Noted actor, writer and playwright and winner of Jnanpith and Padma BHushan awards, Girish Karnad passed away in Bengaluru on Monday. He was 81.
One of the tallest figures in the Kannada literature world, Karnad has written numerous plays in Kannada. His most famous plays written in the last several decades include Yayati, Hayavadana, Nagamandala and Tughlaq .
Karnad, an Oxford blue, made his debut as an actor in 1970 in the Kannada film Samskara , which is based on a novel by UR Ananthamurthy. The film won the first President's Golden Lotus Award for Kannada cinema. Karnad followed with Vamsha Vriksha (1971), co-directed by BV Karanth. During this period Karnad continued to produce work as a playwright, including Hayavadana (1971), widely acclaimed as among the most important plays of post-independence India.
For his contributions to theatre, he was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s top civilian honours, in 1974. Karnad’s other well-known films in Kannada include Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane (1977) and Ondanondu Kaaladalli (1978).
He also worked in Hindi, directing the critically acclaimed Utsav (1984), an adaptation of Shūdraka’s 4th-century Sanskrit play Mrichchakatika.
Along with other noted Kannada directors like M S Sathyu and Shyam Benegal, he ushered parallel cinema in Hindi in the 1970s. Among his notable Hindi films was Swami in which he co-stared with Shabana Azmi.
Girish Karnad also raised his voice against violence against writers and journalists. On the first year anniversary of the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, he attended an event with a placard around his neck that read, “#MeTooUrbanNaxal.” He also took part in protests in Bengaluru after Lankesh’s death as well as protests against the murder of academic MM Kalburgi.
Girish Karnad is survived by his wife Saraswathi, son Raghu Karnad, a journalist and writer, and daughter Radha, a doctor based in Kenya.
The Karnataka Government announced three-day mourning and government offices and schools and colleges remained closed on Monday as a mark respect.