Girish Karnad, veteran actor and playwright, dies at 81; President Kovind and PM Modi pay tributes
Jnanpith award winning playwright, actor and filmmaker Girish Karnad, aged 81, died in Bengaluru on Monday after suffering from a long illness, his family confirmed. Karnad was known for his versatile career spanning across mediums and genres. Throughout his career, Karnad received many awards and recognitions, beginning with the Padma Shri in 1974, Padma Bhushan in 1992, the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1994 and the Jnanpith Award in 1998.
The Karnataka government declared a holiday on Monday in light of Karnad’s passing and announced state mourning for a period of three days. Tributes poured in for Karnad from across the world. Politicians, writers and other noted personalities put out messages on social media paying tribute to the playwright, with President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also sharing condolences.
“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 President’s official account tweeted.
PM Modi wrote, “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.”
Born on May 19, 1938, in Maharashtra Karnad did his initial schooling in Siris in the Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka and then went on to study in Dharwad. He subsequently studied at University of Oxford.
He was known for his acclaimed plays that used historical and mythological narratives to critically reflect on society. It was at Oxford that he wrote his first play Yayati in 1961.
With Tughlaq (1964) and Hayavadana (1972) Karnad burnished his credentials further. Eventually, Karnad made his foray into cinema with the Kannada movie Samskara in 1970, which was based on the famous novel of the same name by UR Ananthamurthy.
In the following year, Karnad won the National Award for best director for the film Vamsha Vriksha, and his next film Kaadu won best Feature Film Award. Karnad also directed the critically acclaimed movie Ondanondu Kaladalli in 1978, which was an adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai. The playwright was also one of the actors in Shankar Nag’s TV adaptation of Malgudi Days and Swami and Friends.
Karnad was also known for his trenchant criticism of right-wing politics and was a regular at protests against right-wing excesses. He was one of the protestors who gathered outside the Town Hall on August 31, 2015, condeming the murder of Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi and was at the protest venue two years later after journalist Gauri Lankesh was murdered.