Prasanna Vithanage

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Prasanna Vithanage
Prasanna Vithanage.jpg
Born (1962-03-14) March 14, 1962 (age 55)
Panadura, Sri Lanka
Nationality Sri Lankan
Occupation Film Producer, Director
Spouse(s) Damayanthi Fonseka (m 1991)

Prasanna Vithanage (Sinhalese: ප්‍රසන්න විතානගේ) (born 3 March 1962) is a Sri Lankan filmmaker. His films have won many awards, both local and international, and have also been commercially successful. In his early theatre work, he translated and produced plays by international writers, and has adapted works of world literature to film.

His 7th feature film, Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You – Tamil title = Piragu) (2012), had its world premier in the "World Greats" section at the 39th Montreal International Film Festival. Written by Prasanna, Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You) is adapted from a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (A Gentle Creature, a.k.a. The Meek One) and set in post-war Sri Lanka. On the international festival run, by late 2013 Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You) had won 5 international awards, including "best picture" in France and Italy. It earned a nomination for best picture at the 2013 Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Australia.

Aagaya Pookkal, the Tamil-dubbed version of his 6th feature film, Akasa Kusum, was screened in Jaffna on 1 April 2011. It was the only movie premier of a Sinhala film director to have been held in Jaffna during the past 30 years.

On 30 March 2013, Vithanage founded the 'Prasanna Vithanage Academy of Acting' in Sri Lanka, for aspiring acting students.

In 2015 Prasanna wrote and directed his first Documentary feature, a docudrama named "Usawiya Nihandai" (English Title - "Silence in the Courts") based on actual events that took place in rural Sri Lanka a decade ago. It premiered in Sakhalin International Film Festival in Russia in fall 2015 and was due for a nationwide theatrical release in Sri Lanka on 6th of October 2016. Colombo District Court issued an injunction, temporarily halting its theatrical release, after the protagonist of the story (a former district judge) the film was based upon, has filed a petition against the film’s public release, citing its slandering nature towards his character. On 21st October 2016, the same Colombo District Court overturned its decision and lifted the injunction, allowing a nationwide theatrical release for “Silence in the Courts”, enabling film’s successful theatrical run in Sri Lanka.

Career[edit]

Prasanna Vithanage became involved in theatre after leaving school. He translated and directed George Bernard Shaw's play, Arms and the Man, in 1986. In 1991, he translated and directed a production of Italian Dario Fo's Trumpets and Raspberries.

In 1992, he directed his first film, Sisila Gini Gani (Ice of Fire). It won nine OCIC (Sri Lanka) awards, including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress.

Four years later, he released his second feature Anantha Rathriya (Dark Night of the Soul) (1996), which he wrote and directed. It was based on Leo Tolstoy's last novel Resurrection. It was shown at several international film festivals and won a Jury's Special Mention in the First Pusan International Film Festival. The film won all the main awards at the 1996 Sri Lanka Film Critics Forum Awards (affiliated with FIPRESCI), including awards for Most Outstanding Film, Best Director and Best Screenwriter.

Pawuru Walalu (Walls Within, 1997), his third feature, won the Best Actress Award for Nita Fernando in her role as Violet, at the 1998 Singapore International Film Festival. It won ten of eleven awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, at the Sri Lanka Film Critics Forum Awards.

His fourth feature, Purahanda Kaluwara (Death on a Full Moon Day, 1997), which he wrote and directed, was produced by NHK (Japanese Broadcasting Corporation). It won the Grand Prix at the Amiens Film Festival. Initially banned in Sri Lanka by the minister in charge of film industry, it was released after a yearlong legal battle. It was released by the ruling of the Supreme Court. It has become one of the most commercially successful films in Sri Lanka.

Vithanage completed Ira Madiyama (August Sun, 2003) as his fifth film. It won many international awards and was featured prominently in the world festival circuit. In 2007, Vithanage co-produced the hit film Machan,a comedy about a group of working class con artists posing as a handball team, directed by Uberto Pasolini, who produced The Full Monty. Machan premiered at the 65th Venice Film Festival in 2008. It won 11 international awards.

Vithanage's sixth feature film as director, "Akasa Kusum" (Flowers of the Sky) premiered at a festival in Pusan, Korea. It was screened at more than 30 film festivals and won numerous international awards.

His 7th feature film, Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You – Tamil title = Piragu) (2012), had its world premier in the "World Greats" section at the 39th Montreal International Film Festival. Written by Prasanna, Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You) is adapted from a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (A Gentle Creature, a.k.a. The Meek One) and set in post-war Sri Lanka. On the international festival run, by late 2013 Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You) had won 5 international awards, including "best picture" in France and Italy. It earned a nomination for best picture at the 2013 Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Australia.

2015 saw the documentary feature debut by Prasanna Vithanage, titled "Usawiya Nihandai" ( English Title - "Silence in the Courts" ), an investigative docudrama chronicling the events followed, after a Wife of a robbery suspect was being raped by the presiding magistrate of the case and an alternative newspaper editor exposing that case, engaging in a prolonged legal battle that extended into a probable impeachment of chief justice of the country, but eventually accused parties getting away scot-free while denying justice to the victim.

When asked "Why did you choose this story to explore social justice in Sri Lanka? , Prasanna Vithanage replied saying, "The fairness of carrying out social justice is best judged by how judicial branch will act when one of their members is accused. My goal was to go into depth and unearth the real story from the original sources and a re-enactment of those incidents in the form of a docudrama. "

After its world premiere at Sakhalin International Film Festival in Russia in Fall 2015, "Silence in the Courts" had a successful theatrical run in Sri Lanka, despite being initially banned from public screening by the Colombo District Court of Sri Lanka.

This marked the second instance where one of Prasanna Vithanage's movies was banned from public screening with the predecessor being "Death on a Full Moon Day" (1997). In both cases Prasanna won the court ruling which overturned the initial ban of both movies, which ultimately resulted in successful theatrical runs in Sri Lanka.


Personal life[edit]

Born in Panadura, Sri Lanka, a suburb outside Colombo, Prasanna attended D. S. Senanayake College, in Colombo, a leading national school for his secondary education. In 1991 he married actress Damayanthi Fonseka, a younger sister of Malini Fonseka, arguably the most popular actress of Sinhala Cinema.

Filmography[edit]

Director[edit]

Writer[edit]

Theatre[edit]

Direction and translation[edit]

  • Dwithwa, from Dario Fo's Trumpets and Raspberries (1991)
  • Horu Samaga Heluwen, from Daro Fo's The Virtuous Burglar & One Was Nude and One Wore Tails (2006)
  • Debiddo – new production of Dwithwa (2010)

Translation[edit]

Awards[edit]

Sisila Gini Gani (Ice on Fire)[edit]

Anantha Rathriya (Dark Night of the Soul)[edit]

Pawuru Wallalu (Walls Within)[edit]

Puruhanda Kaluwara (Death on a Full Moon Day)[edit]

Ira Madiyama (August Sun)[edit]

Akasa Kusum (Flowers of the Sky)[edit]

Awards

  • 10 SIGNIS film awards (Sri Lanka)including Best Film.
  • Silver Peacock Award (Best Actress – Malini Fonseka), Indian International Film Festival (IFFF), India
  • Best Actress – Malini Fonseka, Levante International Film Festival, Italy[1]
  • Jury Special Mention Award, Vesoul Asian Film Festival, France
  • Best Asian Film (NETPAC) Award – Granada Cinesdelsur Film Festival, Spain
  • Best Film – SAARC Film Festival 2012
  • Best Actress – Malini Fonseka – SAARC Film Festival 2012[2]

Official Selections

– Nominee, International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Award

– Nominee, Best Actress Malini Fonseka

Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You)[edit]

Silence in the Courts (Usawiya Nihandai)[edit]

  • Sakhalin International Film Festival (Russia) - World Premiere

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ruwini Jayawardana (25 April 2010). "More honours for Malini". Sunday Observer. Retrieved 18 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Ruwini Jayawardana (27 July 2009). "Akasa Kusum (Flowers of the Sky) Set for August Release". Daily News, Sri Lanka. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Webmaster. "The Awards – Nominated Asia Pacific Screen Awards Best Performance by an Actress". Asia Pacific Screen Awards – Official Site. Retrieved 18 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Asian American Film and Theater Project (October 2009). "2009 Films". New Jersey Independent South Asian Cine Fest 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2010. 

External links[edit]