Titus Thotawatte

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Titus Thotawatte
Born Emmanuel Titus de Silva
17 April 1929
Borella, Sri Lanka
Died 15 October 2011(2011-10-15) (aged 82)
Alma mater Ananda College, Colombo
Occupation film director, screenwriter and editor

Titus Thotawatte (Sinhala:ටයිටස් තොටවත්ත) (born Thotawatte Don Manuel Titus de Silva on 17 April 1929 in Borella, died on 15 October 2011 ) was a Sri Lankan director and editor. He made several popular and technically skilled Sri Lankan action movies in the 1960s and 1970s and later developed Sinhala children's programmes. Thotawatte died on 15 October 2011 in Colombo.[1]

Early life[edit]

Thotawatte was born as the fourth Child in a family of five children, having 3 elder brothers and one younger sister. He attended Ananda College in Colombo and studied art under J.D.A. Perera and Stanley Abeysinghe. Subsequently he went to Matara Technical College.


Thottawatte joined Lester James Peries and Willie Blake[2] in making Rekava in 1956 as editor.[3] It was an attempt to make a truly Sinhala movie to contrast with the Southern Indian copies in vogue.

Thottawatte struck out as a director with Chandiya in 1965 The film starred Gamini Fonseka in the first villain role of Sinhala Cinema.[4] Other early films include Kauda Hari (1969), Thewatha (1970) and Haralaksaya (1971).[5]

In 1980, Thotawatte wrote and directed the popular children's movie Handaya[5] which was awarded the Best Picture at the Sarasaviya Film Festival.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he dubbed English cartoons like Bugs Bunny and Doctor Dolittle into Sinhala for Sinhala audiences. These continue to air on Sinhala Television channels. Thotawatte also created puppet characters like Eluson.

When The National Media Awards took place for the first time in Sri Lankan History, three Gold awards were made to veteran journalist D. F. Kariyakarawana for his contribution to newspaper journalism, Vijaya Corea in honour of his contribution towards the upliftment of Broadcasting media over a long period of time and Titus Thotawatte, the veteran film maker for his contribution to the TV media in Sri Lanka.

Titus Thotawatte – The Viceroy of Sinhala Cinema

by T.K.Premadasa (The writer is Ex- Head of Corporate Affairs and Communication of Sri Lanka Export Development Board)( This article appeared in Ceylon Daily News on 19 October 2011 and Asian Tribune on 19 October 2011– This is noted to respect Titus by writer)

Titus is one of the greatest cinematic giants produced by Sri Lanka. The vacuum left by his sudden demise, is irreparable. The entire nation owes a debt of gratitude to this remarkable veteran artiste, who sacrificed his lifetime in building an unshakable image around the globe.

Titus Thotawatte Titus is a rare artiste, who was full of talent. He was involved in all aspects of the film industry and also in the television field of Sri Lanka. He was an all-rounder in the artistic world. He played an inestimable role in the film industry as an editor, sound engineer, director, producer, lab technician, art director and even did a little acting. In addition to the film industry, he was involved in television as a producer, director and in dubbing etc. The most recognised fact is that he was the best editor ever produced in Sri Lanka.

Titus Thotawatte was born on 17 April 1927 in Colombo. There were five members in his family. His father was a businessman. His original name is Thotawattege Manual Titus de Silva. He studied in Ananda College and later entered the Colombo Technical College to pursue arts and other creative work.

Film industry In the early 1950s he joined the Government Film Unit as an apprentice and later became a permanent employee. In the Government Film Unit, he learnt and gained experience in the finer techniques of making films but his forte was editing films. All the films made at the Government Film Unit were documentaries. He edited documentary films, such as, Conquest in the Dry Zone and Be safe or Be sorry which were directed by Dr Lester James Peries.

Dr Lester James Peries, the father of Sinahala Cinema joined the Government Film Unit in the early '50s and Willie Balke, who later became one of the best cameramen also worked there during same period. Lester, Willie and Titus became close friends. This friendship created history and revolutionised Sri Lanka's film industry. In 1955, these three leading characters left the Government Film Unit and started to make their own film. The film was Rekawa, which ceylonised our film industry. He is the first Sri Lankan editor to challenge the work of his South Indian counterparts and he also has the distinction of editing our first colour film.

True characters Titus is the best editor ever produced in Sri Lanka. Most of the films which he edited shone nationally and internationally. After Rekawa, he edited Sandesya, a film which was also directed by Lester with the photography by Willie. After that, nearly 25 films were edited by Titus himself and some of them were Parasathumal, Ran Muthu Duwa, Sarawita, Punchi Baba, Gatawarayo, Devarayo, Hantane Kathawa. In addition, he edited many short films and a few documentary films. The international award winning Minisa Saha Kaputa was one of the short films that he was involved in editing.

Titus directed nearly six feature films. Most of the films became box office hits. His stories based on true and natural incidents which show the real side of society. The characters of the films are true characters, people who we meet in our day-to-day lives. His first film Chandiya shows the real informal urban segment. Haralakshe Mankollaya and Maruwa Smaga wase are based on incidents which happened in Sri Lanka. He created those stories and made them very close to reality. His films Sagarika and Suihasuna were not hit films, but try to emphasise the new trend. His film Hanadaya created a revolution in the Sinhala cinema and gave a boost to the making of children's films.

The other special experiment he did was to make three short stories called Thewatah (three stories or three faces), experimenting with feature films. The stories of the films were based on different themes. The three short films in Thewatah feature film were Picturer Pissa, Gilihunu Mal and Ahala Pahala. The short film Gilihunu Mal was highly appreciated by the professionals and the public and won the OCIC Award for the best short film. However, these three films are considered as short stories.

Great artiste Even though the songs of his film Puran Appu, a story based on a national hero were recorded, they were not completed. Unprecedented changes emerged which had an effect on the social life of Sri Lanka in 1979. This was the introduction of television, a sophisticated invention of the new world. The tendency to produce programmes to influence the people was realised as a national need with the arrival of the television screen, a spectacle that invaded our living rooms.

In 1982, this great artiste Titus Thotawatte joined the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation with the main objective of improving the production of television programmes of high value at a premium. Ran Kahawanu and the award winning Kumaraya and Hansaya (Prince and Swan) added with documentary films are a few examples of his ingenious creations. The remarkable contribution made by him with dubbing and providing subtitles to films is a semblance of revolutionised expertise on television programmes. He also produced number of documentaries and even a serious of programme focusing on economic subjects, such as, Ganu Denu (nearly 50 episodes) proving that he had the ability to touch on other subjects too.

Innovative creations His attempt of innovative creations has inspired a new generation and helped them showcase their skills in partaking on various programmes. As a matter of fact both young and old recall the inexplicable memories of his great works like Malgudi Dawasa, Athuru Mithuru, Rasara, Ahala Pahala, Robin Hood, Oshin and Ha Ha Hari Hawa episodes in mint condition. His effort to influence children in particular has borne fruit.

Characters by the likes of Pandithuma, Bagalawathi Teacher and Dr Honda Hitha are closely attached to the day-to-day social life of the current environment.

He behoves public tribute as the only Sri Lankan artiste who earned an irrefutable reputation for giving priority to making children's films like the well known Handaya, a film that revolutionised the industry. The theme of the film Handaya was to focus the genuine mindset of children. In recognition of his distinctive skills, he was presented with the prestigious global award for the best film at the International Children and Youth Film Festival in Italy, in addition to many other national accolades won by him. The adorable creation of new characters in television dramas produced by him still shine and are at the fingertips of children. He became a knight in shining armour on inventiveness of cartoon characters and the influence these characters had on children and translated his remarkable know how into reality by dubbing television movies, a masterly performance of artistry. Dr Honda Hitha and Pissu Poosa are a few examples.

His masterly contribution to the film industry made in editing, script writing and direction was assiduously rewarded with the prestigious Sarasaviya, OCIC and Bunka awards by the unreserved recognition of the local and international cinema, as a tribute in appreciation of his stellar performance. Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.

'Invaluable contribution The greatest Grand Pix Award was presented to him at the International Film Festival for Children and Youth – Giffoni Valle Piana Italy for his children's film Handaya. Indisputably, he was honoured with very esteemed accolades of the Kalasuri Award in 1990, Sarasaviya Rana Thisara Award in 1995, Sumathipala Memorial Award in 1996, Swarnasinghe Award in 1997 and Bunka Award presented by the Japanese government on account of his inestimable partnership with cinema industry. Titus, enthused by his brilliant and innate talents in a variety of artistic skills, made an invaluable contribution to raise the cinema screen to the pinnacle of its glory. He excelled in arts and music with his innovative prowess, under leading musicians of virtuosity Ananda Samarakoon and Sunil Shantha during the time of his salad days. He trained in dancing under the famous traditional dancer Sesha Palihakkara. He became a talented artiste through practical training obtained at the Colombo Technical College.

The people of Sri Lanka have always valued his dedicated contribution to Sri Lankan cinema, television and entire Fine Arts sector. Evidently, this great artiste started from scratch and used his extraordinary talents to overcome all challenges to produce a local Sinhala movie. The image of Titus Thotawatte developed in the Sri Lankan cinema can never be replaced and will shine at the pinnacle of everlasting glory on the cinematic screen in Sri Lanka.



  1. ^ "Sri Lanka News-Adaderana-Truth First – VIDEO: Titus Thotawatte passes away". Adaderana.lk. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Online edition of Daily News – Features". Dailynews.lk. 21 June 2004. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  3. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0861842/
  4. ^ "|| Impact". Sundayobserver.lk. 22 October 2006. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Sinhala Cinema Database". Films.lk. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 

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