala silver screen in the early 1960s as a screenplay writer and later directed some box office hits including ‘Karumakkarayo’, ‘Mahagedara’, and ‘Viragaya’. Tissa had acknowledged in his writings that his mother’s influence in his life and demeanour through the inculcation of traditional Sinhala village values and human qualities of loving kindness and compassion had been positive and lasting.

He was supremely bilingual; communicating in both Sinhala his mother tongue and English which he calls his surrogate mother tongue. Among his literary works are: ‘Ipanella’ (short story) and ‘Pitagamkarayo’ (novel).

Other creative literary works are ‘Ayale Giya Sithaka Satahan’ (essays), ‘Rupa-Svarupa’ (essay on film) and ‘Cinema Sithuvili’ (Art of film). Later in life Tissa Abeysekera started writing in English. His English novel ‘Bringing Tony Home’ made him the winner of the coveted Gratian prize in 1996. His latest work in English is ‘Roots, Reflections and Reminiscences’. It stands out as a work of art in which he embarked on a constant search for our roots as well as an identity of our own in the historical and cultural context.

He was a man of many parts; having been a versatile film director, actor, film critic and writer. As far as I could fathom his uniqueness stems from his genealogy, social background, rural upbringing and liberal education.

His creativity and intellectual prowess could be attributed to the genetic diversity which he acquired through the two divergent genetic strains namely that of his father hailing from weather beaten low country stock as against that of his mother a serene, docile and deeply religious village lass of Kandyan roots. His personality, approach and behaviour has been characterised by this multi-cultural and multi-social background.

His father came from an anglicised English speaking upper middle class and his mother from a Buddhist vernacular, lower middle class with roots in the village.

As beautifully portrayed in his creative writings and on celluloid, Tissa Abeysekara was brought up in a modest, unpolluted rural environment in the Kelani Valley, rich in folk art, dance, drama, music etc. which had enriched his creativity and whetted his appetite.

We wish him the Bliss of Nibbana!

K. H. J. WIJAYADASA Secretary to the former President

True humanist

The untimely death of Veteran Film Director, Script Wrier, Critic and Literary personality Dr. Tissa Abeysekara is an irreparable loss to the cinema and television media and their future progress, said Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka in a condolence message issued yesterday.

Abeysekera who had his debut in the cinema as a script writer in ‘Gamperaliya’ bequeathed a large number of artistic creations to the people by mastering all aspects of the Cinema and Television media. Through his contribution to award winning creations such as ‘Viragaya,’ ‘Welikathara’ and ‘Nidhanaya’ he opened new vistas for the Sinhala Cinema.

A bilinguist he was a leftist with progressive ideas.

Each and every creation of Abeysekera attracted the hearts and minds of the people because they displayed indigenous values and appealed to the people’s conscience.

He was a true humanist and his demise is a great loss to the cinema, his friends and the country.

We wish him the Bliss of Nibbana!

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka



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