Tissa Abeysekara

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Tissa Abeysekara
තිස්ස අබේසේකර
Thissa Abeysekara.jpg
Tissa Ananda Abeysekara

(1939-05-07)7 May 1939
Maharagama, Sri Lanka
Died18 April 2009(2009-04-18) (aged 69)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Other namesAnanda Tissa de Fonseka
Education Dharmapala Vidyalaya
OccupationFilm director/writer
Political party Lanka Sama Samaja Party
SpouseAsanka Monarvilla (m. 1976)
Awards Gratiaen Prize (1996), Kala Suri (1998), Deshabandu (2005)

Deshanabu Tissa Ananda Abeysekara (7 May 1939 – 18 April 2009 as තිස්ස අබේසේකර) was a Sri Lankan filmmaker, actor, writer, director, screen playwright and political activist. [1] He is better known as a script writer for the cinema as well as a film director. In 1996, his book Bringing Tony Home won the prestigious Gratiaen Prize for the new creative writing in English. [2] He was the chief coordinator of FOSWAL in Sri Lanka and honoured awardee of SAARC Literary Award. [3]


Personal life

Tissa Ananda Abeysekera was born Tissa Ananda Abeysekara Gunaratne de Fonseka in Maharagama, a railroad town 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Colombo to Sir Arthur Solomon de Fonseka and Agnus de Fonseka (Nee Rupesighe). [4] Tissa's grandfather was Mudaliyar Carolis de Fonseka and is the great-grandson of Gate Mudaliyar Solomon de Fonseka. He grew up in his ancestral house, Greenlands in Havelock Town, Colombo. Tissa's paternal uncle (fathers brother) was Justice E.R. de Fonseka, QC, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court and Acting Chief Justice of Sri Lanka in 1960 and subsequently in 1962. Tissa's father was also cousins with the late Sir Susantha de Fonseka who was also Tissa's Godfather. Tissa's father declared bankruptcy in 1949. Due to poor health, Tissa was not sent to school until age 11. [5] Tutored at home at first, he had his formal education at Dharmapala Vidyalaya in Pannipitiya where he went onto captain the schools soccer team and be its head prefect. [5]

He was married to Asanka Monarvilla and the couple have one daughter Svetlana, and one son, Dimitra. [6]


Abeysekara died on 18 April 2009, at Colombo National Hospital after having been admitted for a heart condition (Myocardial infarction). The BBC stated: "The void that he has left can only be understood if one looks at a washed away painting and understands and realizes that its beauty can never be glorified or recreated again.". [2] His funeral was held over three days in four locations and remains one of the most attended funerals in the countries history. A memorial service was held at the Chapel of the Hope of the World, Ladies' college Colombo, to commemorate the anniversary of his death. [7]

In late 2013, the Government of Sri Lanka, under the auspices of the President, Prime Minister and Cabinet issued a Commemorative Stamp in memory and honour of the late Dr Tissa Abeysekara.[ citation needed ]


Abeysekera began his career as a short-story writer, writing in Sinhala, when he was still a schoolboy, and he got some short stories published in the Dinamina and Janatha national newspapers. Barely out of his teens, he published a collection of Sinhala short stories, which received favourable reviews, bringing him praise from Ediriweera Sarachchandra. [8]

A chance meeting with Dr. Lester James Peries in the early 1960s lured him to the cinema, where he remained for the next 40 years. He received co-credit for most of Peries's films, following the screenplay he wrote for Welikatara, Tissa was launched into the world of scriptwriting and recognized as Sri Lanka's foremost screenplay, dialogue and scriptwriter. Important screenplays were those for Nidhanaya and Welikathara . In addition, he made over 40 documentaries for the Government Film Unit [9] before breaking through as a feature filmmaker with Karumakkarayo, based on Gunadasa Amarasekara's controversial novel. This was followed by Mahagedara (1983) and Viragaya (1988), based on Martin Wickramasinghe's novel, which was thought unfilmable: Viragaya is considered one of the finest Sinhala films ever made. [10]

Abeysekara received the Presidential Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1978 for the five minutes role as "Kudapola Thero" in the blockbuster film Veera Puran Appu. In 1996, his novella Bringing Tony Home won the Gratiaen Prize for the best piece of Creative Writing in English by a resident Sri Lankan. [11] He continued writing mostly in English, bringing out another collection of three stories, In My Kingdom of the Sun and the Holy Peak.

He was chairman of the National Film Corporation from 1999 to 2001. He was subsequently the director of the Sri Lanka Television Training Institute. Abeysekara served on the Boards of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and the Aesthetic Institute of Sri Lanka, affiliated to the University of Kelaniya, as a council member of the University of Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo, and as a trustee of the National Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka. [10] In 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by University of Colombo. [9]

National honours


1963 Gamperaliya Assistant Director / Dialogue Writer [15]
1966 Delovak Athara Actor / Dialogue Writer
1969Baduth Ekka HoruActor / Screen play writer
1969 Binaramalee Screen play writer Sarasaviya Award (1970) for Best Script Writer [1]
1969 Akkara Paha Screen play writer [16]
1971 Welikathara Screen play writer
1971Veeduru GevalScreen play writer
1972 Nidhanaya Screen play writer [17]
1976Loku HoruDirector
1978 Veera Puran Appu Actor (Kudapola Thero) / Screen play writer Presidential Film Awards (1978) for Best Supporting Actor [1] [18]
1978 White Flowers for the Dead Screen play writer Presidential Film Awards (1978) for Best Script Writer [1]
1980KarumakkarayoDirector [19]
1980 Ganga Addara Screen play writer Presidential Film Awards (1980) for Best Script Writer [1]
1982Maha GedaraActor (Palitha Malwanna) / Director / Screen play writer [20]
1984MayaScreen play writer
1984ParasathuroActor (Kappetipola) / Screen play writer
1987 Viragaya Director / Screen play writer Sarasaviya Awards (1988) for Best Script Writer and Best Director [1]
1992KulageyaScreen play writer Sarasaviya Award (1993) for Best Script Writer [1]
1993GurugedaraScreen play writer Sarasaviya Award (1994) for Best Script Writer [1]
1996Loku DuwaScreen play writer Presidential Film Awards (1996) for Best Script Writer [1]
2003Sakman MaluwaDialogue Writer
2003 Ammawarune Actor (Ven. Rathanapala Thero)
2007 Uppalawanna Screen play writer
2012 Kusa Pabha Screen play writer
2012 Senasuru Maruwa Screen play writer
2017 Nimnayaka Hudekalawa Actor (Mysterious man)
2019 Vijayaba Kollaya Screen Play Writer

Published works

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  2. 1 2 "Tissa Abeysekara passes away". BBC Sinhala. 18 April 2009.
  3. "Awards For Website - foundation of SAARC writers and literature#Tissa Abeysekara (Sri Lanka)" (PDF). Foundation SAARC Writers. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  4. Fonseka, Carlo (23 November 2013). "Tissa Abeysekera: Tragic hero of our world of cinema". The Island . Retrieved 8 October 2014.
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  6. "I must have had the honour to be a motherly wife". Sarasaviya. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  7. Jayatilaka, Tissa (17 May 2009). "He was indeed a man of many parts at all times". The Sunday Times.
  8. "Remarkable contribution to film industry". daily news. 22 April 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
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  10. 1 2 Fernando, Susitha R. (26 April 2009). "Tissa : An inimitable genius of cinema". The Sunday Times.
  11. "Prize Winner#1996 Winner". Gratiaen Trust. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  12. "Deshamanya for 14 Lankans". The Sunday Times. 5 April 1998.
  13. Absekara, Tissa. Ayale Giya Sithaka Satahan. Sarasavi Publishers. ISBN   978-955-573-577-3.
  14. "Deshabandu for Tissa Abeysekara". Daily News. 1 February 2006. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
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