Girish Karnad is no more, literary world mourns the end of an era in Indian theatre and cinema

author_img Jai S Published :  10th June 2019 10:20 AM   |   Published :   |  10th June 2019 10:20 AM
Girish Karnad. Photo: Pushkar V

Girish Karnad. Photo: Pushkar V

Bengaluru, June 10 (IANS): Jnanpith award winner, multilingual film actor and noted theatre personality Girish Karnad passed away here on Monday, an official said. He was 81.

"Karnad died at home at around 8.30 am due to age-related symptoms," an official in the Karnataka Chief Minister's office told IANS.

Born in Matheran, Bombay on 19 May 1938, Girish Raghunath Karnad predominantly worked in South Indian cinema and Bollywood. 

His rise as a playwright in the 1960s is said to have marked the coming of age of modern Indian playwriting in Kannada, quite like Badal Sarkar did in Bengali, Vijay Tendulkar in Marathi, and Mohan Rakesh in Hindi.

Karnad was a recipient of the 1998 Jnanpith Award, the highest literary honour conferred in India. For four decades, Karnad composed plays, often using history and mythology to tackle contemporary issues. 

Karnad went on to translate his plays into English and received a great deal of critical acclaim, even as he remained active - hosting seminars, and delivering lectures, until the last of his days.

Karnad's plays have been translated into a number of Indian languages and also been directed by the likes of Ebrahim Alkazi, BV Karanth, Alyque Padamsee, Prasanna, Arvind Gaur, Satyadev Dubey, Vijaya Mehta, Shyamanand Jalan, Amal Allana and Zafer Mohiuddin.

He was conferred the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India and won four Filmfare Awards, of which three are Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada and the fourth a Filmfare Best Screenplay Award.

Several prominent literary figures immediately took to Twitter to express their sorrow. Author Amitav Ghosh wrote, 'Saddened to hear of the passing of Girish Karnad - a great writer and a very important public voice. Thoughts are with @rkarnad and his family.'

Former Chief Minister of Karnataka Sadananda Gowda also tweeted, in Kannada, saying: 'The news of the death of Gyanapitha awardee, senior theatre artist Dr Girish Karnad, was revealed. His contribution to the Saraswat world is vast. Let us pray in the Lord that peace be to the soul.'

Karnad wrote his first play, the critically acclaimed Yayati (1961), while still at Oxford. His most famous plays include Hayavadana in 1972 and Nagamandala in 1988. Tughlaq, a play he wrote in 1964, made him a name to reckon.

His acting and screenwriting debut happened in 1970, with the Kannada film Samskara (1970), based on a novel by UR Ananthamurthy.

His other well-known films in Kannada include Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane (1977) and Ondanondu Kaaladalli (1978), while he also worked in Hindi, directing Utsav (1984), an adaptation of Shūdraka’s 4th-century Sanskrit play Mrichchakatika.

Karnad also hosted a weekly science program on Doordarshan titled Turning Point. He was also very active off the stage and screen, being a prominent voice against violence against writers and journalists in India. 

He is survived by his wife Saraswathi, son Raghu Karnad, a journalist and writer and daughter Radha, a doctor based in Kenya.