Titus Thotawatta- The Viceroy of Sinhala Cinema
Titus is a greatest cinematic giant produced by the mother Sri Lanka. The vacuum left behind by his sadden demise is irreplaceable. The entire nation owes a debt of gratitude to this remarkable veteran artist who sacrificed his lifetime in building the unshakable image around the globe.
Titus is a rare artist who had enjoyed with full of talent. He involved all aspects of film industry and also in television field of Sri Lanka. He was an all rounder in artistic world. He played in inestimatable role in film industry as an editor, sound engineer, director, producers, lab activities, art direction and even acting. In addition to the film industry he involved in television as producer, director, producing motion picture dubbing etc. The most accept factor is that he was the best editor ever produced in Sri Lanka.
Titus born on 17th April in 1929 in busiest urban area in Colombo in five member family. His father was a businessman. His ordinal name is Thotawattege Manual Titus de Silva . He studied in Annada College and later he entered Colombo Technical College for drawing arts and other artistic work.
In early 1950’s he joined Government film Unit as an amateur or apprentice and later became permanent employee. In the Government Film Unit he learned and gain experience in all techniques of making films but his main field was editing films. All the films made in Government Film Units were documentary film. He edited the documentary films such as Conquest in the Dry Zone and Be safe or Be sorry which were directed by Lester James Periis.
Lester James Peris , the father of Sinahala Cinema joined Government Film Unit in early 50’s and Ville Balke later became one of the best cameramen also worked in Government Film Unit ( GFU) during same period. Lester, Villy and Tuits became close friends and three of them were in talent in the field. This friendship made historical revolution film industry of Sri Lanka. In 1955, these three leading characters left the Government Film Unit and started to create their own film. It was the film Rekawa , which turned to Sihnala cinema turning to real ceylonization of our film industry. He is the first Sri Lankan Editor who challenged the editors of South Indians and editor of first colour film. .
Titus is the best editor ever created in Sri Lanka. Most well recognized films nationally and internationally shined with his editing. After Rekawa , he edited Sandesya , which also film directed by Lester and photography was from Villie. After that nearly 25 films were edited him and few films among them were Parasathumal, Ran Muth Duwa, Sarawita, Punchi Baba, Gatawarayo, Devarayo, Hantane Kathawa. In addition he edited short films and few documentary films. The International award winning Minisa Saha Kaputa was one the short films that he was involved with editing.
Titus directed nearly 6 feature films. Most of the films became box office films. His stories based on the true and natural stories which show real pictures of the society. The characters of the films are true characters people meet day to day.
His first film Chandia shows the real informal urban segment. Haralakshe Mankollaya and Maruwasamagawase are the true stories of Sri Lanka; He took those stories close to the reality. His films Sagarika and Suihasuna were not hit films but try to emphasize the new trend. His Hanaday film made a revolution in Sinhala cinema boosting to make Children Film. The other special experiment he did was make three short stories called Thewatah (three stories or three faces) , experimenting the feature films. Three stories of the film based on stories different to each other, the three short films in Thewatah feature film were Picturer Pissa, Gilihunu Mal and AhalaPahal. Gilihunu Mal short film was highly apprecialed by the professionals and General Public and won OCIC Award as best short film. However these three films considered as short stories.
Even through the songs of his film Puran Appu a story based on a national hero recorded was not able to complete it. He supported to comply few films with were failed complete showing decency to the other in the industry.
Unprecedented changes emerged into effect in the social life of Sri Lanka in 1979 with the fantastic introduction of the Television, a sophisticated invention of the new world. The tendency to produce programs for influence of the people was realized as a national need with the arrival of the new television screen, a spectacle invaded into our living rooms. In 1982 this artist Titus joined Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation with the main objective of improving the production of television programs of high value at a premium. Ran Kahawanu and award winning Kumaraya and Hansaya (Prince and Swan) added with documentary films are a few examples of his ingenious resources. The remarkable contribution made by him with dubbing and subtitles to films is a semblance of revolutionized expertise of upsurge on television programs.
He also produced number of documentaries such as serious of programme on economic subjects Ganu Denu (nearly 50 episodes) proving that he has abilities to touch other subjects too.
His attempt of innovative creations has inspired the new generation to showcase their skills in partaking on various programs. 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 is bearing fruit through thick and thin. The characters in the likes of Pandithuma, Bagalawathi Teacher and Dr Honda Hitha are closely attached to the day to day social life of the environment.
He behooves public tribute as the only Sri Lankan artist who earned irrefutable reputation with high priority to making Children films like Handaya the well known children film that revolutionized the industry. The theme of the film Handaya was to focus the genuine mindset of the 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. Adorable creation of new characters in television dramas produced by him still shines at the finger tips of the children. He became a knight in shining armor on inventiveness of cartoon characters for the influence of children and translated his remarkable know how into reality on dubbing television movies, a masterly performance of artistry.Dr Honda Hitah, Pissu Pusa are few examples.
His masterly contribution to the film industry made in editing, script writing and direction was assiduously rewarded with prestigious Sarasaviya, OCIC, and Bunka awards by 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. 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 film Handaya. Indisputably he was honored with high esteemed accolades of Kalasuri Award in 1990, Sarasaviya Rana Thisara Award in 1995, Sumathipala Memorial Award in 1996, Swarnasinghe Award in 1997 and Bunka Award by the Japanese Government on account of his inestimable partnership to cinema industry.
Titus, enthused by his brilliancy of innate talents in a variety of artistic skills, extended 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 the leading musicians of virtuosity Ananda Samarakoon and Sunil Shantha during the time of his salad days. He practiced training in dancing under the famous traditional dancer Sesha Palihakkara. He became one of the great talented artists in drawings by 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 ordinary and elevated his efforts to extraordinary over all challenges in a bid to produce a local Sinhala movie. The image of Titus Thotawatta 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.
T.K.Premadasa is Ex- Head of Corporate Affairs and Communication of Sri Lanka Export Development Board.
- Asian Tribune -