Sri Lanka: Sunil Ariyaratne — A Literary Legend

by Sunil Thenabadu

( July 12, 2017, Queensland – Brisbane, Sri Lanka Guardian) Scholarly senior Professor Sunil Ariyaratne, was a visual sensation of the Department of Sinhala and Mass communication, had rendered and fulfilled gigantic inestimable artistic nourishment to the University of Sri Jayewardenepura during his long tenure.

Senior Professor Sunil Ariyaratne lived his life and continues being, a researcher, poet, lyricist and a film director. He became a favourite of all of us because he shared his amazing aptitude not only with his students but with the rest of the world with his astonishing skill.

Professor, the acclaimed artistic personality having existed his life 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 a aesthetically illustrious celebrity. There were also a number of 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 contributed to a play named “Amal Biso”, by his script when he was 11 years old. With his neighbours and peers had embarked in producing plays as well. He had written a script for Kumaratunga Munidasa’s “Magul Kema” while still being a student. Then he produced also as a student the play “Deyyo” to the script written by his brother. He had confessed that his school led me to various literary works. He was inspired by his elder brother Tilakaratne Kuruwita Bandara, who composed many poems and songs that were published in newspapers and also by his teachers.. Young Sunil, who was dreadfully passionate to Sinhala Literature and Art, published his first collection of short stories, ‘Ahinsakayo’, at age 11. He was only 15 years, when he won acclamation as a lyricist for his popular song, ‘Sakura Mal Pipila’.

He while in school he had realized the vision of higher education. He entered University of Sri Jayewardenapura then called “Vidyodaya” then. The University tenure encouraged and motivated the determined Sunil Ariyaratne, to prolong his artistic vocation.

He specialised in Sinhala and received a First Class Honours.While in campus had made his first short film, ‘Sara Gee’ (Sensuality) in 1970. The 10-minute 35mm film had taught him film making. Then, in 1978, made his first full length feature film ‘Anupama’, and before its release four years later, directed 10 other films, the first was “Sarungale “ in year 1979.

He while in school had realized the vision of higher education. He entered University of Sri Jayewardenapura then called “Vidyodaya”, He had excelled acquiring a first class Sinhala in year 1971.While he still an undergraduate in the University, Sunil wrote a novel “Jeewithaya Geethayak Wewa” in 1969.In 1971, along with Buddhadasa Galappaththi and Jayalath Manoratne, he published a poetry book, “Dolosmahe Pahana”.

Sunil Ariyaratne started his University profession as a temporary lecturer at University of Kelaniya in 1972, subsequently in the University of Jaffna after serving as a apprentice lecturer then as a 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 his destiny. In 1990 was appointed Assistant Professor before reaching 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 Ariyaratne 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. “Pahan kanda” , “Yathra” , “Pembara amazing creations of his since year 1983.Not only had his lyrics, even his researches clutched us to a novel world of opinion. 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 a number of national awards for them. 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 the following year in 1986. Kerol pasam kantharu , Mahinda prabanda , Manawasinghe geetha prabanda , Purana sinhala nadagam Copy editing, Gandarwa apadana , Sinhala Chithrapati geethawali are also some of professor’s triumphant researches completed since year 1985. Professor was known in University spheres as a lecturer, the rest got to know him as a lyricist. “Pahan kanda” , “Yathra” , “Pembara lanka”, Madhu badun, Adaheraya , Shwetha rathriya are some wonderful creations of hisS since year 1983.

In 1989 he travelled to Madras and studied Tamil.Via his Sproficiency in the Tamil language in 1991 he wrote a thesis named “Demala Sahithya Ithihasaya”. In 1994 translated Tamil folk tales with appropriate illustrations and translated the Tamil Ramayanaya too.Then the genius Professor successfully accomplished the Tamil Sinhala alphabet, writing of Tamil letters, Tamil Buddhism for which he won a number of national awards. He had understood while in Tamil Nadu and Jaffna where Monks who follow Tamil Buddhism preach and recite stanzas in Tamil about which he had confided that he is urged to write another book.He has also written a book on 10 acclaimed musicians in our country to pay homage to them.The book was titled ‘Gandharwa Apadhana’ featuring maestro musicians in the likes of R. Muththusamy, M.K. Rocksamy Mohammed Ghouse and Mohammed Sally.

While a university professor, he was also a renowned poet, lyricist, film director and researcher. His work is acclaimed vastly in national and international media; The University of Visual and Performing Arts of Sri Jayewardenapura conferred Professor Sunil Ariyaratne with his second ‘Doctor of Literature’ honorary Degree in year 2015, an infrequent exploit for any scholar.

Among the many Sinhala movies directed by him the more recent ones are Uppalawanna, Sacred Cow, Kusa Pabha,Paththini and Ali Kathawa.He had produced and directed Sudu Sevanali. The music score in “sacred Cow was by him while in “The City” was jointly by him and Rohana Weerasinghe.The scripts of the films Ali Kathawa and Paththini were by the Professor himself.

The directing of films that began from “Anupama” in 1978 continued entertaining people with “Siri bo Iya” “Baba ketu hati” “Kele mal”, ‘Kristhu Charithaya”, he had confessed that he would never retreat from films because it is embedded in his genes.

Professor Ariyaratne has revisited to filmmaking directing his 22nd film ‘Bimbhadevi’ alias ‘Yashodhara’, the narrative of the beloved wife of Siddhartha. The titles roles of Siddhartha and Yashodhara (Lady of the Lotus) are portrayed by two Indian stars directed by Professor Ariyaratne .The film had been shot within a massive set at Ranminitenna cinema village down south in Hambantota for 45 days of strenuous schedule. It is learnt that the two Indian stars selected had been enormously precise. This film like Professors previous films is going to be a box office.Speaking about his selection of Indian stars to play the roles Siddharatha and Yashodhara( Lady of the Lotus), Prof. Ariyaratne said that he wanted an actor and actress from India to portray the roles as Lord Buddha attained enlightenment in India.

Another area where Professor had triumphed had been his lyrics for songs where all Sri Lankan popular singers had done justice by singing gorgeously. His song “Sakura Mal Pipila” was written at the tender age of15.When he wrote a song for Pandit Amaradeva “Bambara Petikke” for the music of Victor Ratnayake, earlier on, the Master had inquired ‘who is this hadaya” who wrote the lyrics. Anyhow Professor continued to donate lyrics in the same vein had written hundreds of songs most of which became trendy. A few of them that strikes any one are Me guru pare,Podiduwage sina welai,Oba themei kiya bayyai,Api ethata ethata pa nagala,Viyo ge gayana,Yalu bala sande,Ane kurulu kooduwata gahanna ape etc. The critics say the lyrics of the song Buddhanu Bhawena is a song like a Buddhist stanza which is one of rare Buddhist songs to bless the noble triple gem to bring prosperity to our country. The lyrics of Professor are full of tinge, wordplay, innovation, allusions, and gorgeousness. For his lyrics he had won six Sarasaviya awards, four Presidential awards from the year 1981 while for the lyrics in Tele dramas Professor has won three awards.

Senior professor Sunil Ariyaratne had also won a number of honorary awards which proves him to be the finest among the best. Wishwa Prasadini Award, Vidyodaya Vibhushana Honorary name, Sahithya Kala Shiromani Honorary award,and the Kamban Award, are some such awards that he had won.

In the context of the foregoing for milestones of achievements, 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 in the motherland and abroad with more creations.

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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