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Playwright-Actor Girish Karnad Passes Away at 81

Condolences pour in from across the spectrum after the multi-faceted progressive artiste’s death was announced in Bangalore on Monday.
Playwright-Actor Girish Karnad Passes Away at 81

Image Courtesy: The Hindu

Bengaluru: Noted playwright, actor and director Girish Karnad, a progressive voice that championed the freedom of expression, died at his residence here Monday, official sources said. He was 81.

Karnad was ailing for some time now, they said.

A multifaceted personality, Karnad has acted in several plays and movies that have received critical acclamation.

Karnad, a recipient of Jnanpith Award, was also conferred the Padma Shri in 1974 and the Padma Bhushan in 1992. He was also a Rhodes Scholar from Oxford University, in the 1960s that earned him his Master of Arts degree in philosophy, political science and economics.

His plays, written in Kannada, have been translated into English and several Indian languages.

He made his acting debut and screenwriting debut in iconic Kannada movie, "Samskara" (1970), based on a novel by UR Ananthamurthy. It was directed by Pattabhirama Reddy and the film won the first President's Golden Lotus Award for Kannada cinema.

Though he started off his career in cinema as an actor, he is best known as a writer and thinker.

Karnad was one of the most prominent artistic voices of his generation.

He was an eminent playwright with works such as Nagmandala, Yayati and Tughlaq, which was one of the most successfully performed plays, to his credit.

He also worked in Hindi cinema's parallel film movement in movies such as Swami, and Nishant.

His TV credits include Malgudi Days in which he played Swami's father and a hosting stint in the science magazine Turning Point on Doordarshan in the early 1990s.

Condolences Pour in

Political leaders, theatre personalities and the artistes from the entertainment sphere on Monday condoled the death of Karnad, saying they will miss the brilliance of the iconic playwright-actor-director and his immense contribution to arts and culture.

Karnad, 81, was a progressive voice that championed the freedom of expression. He worked across industries -- Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi.

President Ram Nath Kovind called Karnad's death an irreparable loss to the world of Indian theatre.

"Sad to hear of the passing of Girish Karnad, writer, actor and doyen of Indian theatre. Our cultural world is poorer today. My condolences to his family and to the many who followed his work #PresidentKovind," the tweet by the president read.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Karnad for speaking up about causes dear to him.

"Girish Karnad will be remembered for his versatile acting across all mediums. He also spoke passionately on causes dear to him. His works will continue being popular in the years to come. Saddened by his demise. May his soul rest in peace," the tweet by the PM read.

Politician and CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury also condoled Karnad's death.

"Heartfelt condolences on passing away of one of modern India's treasures, Girish Karnad. A writer, dramatist, director and actor par exellence. He stood out for his commitment to social uplift, equality and secularism. It is a huge personal loss too," Yechury tweeted.

South star-turned-politician Kamal Haasan lauded the rich legacy of the veteran writer and director.

"Mr Girish Karnad, His scripts both awe and inspire me. He has left behind many inspired fans who are writers. Their works perhaps will make his loss partly bearable," Haasan tweeted.

Chandrashekhar Kambar, president, Sahitya Akademi said he lost a "very intimate friend" in Karnad.

"He was my colleague. We wrote plays in a very competent manner. He came all the way from Bombay and acted in my play Jokumaraswamy. When he got the Jnanpith Award I celebrated, when I got one he celebrated. I'm very sad," Kambar told PTI.

Choreographer-actor Prabhu Dheva recalls working with him in his 1984 film Kadhlan directed by S Shankar.

"He was such a nice person, intelligent and incredibly humble. He was so talented, (he was) the smartest. I still remember shooting the film with him. I remember meeting him often at airports. He always surprised me with his humility," Prabhu Deva told PTI.

Actor Sonam Kapoor wrote on Twitter, "Rest in peace. I loved his work."

The influence of Karnad's work was massive and spread across a generation of artistes from veteran star Kamal Haasan to the younger, Bollywood actor Ali Fazal said.

"One of my first big production at the Doon School, was #GirishKarnad's  Hayavadana. A masterpiece that I got to perform. I remember it so vividly. An extraordinary man. He will be remembered for his unique sense of style and persona. In writing in acting and in life," Fazal wrote on Twitter.

Actor Tisca Chopra recalled how conversations with Karnad on theatre and writing have had a huge impact on her life. 

"Deeply saddened at the passing of #GirishKarnad... He was kind to let me rent his house in #Bandra when I first came to Mumbai. Spent many evenings chatting with him about theatre and writing... Those chats had a deep impact on my choices at work.. #RIP dear friend. You will be missed," she tweeted.

Actor Shruti Haasan also took to Twitter and wrote, "May you rest in peace Girish Karnad sir. Your talent humour and sharp intellect will be missed."

Actor Siddharth tweeted, "Rest in peace great sir. #GirishKarnad."

Though he started off his career in cinema as an actor, he is best known as a writer and thinker.

Karnad was one of the most prominent artistic voices of his generation.

Karnad also courted controversies, and was a known critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was among 600 theatre personalities who had signed a letter ahead of the Lok Sabha polls asking people to "vote BJP and its allies" out of power, arguing that the idea of India and its constitution were under threat.

The noted playwright had been highly critical of Modi being "the single face and voice" of BJP.

Karnad had criticised Nobel laureate V S Naipaul for his controversial views on Muslims in India, saying the writer had no idea of the community's contribution to the country's history.

Calling Naipaul an unreliable writer of non-fiction as far as India was concerned, Karnad had said, "He really doesn't pay much attention to the details of the texts he studies."

Amid raging controversy over Karnataka government's decision to celebrate Tipu Jayanti, Karnad had said the 18th century Mysore ruler would have enjoyed the same status as of Maratha king Chhatrapathi Shivaji, if he was a Hindu and not a Muslim.

He had also said it would have been "apt" had the Bengaluru International Airport at Devanahalli near here been named after Tipu Sultan rather than Kempegowda, a feudatory ruler under the erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire which founded Bengaluru in 1537, which drew lot of criticism.

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