Educated at Dharmaraja College, Kandy, Pathiraja graduated from the University of Peradeniya with an honours degree in Sinhala and Western Classical Culture in 1967.
Subsequently he began work as a lecturer in Drama and Performance Arts and later obtained a PhD in Bengali cinema from Monash University.
His Thesis is The Dialectic of Region and Nation in the Films of Bengali Independents: Ghatak, Ray and Sen(2001).
He learnt the language of cinema from the film society movement which was very popular in Sri Lanka in early sixties. He also recognized their socio-political limitations in a country which was heading for a period of deep turmoil.
He also studied the cinema of radical activists like Jean-Luc Godard, Third Cinema filmmakers like Fernando Solanas and Glauber Rocha, and Asians like Mrinal Sen, Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. (Colombo Gazette)