One of the colossal personalities that strode the Indian stage and cinema, is no more. Girish Karnad, celebrated playwright, theatre and film personality died at the age of 81 at a hospital in Bengaluru, after a prolonged illness. Karnad wrote famous plays in Kannada that included Hayavadana, Yayati and Tughlaq that were later translated to English. His plays reflected contemporary society and often stirred a debate. They were directed by theater legends that included Satyadev Dubey, Alyque Padamsee and Ebrahim Alkazi.
A fearless social and political writer, Karnad was one of the few who was extremely popular, and used his literary skills as a platform to fight religious fundamentalism and defend freedom of expression. This year, he was one of the 200 writers, who wrote an open letter against ‘politics of hate’.
Born on May 19, 1938 in Matheran, Maharashtra, Karnad graduated from the Karnatak Arts College, Dharwad. Later, he graduated from Karnataka University in mathematics and statistics. He did his Masters in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar. He wrote his first play here, the critically acclaimed ‘Yayati’. He made his acting and screenwriting debut in the Kannada movie ‘Samskara’ in 1970. He was well received in several Hindi films that included Nishaant, Manthan, Swami, besides others.
One of his last film appearances was in the Salman Khan starrer, ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ and it’s sequel, ‘Ek Tha Tiger’, both blockbusters, in which he played a pivotal role.
Karnad received the Padma Sri, Padma Bhushan and Jnanpith Award. He won the National Award for several films, including Best Director for ‘Vamsa Vruksha’ and Best Screenplay for ‘Bhumika’, besides State and Filmfare awards. The President, Prime Minister, top political leaders, the world of cinema, theater and numerous personalities and celebrities mourned his demise. Girish Karnad was outspoken about multi-culturism and freedom of expression. The world of Indian culture is poorer today with the passing away of the legend. He has left behind a magnificent body of work.