OBITUARY – Noted playwright, actor and director Girish Karnad passed away

11 Jun

Noted playwright, actor and director Girish Karnad has passes away at early morning on 10th June, 2019. Karnad (81) was ailing for some time and the end came at his residence.

Karnad’s life a multi-act play

Born into a Konkanispeaking Saraswat family, he chose Kannada and not English to write his plays. In turn, he translated them into English himself. Yet, he had his reservations about the process. “One of my plays, Agni Mattu Male, revolves around fire sacrifice. Agni, however, is a sacred fire, the same word isn’t used to refer to a house being burned down. This establishes a contrast between the sacred and the profane. I can’t do this in English.

Karnad earned Masters degree in philosophy, political science and economics from Oxford University in the 1960s.

At university, he longed to write poetry in English, but ended up writing plays that retold myth, legend, folklore and history to look at the present. For this, he credits scholar-poet AK Ramanujan with whom he shared a long friendship. As a director, Karnad was part of the pioneering band of Kannada new wave of the 1970s with his neo-realistic films, which he said were inspired by Satyajit Ray. He was to later say that those movies were only a product of a generation associated with Nehruvian dreams.

Karnad had a remarkable role as an administrator of many reputed institutions: director of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII); chairman of Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) and director of Nehru Centre in London. Actor Om Puri once recalled how when he went to FTII for admission, he was rejected because the panelists thought he didn’t look like an actor. Karnad had to veto that decision. And then he rescued Koodiyattam from near extinction in 1988 at SNA. The last guru of the art form was broke and he had no students. The bureaucracy had turned a blind eye. Karnad then helped raise a grant of Rs 5 lakh per annum and helped bring it back to life. Power, he said, should be “used only to make a better world”.

BDPA (INDIA)  pays respectful homage to the great progressive artist and conveys heartfelt condolences to his family members.