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Indian film, theatre legend Girish Karnad dies

Indian film, theatre legend Girish Karnad dies

BENGALURU: Girish Karnad, a celebrated actor, playwright and filmmaker, died today after a long illness at a hospital in Bengaluru.

He was 81.

Born on May 19, 1938, in Mumbai (then Bombay Presidency), his critically-acclaimed 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 modern life from mythology and he helped transform the Kannada theatre scene.

His contributions were not limited to stage plays.

He also 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.

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 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. He also received death threats for his comment that the Bengaluru airport should be named after 18th century ruler Tipu Sultan, a divisie figure in history.

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.

Reacting to his death, India’s president Ram Nath Kovind tweeted,” 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.”

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi tweeted,” 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.”

The Karnataka government has declared a state holiday for one day and three-day mourning period.

Girish Karnad’s son has said that there should be no flowers, wreaths and VIP visitors to his father’s funeral. He has also ruled out a procession.

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