"His Contribution Was Immense": Theatre Lovers Remember Girish Karnad

Girish Karnad died on Monday in Bengaluru.

Girish Karnad was known for his activism and his fearless political voice. (File)

Girish Karnad, seasoned actor, filmmaker and Jnanpith award winning playwright who died in Bengaluru in last week, was remembered at the Rangashankara Theatre in Bengaluru on Sunday morning.

His admirers and theatre lovers came to listen to the readings from his plays, both in Kannada and from the English translations he had done.

Excerpts were read out from "Yayati", his first play based on an episode on Hindu epic Mahabharata. Readings from "Tughlaq" and "The Dreams of Tipu Sultan"- his historical plays - were followed by songs from "Hayavadana", another famous play.

The woman behind the Rangashankara Theatre, Arundhati Nag, recalled acting in Girish Karnad's plays. "He left such wealth for us," she said. "His contribution to Kannada theatre was immense. I came from outside Karnataka and learnt Kannada. I can follow his work in Hindi, Marathi, English - but it now resonates best for me in Kannada." Theatre lovers remember Girish Karnad in "his original language", she said. 

"The variety of subjects he gave us.... our sensibilities were framed through the understanding of those plays. I hope, as a theatre community, we can do justice to that kind of looking forward that he was able to do... to go deeper in tradition, understand it and actually talk of the future."

"I think for all of us, we are brought together by the wealth that he gave us and specially for the Kannada theatre. He wrote in Kannada first - and everything is a translation," she shared.

Arundhati Nag also said she would also miss Girish Karnad as the chairperson of the Rangashankara Theatre Trust. "That is going to be a very big loss," she said and added: "We didn't realise how big he was in stature. He would just be sitting there, having sabudana vada!"

Award winning director TS Nagabharana, who was Karnad's disciple for 40 years, said,"He creates a model in cinema and theatre and dramatic literature. He was an eccentric fellow! So human."

MLA Sowmya Reddy came to the event as a Karnad admirer. "Girish Karnad has had a huge impact on thousands of us and me as an activist. I still remember holding a sign saying 'Not in my name,' with an oxygen cylinder. He questioned authority, questioning things around him," she recalled.

KM Chaitanya, a film director, spoke of his mentor. "He wanted to be considered a playwright. When he got awards for acting, he said he would have preferred to be given these awards for his plays instead. He taught me so much. We are where we are because of him."

"Mr Karnad's contribution to Kannada culture, Kannada theatre is so big, so lasting, so that even though he is not with us physically, his thoughts and his contribution to us will remain in all of us," KM Chaitanya added.

Theatre artist, Jayashree, sang songs from Karnad's folk play, Hayavadana, the delight of the people who had gathered to pay tribute to the late writer by listening to his words. She told NDTV, "The way he left us, so silently, is a lesson for all of us. This event is a celebration he is living within all of us. He will always be with us."

The event was indeed a celebration of the work of the late writer - and a tribute from the city in which he lived and wrote.

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