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Deshanabu Tissa Ananda Abeysekara (7 May 1939 – 18 April 2009) was a Sri Lankan filmmaker, actor, writer, director, and screen playwright.[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]

Tissa Abeysekara
Thissa Abeysekara.jpg
Born(1939-05-07)7 May 1939
Died18 April 2009(2009-04-18) (aged 69)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
NationalitySri Lankan
Other namesAnanda Tissa de Fonseka
EducationDharmapala Vidyalaya
OccupationFilm director/writer
Political partyLanka Sama Samaja Party
Spouse(s)Asanka Monarvilla (1976-to date), Sweenethat Weerasighe, Pushpa Meewella,
ChildrenAparna Nirmohi, Noriko Maduwanthi , Charulatha Swethambari, Svetlana Kamalocini and Dimitra Abeysekara
AwardsGratiaen Prize (1996), Kala Suri (1998), Deshabandu (2005)

Early lifeEdit

Tissa Ananda Abeysekera Guneratne de Fonseka was born in Maharagama, a railroad town 12 miles southeast of Colombo to Sir Arthur Solomon de Fonseka and Agnus de Fonseka (Nee Rupesighe).[4] Tissa's grandfather was Sir Carolis de Fonseka, who was the Maha Mudliar of Colombo under the British and is the great-grandson of Sir Solomn de Fonseka, who was a Gate Mudliar, Tissa hails from the House of Greenlands in Havlock town and belongs to the noble de Fonseka family of Havelock town. Tissa's paternal uncle (fathers brother) was Lord 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 God father. 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 Pannipitiya Dharmapala Vidyalaya where he went onto captain the schools soccer team and be its head prefect.[5]


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.[6]

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 script writing and recognized as Sri Lanka's foremost screenplay, dialog and script writer. Important screenplays were those for Nidhanaya and Welikathara. In addition, he made over 40 documentaries for the Government Film Unit[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[8] In 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by University of Colombo.[7]


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] A memorial service was held at the Chapel of the Hope of the World, Ladies' college Colombo, to commemorate the anniversary of his death.[10] 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.

National honoursEdit

  • 1998: Kala Suri State Honour for contribution to film[11][12]
  • 1998: Sarvodaya National Award, for Contribution to the Communication Arts
  • 1998: Vishwaprasidini State Honour for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts
  • 2005: Ranathisara for Lifetime Achievement in Film in Sri Lanka at the Sarasaviya National Awards.
  • 2005: Deshabandu, National Honour by the Government of Sri Lanka[13]


Year Film Role Notes
1963 Gamperaliya Dialogue Writer
1966 Delovak Athara Actor / Dialogue Writer
1969 Baduth Ekka Horu Actor / Screen play writer
1969 Binaramalee Screen play writer Sarasaviya Award (1970) for Best Script Writer[1]
1969 Akkara Paha Screen play writer
1971 Welikathara Screen play writer
1971 Veeduru Geval Screen play writer
1972 Nidhanaya Screen play writer
1976 Loku Horu Director
1978 Veera Puran Appu Kudapola Thero / Screen play writer Presidential Film Awards (1978) for Best Supporting Actor[1][14]
1978 White Flowers for the Dead Screen play writer Presidential Film Awards (1978) for Best Script Writer[1]
1980 Karumakkarayo Director
1980 Ganga Addara Screen play writer Presidential Film Awards (1980) for Best Script Writer[1]
1982 Maha Gedara Actor / Director / Screen play writer
1984 Maya Screen play writer
1987 Viragaya Director / Screen play writer Sarasaviya Awards (1988) for Best Script Writer and Best Director[1]
1992 Kulageya Screen play writer Sarasaviya Award (1993) for Best Script Writer[1]
1993 Gurugedara Screen play writer Sarasaviya Award (1994) for Best Script Writer[1]
1996 Loku Duwa Screen play writer Presidential Film Awards (1996) for Best Script Writer[1]
2003 Sakman Maluwa Dialogue Writer
2007 Uppalawanna Screen play writer
2012 Kusa Pabha Screen play writer
2012 Senasuru Maruwa Screen play writer
2019 Vijayaba Kollaya Screen Play Writer

Published worksEdit

  • Ipanella (short stories)
  • Pitagamkarayo (novel)
  • Ayale Giya Sithaka Satahan (essays)
  • Rupa-Svarupa (essay on film)
  • Cinema Sithuvili (on the art of film)
  • Bringing Tony Home A story in three movements (Forbidden Territory, 1988; first US publication by North Atlantic Books, 2008)
  • In My Kingdom of the Sun and the Holy Peak (Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2004)
  • Roots, Reflections and Reminiscences (Sarasavi Publishers, 2007)[15]
  • Wiwurtha Arthikaya, Rupavahiniya, Chithrapata Sansthawa Saha Sinamawe Arbudayaya (1991)
  • Wiragaya - Screenplay (1993)
  • Guru Gedara - Screenplay (2011)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Tissa Abeysekara". National Film Corporation Of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b "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.
  5. ^ a b "Remembering Tissa Abeysekara". Daily News (Sri Lanka). Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  6. ^ "Remarkable contribution to film industry". dailynews. 22 April 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
  7. ^ a b Mahendra, Sachitra (3 December 2008). "Make the language your slave – Tissa Abeysekara". Daily News (Sri Lanka).
  8. ^ a b Fernando, Susitha R. (26 April 2009). "Tissa : An inimitable genius of cinema". The Sunday Times.
  9. ^ "Prize Winner#1996 Winner". Gratiaen Trust. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  10. ^ Jayatilaka, Tissa (17 May 2009). "He was indeed a man of many parts at all times". The Sunday Times.
  11. ^ "Deshamanya for 14 Lankans". The Sunday Times. 5 April 1998.
  12. ^ Absekara, Tissa. Ayale Giya Sithaka Satahan. Sarasavi Publishers. ISBN 978-955-573-577-3.
  13. ^ "Deshabandu for Tissa Abeysekara". Daily News. 1 February 2006. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  14. ^ "Veera Puran Appu". 2009 Films Sri Lanka.
  15. ^ Perera, Ruhanie (19 August 2007). "Shaped by the sounds of Sinhala". The Daily Times.

External linksEdit