- Playwright, actor and director Girish Karnad died today in Benglaru
- The award-winning litterateur was also known as a fearless activist
- He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1974 and the Padma Bhushan in 1992
Girish Karnad, a celebrated actor, playwright and filmmaker, died at 81 today after a long illness. He died at a hospital in Bengaluru at 6.30 am, according to his family.
Born on May 19, 1938, in Matheran near Mumbai (then Bombay Presidency), his critically-acclaimed body of work includes plays like "Yayati", "Hayavadana" and "Tughlaq", all of which he wrote in Kannada and then translated to English, losing none of the beauty and poignancy of the original texts.
A prominent figure in the Kannada literary scene, many of his plays drew from mythology and traditional stories to create wonderful insights into modernlifefrom mythology and he helped transform the Kannada theatre scene.
His contributions were not limited to the stage.
He acted in both Kannada and Hindi films, was a filmmaker and wrote screenplays, winning multiple awards for his work at the state and central level. A legendary figure, he was also briefly director of the Film and Television Institute in Pune and director of the Nehru Centre in London.
One of his most memorable role - that of Swami's father - was undoubtedly in "Malgudi Days", a television adaptation of RK Narayan's timeless and enchanting collection of short stories about the sleepy (and fictional) town of Malgudi in South India.
A fearless social and political activist, Girish Karnad used his literary skills and, in later years, his popularity, as a platform to fight religious fundamentalism and defend freedom of expression. Despite receiving numerous death threats, he never backed down from expressing his views.
In April, he was among some 200 writers from across the country who put out an open letter against the "politics of hate".
In September last year, he was charged for holding a placard that read "Me Too Urban Naxal" at an event to mark one year of journalist Gaur Lankesh's murder. He had protested against the house arrest of five activists who were accused of links with Maoists.
In 2015 he joined a group of activists protesting the beef ban in Maharashtra. That same year, he received death threats for his comment that the Bengaluru airport should be named after 18th century ruler Tipu Sultan, a much-debated figure in history.
Speaking to NDTV at that time, he said, "The controversy does not bother me or surprise me. I have been through it before. If we are a mature democracy then we can have mature dialogue."
His son has conveyed that there should no flowers, wreaths and VIP visitors to his father's funeral. He has also ruled out a procession.
Girish Karnad was awarded the Padma Shri in 1974 and the Padma Bhushan in 1992. Considered a gifted litterateur, he was also awarded the Jnanpith award in 1998..
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to the actor-playwright on Twitter. "His works will continue being popular in the years to come," 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.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 10, 2019
The President of India also paid his respects on Twitter, writing that "our cultural world is poorer today".
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— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) June 10, 2019
Among others who paid tribute to Girish Karnad were Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kurmaraswamy.
Deeply saddened to hear of the demise of Jnanpith laureate writer and iconic actor/film maker, Sri #GirishKarnad .— H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) June 10, 2019
His outstanding contribution to literature, theatre and films will always be remembered.
In his death, we lost a cultural ambassador. May his soul rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/s5bfbh0VgE
Author Amitav Ghosh wrote: "Saddened to hear of the passing of Girish Karnad - a great writer and a very important public voice. Thoughts are with @rkarnad and his family.
Saddened to hear of the passing of Girish Karnad - a great writer and a very important public voice. Thoughts are with @rkarnad and his family. https://t.co/V5xugupeNl— Amitav Ghosh (@GhoshAmitav) June 10, 2019
Former Chief Minister of Karnataka Sadananda Gowda also tweeted, in Kannada, saying: "The news of the death of Gyanapitha awardee, senior theater artist Dr. Girish Karnad, was revealed. His contribution to the Saraswat world is vast. Let us pray in the Lord that peace be to the soul".
The Karnataka government has declared a state holiday for one day and three-day mourning period.