By: Sunil Thenabadu (Brisbane)
Scholarly senior Professor Sunil Ariyaratne, was a visual sensation of the Department of Sinhala and Mass communication, having rendered a gigantic artistic nourishment to the University of Sri Jayewardenepura during his long tenure. He continues to be, a researcher, poet, lyricist and a film director. He became a favourite because he shared his amazing aptitude not only with his students but with others with his astonishing expertise.
Professor, the acclaimed artistic personality continues being a scholar, researcher, poet, lyricist, film director/producer was born on 28th of July 1949 has had schooling at St.John’s, Nugegoda. Having excelled in publishing an assortment of diminutive stories called Ähinsakayo” in 1961 at the tender age of 12 years foretold the emergence of an aesthetically illustrious celebrity. There were subsequent inscriptions of Professor namely, “Api Okkoma” a poetry assortment in 1963, “Alakeshwara” a historical novel in 1964, and “Siyothunta Rekawal” a poetic narrative in 1965.
His curiosity for drama emerged from childhood. He scripted “Amal Biso”, when only 11 years old. With his neighbours and peers had embarked in producing plays as well. He scripted for Kumaratunga Munidasa’s “Magul Kema” also the play “Deyyo” to a script of his brother. He was inspired by his elder brother Tilakaratne Kuruwita Bandara,. Young Sunil, dreadfully passionate to Sinhala Literature and Art, published his first collection of short stories, ‘Ahinsakayo’.. He was only 15 years, when he won acclamation as a lyricist for his popular song, ‘Sakura Mal Pipila’.
He with a vision of higher education entered University of Sri Jayewardenapura .. The tenure motivated to prolong his artistic vocation. He specialized in Sinhala with a First Class Honours in 1971 where he made his first short film, ‘Sara Gee’ in 1970. The 10-minute 35mm film had taught him film making. As an undergraduate wrote a novel “Jeewithaya Geethayak Wewa” in 1969.In 1971, along with Buddhadasa Galappaththi and Jayalath Manoratne, he published a poetry book, “Dolosmahe Pahana” Then, in 1978, made his first feature film ‘Anupama’, later directed 10 other films, the first was “Sarungale in 1979.
Sunil was lecturer at the department of Aesthetics studies at the University of Kelaniya initially from 1975-1976.In year 1985 was allotted to academic staff at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. From this point he was well on his path to destiny. In 1990 elevated to the pinnacle as Senior Professor in year 2000 thus becoming the youngest Professor in the University configuration. He was a senior Professor of Sinhala Language and Mass Media in the Communication Faculty at Sri Jayewardenapura University, received his first ‘Doctor of Literature’ Degree in 2011, from the University of Visual and Performing Arts. Although Doctorates are customarily awarded to retired university lecturers, for outstanding contributions, Professor was the first to receive it while still teaching.
Professor was known in University spheres as a lecturer, the rest got to know him as a versatile lyricist. He had confided that though Sri Lanka is rich in Literature only fewer researches had been made. Some of his research topics were so unique and timely which made him win several awards. He extensively researched and wrote a book on Baila and Kapirigngna for which he won a State Literary award. For his publication on “Grammar phone Era” also won another State Literary award.
In 1989 he travelled to Madras to study Tamil. Via his proficiency in the Tamil language in 1991 he wrote a thesis named “Demala Sahithya Ithihasaya”. In 1994 translated Tamil folk tales with appropriate illustrations, translated the Tamil Ramayanaya too. He successfully accomplished the Tamil Sinhala alphabet, writing of Tamil letters, Tamil Buddhism for which he won several awards. He has also written a book titled “Gandharwa padhana” on 10 acclaimed musicians paying homage to them.
His work is acclaimed vastly in international media too.; The University of Visual and Performing Arts of Sri Jayewardenapura conferred him his second ‘Doctor of Literature’ honorary Degree in year 2015, an infrequent achievement.
Among the recent films directed by him were Uppalawanna, Sacred Cow, Kusa Pabha,Paththini Siri bo Iya” “Baba ketu hati” “Kele mal”, ‘Kristhu Charithaya”,and Ali Kathawa .He had produced and directed Sudu Sevanali., The scripts of Ali Kathawa and Paththini were his. Professor revisited to filmmaking directing his 22nd film ‘Bimbhadevi’ alias ‘Yashodhara’, the narrative of the beloved wife of Siddhartha.
He had written lyrics for many popular singers, most of which became trendy, full of tinge, wordplay, innovation and gorgeousness. For his lyrics he had won six Sarasaviya awards, four Presidential awards from the year 1981, for Tele dramas has won three awards., several honorary , Wishwa Prasadini, Vidyodaya Vibhushana , Sahithya Kala Shiromani Honorary, the Kamban awards.
It would be the fervent hope of all art loving people to wish Professor good health, longevity and courage to continue his superlative endeavours to the utmost to delight the artistic Sri Lankans with more creations.