PRASANNAJITH ABEYSURIYA AN AUTOGRAPHED PHENOMINAL ACTOR ON STAGE, TELE DRAMA AND FILMS, GRADED LECTURER WITH PASSION FOR STREET DRAMA – by Sunil Thenabadu
Photo Source : watchlanka.com
“Prasannajith Abeysuriya having a doctorate for his research on script writing, directing, acting, choreography and costume designing for stage drama is attached to the faculty of dance and drama,department of drama,oriental ballet and contemporary dance as a senior lecturer( grade one) at the university of visual and performing arts .Prasannajith( his real name Prasanna Suranjith had been blundered by the related authorities at the registrar of births) is a native of Wellampitiya born to a middle class family, father been a reputed trader. Prasannajith has had no hereditary affiliations to art, has possessed immense innate talent for art. He is the sixth sibling in a family of nine.When the siblings were eight in number his father for the love of children had adopted the nineth child a daughter legally. He had entered the art of drama while he was in his alma mater as a student in Kotikawatta Rajasinghe Vidyalaya later all bright students were sent to Wellampitiya Vidyawardana Vidyalaya in year 1975 to the Bio stream as he had excelled to unprecedented tall elevations in the ordinary level examination. However for young Prassanajith subjects like physics and chemistry were ‘greek’ hated them, though he managed botany and zoology for which he had obtained simple passes in the university entrance hurdle. During this period he had lost interest in studies for another reason as he had lost his motivation to attend school as a girl who he wanted seriously to carry on had taken the hand of another.
Opting otherwise, first sign of his illustrious career was seen in writing and directing the drama ‘Midiwatta’ for the inter school drama competition held for Colombo district which was coordinated by the Lions club. He had won the award for the best actor in this specific contest. His early skills in the alma mater confirmed that the art of drama with innate talent was to impact on his life vastly. The power of the environment, where he had grown up and the option of having the opportunity to watch dramas in the capital Colombo and the characteristics of his teachers in his early life had affected immensely his early career. He entered the open stage as a ‘prompter’ with the drama ‘Gamane Ya’ of Sirithunga Perera in 1976 while a seventh standard school boy. He has portrayed elements in stage managing and prompting in the dramas of Sirithunge Perera in between 1976-1980 with passion and tremendous promise.
Prasannajith had ended his school life with the access to the career of drama.After winning the award for the best actor for his own drama ‘Midiwatta’ Prasannajith proved undoubtedly that he had a great ability in acting and created the opportunity for him to join the open stage with the drama ‘Parana Coat’ of Sirithunge Perera in 1980. It must be prompted that Prasannajith was born and grown up in an area where so many great drama artists were among who contributed vastly to the art of drama in Sri Lanka. He has played roles in Vesak drams in his locality. However as it’s a well known fact that a young guy who has an affection towards the art of drama could only start communicating his abilities through the street drama in the beginning but not by the stage drama Prasannajith underwent the same. Prasannajith by joining Gamini Hathtotuwagama’s open Street Drama Group in 1980 and performing as an active member with passion in the group till 2002 boosted the way for him to intricate his capabilities in acting and to realize the potential vitality an artist could have. Dedicating his young life for street drama for over two decades intended a great compassion for the whole arena of drama.The purpose of performing street drama( veedi natya) was for a purpose in allowing the poor folks in rural zones to have some entertainment free of course, these artistes portray roles free of charge. It need to be emphasized the crew travel to far away destinations in buses living like ‘gypsies’ sleeping at odd venues not knowing when they would return to their respective homes.This procedure Prasannajith had specified that after forming his own street drama team later had followed the same process. Also had lamented in a television conversation that even if he becomes a vice chancellor in the university he would continue this passion whenever time permits.
Joining with Gamini Hathtotuwagama was a boost for his future as there were late Sarath Amarawansa,his brother in law Nimal Chandrasiri among others.Sarath Amarawansa had been employed as a production controlling officer in a garment factory in the Free Trade Zone in Katunayake.At ta time when at lease pocket money was needed critically he had requested Prasannajith and Nimal Chandrasiri to call over at his factory when he had told the higher authorities that they had been sent by the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority personnel to be trained. The duo had been absorbed and got trained to unparalleled tall altitudes in not only apparel industry but in time management, human resource management areas which ultimately was a boost for his future.While in the garment factory in addition to the responsibilities entrusted in the day time the trio Prasannajith,Nimal Chandrasiri, Jayantha Gunatilleke along with the boss Sarath Amarawansa had rehearsed stage plays in the warehouse premises. The latter had participated on the sly,when seen by other employees used to scold as if he was not involved saying come to my room to further apprehend , just bluffing others to hear.During this time Prasannajith was becoming a sought after actor on stage ,when he thought he should attend full time drama classes had attended state institute of theatre arts in the ministry of cultural affairs in 1987 and children’s and youth theatre organisation of Somalatha Subasinghe.At that time he was an executive in the garment’s field drawing a lucrative emoluments. During this era Prasannajith had been advised by many intellectuals in the field for him to study a degree at an university for him to be recognised as an artiste. learning practical knowledge. He had to take a drastic decision to leave the lucrative profession to go back to advanced level class to study arts to enter a university. He had studied after a lapse of thirteen years had gained admission to the Colombo university initially, then a transfer to the university of Kelaniya to go a special degree in performing art and later Masters degree for drama, acting,script writing, directing, choreography and costume designing for his doctorate. After passing out had been employed as a visiting lecturer, then was made permanent .He had affirmed that even now he with other students he used to learn further in dance and choreography to enhance his aptitudes further. Thus, to date Prasannajoith has become a great ambassador and a mentor to the Sri Lankan drama and theatre field as well as for the upcoming passionate young artists in the modern era via which he had been honoured by many.
Prasannajith reminisces many incidents during his tenure at the university at Kelaniya particularly he was elder to many undergraduates by thirteen years, initially ragged by the juniors irrespective of his age as he had entered university in year 1988.Many had even addressed him as Aiyya previously.The seniors though much younger has had no mercy even considering his age.Some who acted with him had already passed out and were lecturers when he commenced his university career.However he had affirmed that he never regretted faced all hazards on the bounce. He had attended theatre classes long ago with Tharupathi Munaasinghe son of Austin Munasinghe who had called him Uncle then.But in the University Prasannajith had become a colleague calling ‘machang’.When the two had been associating closely many had thought what this friendship is between a young and a matured person. Somehow despite these obstacles and challenges Prasannajith had triumphed over all these constraints. It need to be emphasised after leading a luxurious comfortable life after quitting his vocation he was financially terribly handicapped. But there was some redress for him when he found a part time vocation at the police family welfare association under which had a uniform stitching garments unit.With his early expertise in this field he became a much needed employee with expertise skill.His duties were in the afternoons after lectures. He had been given official transport when a police jeep used to come driven by a police officer to university to pick him up and to drop him also at times.This was a mystery and a puzzle for other undergraduates , as to what influences this elderly student has with the police.
During his tenure at the university he had taken up roles in many stage plays.From his initial days he had known his present wife Nayana Hettiarachchi at many classes and in the some plays.Nayana had been very genuine had helped Prasannajith in many ways carrying his requisites for plays, knowing what Prasannajith required without asking for assistance even financial aid.Nayana had obliged him so many times guiding him in all his activities. Prasannajith had realised she was the ideal life partner for him , married her in year 1993.He had recollected that he passed out as a graduate in 1988 married in 1993 had his first son in year 1994.The duo are blessed with two sons Hasanjith and Rasanjith both conversant in music and acting, the elder son has a degree in bio-medical engineering from the Kotalawela Défense Academy while the younger son is a second year student at his own university, the visual and performing arts university .Prasanjith who has to date completed over four decades in the acting field has had difficulties in bringing up the sons when young as both were busy with rehearsals and shows.It was essential for one to remain at home to look after them but as they grew up they were able to leave them at home.
Prasannajith’s first drama which he scripted was ‘Dukgannarala’ in year in year 1989 for which he had won many awards.He had admitted that knowing about costume designing having conquered the garment field had helped him immensely as he received helping hands from many garments he had been acquainted even to date, the links remain continuous. Prasannajith had affirmed that he loves the stage much more than tele dramas and films as it is live as it requires to perform live in front of an audience who react instantly. He has portrayed different protagonists of varied nature.He is perhaps the stage artiste after acting in nearly one hundred stage dramas and street dramas is only second to legendary Jayalath Manoratne and Nissanka Diddeniya in the drama tally having captured many awards. He has been very fortunate to be portraying roles in plays of distinguished individuals like Dr Ediriweera Sarathchandra,Henry Jayasena, Dayananda Gunawardena, KB Herath, RR Samarakoon, Parakrama Niriella, Somalatha Subasinghe and lately Jayalath Manoratne which he recollects with dignity and sheer pride. At the time when Jayalath Manoratne was sick he had requested Prasannajith to portray his role in his play “Thanamale Pipila” a rather difficult role he had performed once, now he will continue to portray .Also Prasannajith had portrayed roles in Jayalath Manoratne’s stage plays “Andarela”,”Guru Tharuwa”,”Sanda Gini” which Prasannajith claims is a huge recognition to him.It should be emphasised and reminded that Prasannajith had portrayed many widespread roles in many stage dramas like “Kelani Palama”,”Maname”, “Kuveni”,”Dordanda”,
Conducting a workshop and Performed Street drama with PAHURA STREET DRAMA GROUP International Theatre Festival in Lahore (Rafi Fear Theater Festival) Pakistan, 2006 Reminisces participating in the hundredth birthday celebrations of Professor Ediriweera Sarathchadra in Unesco, Paris,France in year 2014 with Maname and Sinhabahu.Also participated as the Sri Lankan representative for ASITEJJ annual meeting and international children theatre festival in Okinawa Japan earlier in year 2012. He had conducted a workshop and performed in international theatre festival of New Dhilli in year 2017.Also similarly at international theatre festival of Kerala in year 2018. Prasannajith had portrayed many recollecting roles in Tele Dramas.
The latest role portrayed as “Master” in “Nadagankarayo” remains at high ebb, above the rest.He had been asked by the producer Jayaprakash Sivagurunathan whether he could play the ‘harmonium”. For which he had said not fluently but could to some extent when teaching students.This role has been to some extent instrumental in making this tele drama so popular viewed by many. The roles portrayed by Sajitha Anthony and Kokila Pawan who had been his students, known even before.. In one frame he had to slap Sajitha hard but as Prasannajith did not feel to slap hard, the director Saddha Mangala Suriyabandara had insisted, you have to slap hard .Though hesitatingly had slapped hard which Sajitha had lamented ‘really hurt him”. In his acting tenure Prasannajith had admired and praised the attitudes of directors Ananda Abeynaike and Nalan Mendis who unlike many others do not come to watch stage plays.The duo Ananda and Nalan are able to identify hidden talents and offer them roles to portray which should be the correct policy of others too.
Unlike many other artistes Prasannajith Abeysuriya had penned many publications like his own drama script of Dukgannarala in 1993, drama script of Dordanda in 1996,Sri Lankawe Weedi Natya Kalawa in year 2016,Somalatha Subasinghe Rangakala Karya Sadhanaya 2019 anf Kelani Palama,Hathlis Wasaraka Ranghbhishekaya 2019..When Prasannajitha was questioned how do he manages to do so many stuffs effectively , the answer was he had learnt management of time when he was an executive in the garment trade.
Prasannajith over the years had won many awards in recognition of his services to art. Best Script Writer 2nd place – State Drama festival and Youth Drama festival in 1989 For the play Dukgannarala. State Drama festival and Youth Drama festival in 1995 for the play Dordanda.Nominated as Best play of the year – State Drama festival and Youth Drama festival In 1989 For the play Dukgannarala.Best Director cum Best play of the year – Youth Drama festival in 1995 for the play Dordanda.
Nominated as Best play of the year – State Drama festival in 1995 for the play Dordanda.Best Actor in Inter School Drama Competition 1976 Merit Awards for Youth Drama festivals in 1989 /1994/1995
Nominated as Best Actor ( Short play) State Drama festival in 1998 .Nominated as Best Actor ( length play) State Drama festival in 2006.Nominated as Best supporting Actor State Drama festivals in 2000/2007/2018Best supporting Actor Sumathi Tele award in 2009 for Samanalunta Wedi Thiyanna. Raigam Tele Award in 2009 for Handawa For costume designing Youth Drama Awards 1994 – Sakwadawala 1995 – Dordanda,1997 – Arundahiee1989 – Dukgannarala State Drama Awards 1995 – Dordanda. best Script Writer 2nd place – State Drama festival &Youth Drama festival in 1989 For the play of Dukgannarala. State Drama festival & Youth Drama festival in 1995 for the play of Dordanda.Nominated as Best play of the year – State Drama festival &Youth Drama festival In 1989 For the play of Dukgannarala.
Best Director & Best play of the year – Youth Drama festival in 1995 for the play of Dordanda.Nominated as best play of the year – State Drama festival in 1995 for the play of Dordanda.best Actor in Inter School Drama Competition 1976 Best supporting Actor Sumathi Tele award in 2009 for Samanalunta Wedi Thiyanna. Raigam Tele Award in 2009 for Handawa. Won for choreography youth drama awards 1995 Dordanda,1997 Arunadahiee..Bunka Award from the Japanese Embassy 2009.
Prasannajith with so much singing abilities on stage who has to sing loud for fans to hear at the far end of the stages not used to microphones at all.He as invited to sing in TV Derana “Ma Novena Ma” on 26th November 2021 live seven songs of his choice which he did appreciably delightfully though said was a bit nervous when invited, as he was not used to sing with a band under so dissimilar environment. This could be termed another feather in his cap.
One of the utmost universal abilities of fruitful professional waged actors is that they play well with others and they’re able to make genuine acquaintances with everyone on set. They’re truly good people, passionate, purpose-driven, and dedicated sans ego. They always handle themselves with grace and dignity , they dare to bring their personalities to every protagonist delegated. One such inimitable actor who had conquered the stage, mini and silver screen with consummate extravagance for over four decades is celebrated actor Prasannajith Abeysuriya.All his fans would wish him good health and longevity to continue in the same vein to contribute to our arts as in the past
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