Bandaranyake's debut Hansa Vilak in 1980 dealt with facets of a society at odds with itself. His other films like Thunveni Yamaya (1983), Suddilage Kathaawa (1984), Bawa Duka and Bawa Karma (1997) followed similar themes.
Bawa Duka and Bawa Karma challenged the repressive dogma of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Common arcs in Bandaranayake's films follow the conflicted lives of men and women, transformation of private lives into public affairs, the unpleasant reality of marriage and society and the dark side of human desire.
Dharmasiri Bandaranayake is an acclaimed dramatist and his plays are the best that Sri Lankan theatre has seen. Eka Adhipathi, Makarakshaya, 'Dhawala Bheeshana', 'Yakshagamanaya' and 'Trojan Kanthavo' have all dealt with current issues of national and political importance.
He is an artist who attempts to connect the sociopolitical environment with the civil society through art.
In 1999, Bandaranyake first staged the play Trojan Kanthawo which adapted Euripides' Greek drama The Trojan Women for a Sinhala and Tamil audience. It is meant as an anti-war statement and proved to be controversial with the Sri Lankan government despite critical acclaim.
Bandaranayake received several death threats in 2001 after he made plans to stage the play in predominantly Tamil areas.
Awards and honors
- Honorary citizenship by the city of New Orleans, Louisiana in 1990 for his achievements in the field of art
- Appointment to Film Critics Society as one of the ten best directors of Sri Lankan Cinema (1947–1987)
- Bunka Prize in 1996 for special achievement in theatre and cinema from the Japan-Sri Lanka Friendship Cultural Fund
- The Prasada Pranama award in 1996 from the University of Sri Lanka in Colombo for his contribution to Sri Lankan Theatre and Cinema.
- Kala Bhooshana from Chandrika Bandaranayake Government.
- Kala Keerthi from Chandrika Bandaranayake Government.