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
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
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
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
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
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’
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
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
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
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
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
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