RIP, Girish Karnad!

Actor, writer and Jnanpith awardee Girish Karnad succumbed to multiple-organ failure at his residence in Bengaluru. Girish Karnad (81) was a well-known writer, playwright, actor and public intellectual.

Born in May 1938, he was one of the most prominent theatre personalities of the 60s and 70s. He wrote his first play Yayati. His last play was Rakshasa Tangadi. He was also a film director and actor, his acting debut being in the classic Samskara. He made a name in parallel cinema as well as mainstream films in multiple languages.

He often became the target of the Hindutva right, most notably for his views on Mysuru king Tipu Sultan. He said in a later interview to a television channel, “I think he [Tipu Sultan] is one of the best Kannadigas we had in the last 500 years, after the fall of Vijaynagar.”

Karnad was believed to be on the hitlist of the gang that killed Gauri Lakesh and was given security by the State police in the aftermath of her death.

Playwright, actor, institution-builder and patriot, Girish Karnad was a colossus. The Karnataka Government has declared a holiday for schools and colleges and a three-day State mourning in honour of the writer who brought the 7th Jnanpith to Kannada.

Some years ago, when Karnataka and Tamil Nadu spared over the Kauveri Water Sharing Tribunal’s judgment, Girish Karnard’s was the lone voice that urged the government of Karnataka to gracefully accept the Tribunal’s award and start releasing water to the riparian state of Tamil Nadu. Of course, for being virtuous and justifiable, he had to face the ire of the violently agitating Kannadigas, and had his house pelted with stones and odds and ends. The house was almost torn down. Yet, Karnard stood by what he said and made the agitators see sense. Girish Karnard was a multifaceted, stately and sophisticated personality who enriched art, culture, literature and civilization.

An all-rounder Girish Karnad made a mark in whatever field he chose .His dialogue delivery was superb and so was his action both on the screen and stage .Film industry lost a stalwart.

 He was a source of inspiration to several theatre activists. Praying that his soul rests in peace, one can now count one or two more alive, at the platform level of a Girish Karnad, who had the guts, know-how and literary imagination to create original writings/plays – as well as act in his own plays. India today needs at least a hundred Girish Karnads to counter parochialism and destructive social hooliganism.

So sad to hear his passing away. He was such a refined actor (I shall always remember his role in the Hindi movie ‘Swami’ with Shabana Azmi). May your soul rest in peace.

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