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Remembering Veteran Playwright & Multi-Lingual Artist Girish Karnad

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10 June 2019


Bhubaneswar: 81-yr-old Girish Karnad was a multifaceted personality and had a career spanning over six decades. He was a nulti-lingual actor, a noted playwright and a well-known theatre personality as well as the most prominent artistic voices of his generation.

After earning his Master of Arts degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Magdalen in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (1960–63), he slowly delved into the world of theatre in Madras (now Chennai). Then he took to writing full time and wrote plays in Kannada. He even translated some of his plays into English. He had made a mark at a very young age by writing powerful plays like Yayati, Tughlak, Naga Mandala, and Hayavadana.

Karnad made his acting as well as screenwriting debut in a Kannada movie, Samskara (1970), based on a novel by U.R. Ananthamurthy and directed by Pattabhirama Reddy. That movie won the first President's Golden Lotus Award for Kannada cinema.

He made his directorial debut with Vamsha Vriksha (1971), based on a Kannada novel by S. L. Bhyrappa. It won him National Film Award for Best Direction along with B. V. Karanth, who co-directed the film.

Karnad directed several movies in Kannada and Hindi, including Godhuli (1977) and Utsav (1984). Karnad has made number of documentaries, like one on the Kannada poet D. R. Bendre (1972), Kanaka-Purandara (English, 1988) on two medieval Bhakti poets of Karnataka, Kanaka Dasa and Purandara Dasa, and The Lamp in the Niche (English, 1989) on Sufism and the Bhakti movement. Many of his films and documentaries have won several national and international awards.

In television, he played the role of Swami's father in the TV series Malgudi Days (1986–1987), based on R. K. Narayan's books. He also hosted the science magazine Turning Point on Doordarshan, in the early 1990s.

His Hindi movies include Nishaant (1975), Manthan (1976), Swami (1977) and Pukar (2000). He has acted in a number of Nagesh Kukunoor films, starting with Iqbal (2005), where Karnad's role of the ruthless cricket coach got him critical acclaim. This was followed by Dor (2006), 8 x 10 Tasveer (2009) and Aashayein (2010). He played a key role in movies "Ek Tha Tiger"(2012) and its sequel "Tiger Zinda Hai"(2017) produced by Yash Raj Films.

He even provided the voice of A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, in the audiobook of Kalam's autobiography by Charkha Audiobooks Wings of Fire.

He was a recipient of the 1998 Jnanpith Award, the highest literary honour conferred in India.

He was also conferred the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, and had won several accolades for direction in Kannada cinema.

His last play "Rakshasa Tangadi", was published last year. He breathed his last on 10th June, 2019 at his residence in Bengaluru due to age-related problems.