And the young director, at the last minute, when he found that the actor who was to do the main role in his stage play was missing, he, undaunted, decided to don that role too. His talent and enterprise paid rich dividend-- the play won three awards at the competition which was held at the Gampaha Siyane school premises. The awards were for the Best Production, Best Director and Best Actor.
The director who unexpectedly turned into an actor is Hemantha Prasad. Later, he also brought fame to Sri Lanka in the field of the international stage drama.
Hemantha received his primary education at the Karunarathna Maha Vidyalaya, Maththumagala followed by his studies at the Gurukula Maha Vidyalaya in Kelaniya. He finished his school education after sitting for the G.C.E. Advanced Level examination in science stream and came to one of his relatives place at Mahabage (near Colombo), where his talent in the field of arts struck him.
“I had a good neighborhood there. I have friends amongst Sinhala, Tamil and Muslims. Though I was a Buddhist, others were Christians, Hindus and Muslims. We were doing several charity works performing dramas. An open theatre drama for Wesak, Christmas and other special occasions was a must from us. I was the director all the times and plenty of actors”, Hemantha went through his memory lane.
Hemantha says his stage play “Hansa Wila Kelambe” was awarded with three awards at an island wide competition, was performed by his team in Mahabage. “I think I directed over 15 dramas with my team those days as a hobby. The recognition at the competition helped to identify me. It was my beginning.”
In 2000, Hemantha directed ‘Sayonara” stage play based on a Japanese short story and the drama was well received, bagging six awards including Best Director and Best Production at the national Youth Drama Festival. He was awarded as the Best Actor at the National Youth Drama Festival in the same year for his performance in the stage play “Anthima Palaweni Koochchiya” directed by Saman Jayaweera.
His next stage drama “Rashomon” directed by him was based on a Japanese novel again in 2002, and it was nominated for the Best Drama and Best Director categories at the State Drama Festival. Anyway, Hemantha’s play was awarded with two awards for best set and best lighting.
In 2004, Hemantha directed “Malsara Bisaw” and the subject was adapted from an international play by French dramatist Mark Camalot’s “Don’t Dress for Dinner”. His “Malsara Bisaw” was again awarded with the Best Supporting Actress and Best Stage Management awards at the State Drama Festival.
He also performed in Dr. Ashoka de Soyza’s “Voizek” which was done from a German play. Bandula Withange’s “Veneesiye Welenda”, Sunil Chandrasiri’s “Bheema Bhoomi”, Susil Gunarathne’s “Denuwara Dennek” and “Sehasi Danawwa” are few other dramas in which he played the main roles.
In 2005, Hemantha got a chance to co-direct an international play with dramatist Toby Gough. They did the play “Children of the Sea” which based on Shakespeare’s “Pericles of Tyre”. Hemantha while co-directing the drama also acted a role in the play with a New Zealand actor Rawiri Paratene. The play’s choreography was done by Hollywood’s award winning Terrance Lewis.
Their play was selected for the world’s one of the best theatre festivals-- Scotland’s Edinburgh Theatre Festival. Over 100 countries and around 650 dramas were in the competition and “Children of the Sea” which was co-directed and acted by Hemantha won two best awards of the theatre festival in 2005. The awards were the “Fringe First Award” which is awarded for the festival’s best drama and the award by the critics-- “Spirit of Fringe Award”.
Hemantha also received award for another international play in 2006, “Finding Marina” by the same crew, and he did the main role in the play.
“Elsi” is his short film and it won three awards at a competition by National Film Corporation. The Awards which ‘Elsi’ bagged were Best Acting, Best Editing and Best Film Third Place.
He has set his foot in the silver screen with his first script “Wehi Dawsa” (Rainy Day) which is directed by well-known writer Bhadraji Mahinda Jayathilleke. Other than that he is also doing the main role there. Hemantha said all shootings have been finished and it will be released in a few months. He also disclosed that he has two other scripts and waiting for a prospective producer.
Hemantha is also into tele-dramas as a script writer and “Divya” is one of his mega tele dramas which ran for 73 episodes. He said that two more tele-dramas “Sanda Kindura” and “Diyamatha Liyum” are in the waiting list and will be telecast soon.
He is also a famous actor on the small screen and he has contributed over 30 tele-dramas recently. “Sudu Araliya” by Vasitha Samaranayake and “Paan Batta” by Sujith Paranawithana are the currently screening tele-dramas. Hemantha has also joined in a number of commercials.
At the same time, he also runs a training centre for apprentices to learn theatre acting and script writing, etc. The institute named as “P2 Body & Mind” is situated at Rajagiriya and he is assisted by several other well-known personalities in the field.