Prasanna Vithanage

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Prasanna Vithanage
Prasanna Vithanage.jpg
Born (1962-03-14) 14 March 1962 (age 60)
NationalitySri Lankan
Years active1980s–present
Known forPrasanna Vithanage Academy of Acting
(m. 1991)
AwardsFull list

Udaya Prasanna Vithanage (Sinhala: ප්‍රසන්න විතානගේ) (born 14 March 1962) is a Sri Lankan filmmaker. He is considered one of the pioneers of the third generation of the Sri Lankan cinema. He has directed eight feature films including Death on a Full Moon Day (1997), August Sun (2003), Flowers of the Sky (2008) & With You, Without You (2012) and won many prestigious national and international awards and have also been commercially successful in Sri Lanka. In his early theatre work, he translated and produced plays by international writers, adapted works of world literature to film. He has battled against the censorship in Sri Lanka and worked as an educator of cinema who has conducted many Master classes in the subcontinent for young filmmakers and enthusiasts.

Life and 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 1991, 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.

In 1996 he released his second feature Anantha Rathriya (Dark Night of the Soul) 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.

In 1997 his third feature, Purahanda Kaluwara (Death on a Full Moon Day), 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 year long 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. Pawuru Walalu (Walls Within) was also released that year. It 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.


In 2003 Vithanage completed Ira Madiyama (August Sun) as his fifth film. It won many international awards and was featured prominently in the world festival circuit.

In 2008, 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.

That year Vithanage's sixth feature film as director, "Akasa Kusum" (Flowers of the Sky) premiered at a festival in Busan. It was screened at more than 30 film festivals and won numerous international awards. A Tamil-dubbed version of Akasa Kusum titled Aagaya Pookkal 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.

In 2012 his 7th feature film, Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka (With You, Without You), had its world premier in the "World Greats" section at the 39th Montreal International Film Festival. Written by Prasanna, Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka 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 the film 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.


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

2015 saw his first and only documentary feature Vithanage, titled "Usaviya Nihandai" (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, Usaviya Nihandai 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. 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.


Prasanna Vithanage embarked on his dream project ‘Gaadi – Children of the Sun’. It premiered at the Busan International Film Festival, in October 2019 and had its European premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, in January 2020.

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.


Year Title Credited as Notes Ref(s)
Director Producer Writer
1991 Sisila Giniganee Yes No No Directorial Debut
1996 Anantha Rathriya Yes No Yes
1997 Pura Handa Kaluwara Yes Yes Yes
1997 Pavuru Valalu Yes No No
2003 Ira Madiyama Yes No Yes Co-written with Priyath Liyanage
2008 Machan No Yes No
2008 Akasa Kusum Yes Yes Yes
2012 Oba Nathuwa Oba Ekka Yes No Yes [1]
2015 Usaviya Nihandai Yes Yes Yes Documentary
2017 Premaya Nam No Executive No
2018 Thundenek Yes No Yes Segment: "Her"
Co-written with Asoka Handagama & Vimukthi Jayasundara
Marketed as Her. Him. The Other
2019 Gaadi Yes Yes Yes [2][3][4]
Films that have not yet been released Denotes films that have not yet been released


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)



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]


  • 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[5]
  • 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[6]

Official Selections

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

– Nominee, Best Actress Malini Fonseka

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

  • Cyclo d'Or – Best Film,[9] Vesoul International Film Festival
  • NETPAC,[9] Vesoul International Film Festival
  • SIGNIS,[10] Milano -African Asian Latin American Film Festival
  • Silver Peacock Award (Best Actress – Anjali Patil),[11] Indian International Film Festival (IFFF), India
  • Critics' Choice Award - Sakhalin International Film Festival, Russia
  • 33rd Sarasaviya Awards Colombo Sri Lanka 2017
  • Best Director
  • Best Actress
  • Best Screenplay
  • Merit Award for acting - Maheswarie Ratnam
  • Presidential Film Awards Colombo Sri Lanka 2017
  • Best Film
  • Best Director
  • Best Actor
  • Best Actress
  • Best Screenplay
  • Best Editing
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Sound Design

Silence in the Courts (Usawiya Nihandai)[edit]

  • Sakhalin International Film Festival (Russia) - World Premiere
  • Special Jury Award - Sarasaviya Awards
  • Special Jury Award - Derana Film Awards
  • Special Jury Award - Hiru Gold Awards

Gaadi - Children of the Sun[edit]

Theatre Awards[edit]

Puthra Samagama[edit]

  • Best Translation - State Drama Festival 1985
  • Best Translation - Divaina Sama Festival 1985


  • Special Jury Award - Best Translation & Direction 1987
  • Best Play (Cowinner) - Divaina Sama Festival 1987


  • Best Translation, Best Director & Best Play - State Drama Festival 1992

Literary Awards[edit]

Puthra Samagama[edit]

  • Best Translation for theatre - State Literary Festival 2011

Special Awards[edit]

  • Emerald Award - Seattle South Asian Film Festival 2014
  • Bishwaratna Dr. Bhupen Hazarika International Solidarity Award 2017


  1. ^ "පිරිමිකම යනු කාන්තාව නොතකා සිටීම ද". Sarasaviya. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  2. ^ "Prasanna bridges Sri Lanka and Bollywood with 'Gaadi'". Sunday Times. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Children of the Sun Movie Review: A Love Story That Underlines the Identity Crisis". News18. 11 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  4. ^ Srinivasan, Meera (19 October 2019). "A film questioning identity politics". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  5. ^ Ruwini Jayawardana (25 April 2010). "More honours for Malini". Sunday Observer. Archived from the original on 16 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2010.
  6. ^ Ruwini Jayawardana (27 July 2009). "Akasa Kusum (Flowers of the Sky) Set for August Release". Daily News, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  7. ^ "The Awards – Nominated Asia Pacific Screen Awards Best Performance by an Actress". Asia Pacific Screen Awards – Official Site. Archived from the original on 22 January 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2010.
  8. ^ Asian American Film and Theater Project (October 2009). "2009 Films". New Jersey Independent South Asian Cine Fest 2009. Archived from the original on 26 December 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  9. ^ a b "Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie - Festival des Cinémas d'Asie de Vesoul".
  10. ^ "23RD AFRICAN, ASIAN AND LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL". Archived from the original on 13 June 2013.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]