Girish Karnad: Literature’s doyen, friend, philosopher, and guide to all
Girish Karnad’s demise on Monday led to an outpouring of reminiscences from people across political and cultural fields offering their condolence, and remembering their association with the noted Kannada playwright.
Chandrashekhara Kambara, a Jnanpith Award winning playwright and novelist, described his relationship with Karnad, who passed away after a prolonged illness at 81, as an “intellectual jousting competition”.
“Karnad wrote Tale Danda on the Lingayat movement and I responded with my play Shivaratri. When Karnad wrote his last play, Rakshasa Tangadi, I responded with Mahmud Gawan. In this way, ours was an intellectual jousting competition. And this was the basis of our friendship; it grew through our writings,” said Kambara, who penned the lyrics of the title track in Karnad’s 1971 directorial debut, Vamsha Vruksha.
KS Nissar Ahmed, a Padma Shri award winning Kannada poet, recalled he had criticised the colloquialisms used by Karnad in what eventually became his most popular play, Tughlaq, which he wrote shortly after he returned from Oxford in 1963.
“After his play Tughlaq was published I was part of a discussion where I had criticised the language he had used in it, but he defended it saying he would use language that was utilised in common parlance,” said Ahmed, who was one of the few people who visited Karnad’s Bengaluru residence on Monday, before his cremation — without full state honour and religious rites, as per Karnad’s wishes.
“He liked to play the villain roles because he felt heroes had very little to do and he is remembered for many of his villain roles,” KM Chaitanya, a documentary filmmaker who worked closely with karnad and made a documentary on the multilingual artist , said.