Girish Karnad: When a Star Left the Earth to Become a Star in the Sky

girish karnad

Girish Karnad did not die. Standing as a tall pipal tree kissing the sky, he was an inspiration for many. He lost his breath now. The bodily departure has taken place. But a tradition that he got involved with in Karnataka is still alive even with his absence. And playwrights of the future in Karnataka cannot avoid the smell of his craft.

Karnad was multi talented. He was a talented actor, a writer, a voice of many social issues not just in Karnataka but also for the whole country. His plays have been translated into English and several Indian languages

His social and political opinions were taken seriously by the mainstream press. Even if somebody else had articulated the same opinion, it might not have appeared in the press. But Karnad had a style. He would articulate what he felt according to the situation. Certain reactions were strong, whereas many reactions were subtle. He knew where he should express strong reactions where to express subtle reactions.

He was a talented actor, a writer, a voice of many social issues not just in Karnataka but also for the whole country. His plays have been translated into English and several Indian languages.

I am convinced that I am not the right person to talk about Karnad. I have met him only on two or three situations. But I met him much before during the late 70s or early 80s on screen. He was an actor as well as the screenwriter for Pattabhirama Reddy’s famous film `Samskara’ a significant novel originally written by UR Anandamurthi. The film won the first Golden Lotus Award from the President of India . His image stayed in my mind from then onwards. Later, when I met him personally in a public protest in Bangalore, he was already an icon. He lent a sensitive hand to the human rights movement to release Dr. Binayak Sen. Anybody who had seen the television serial Malgudi Days’ may not forget him. Malgudi Days was seen by thousands of people and still remain in the hearts of many. It was one of the best writings of RK Narayan. It also had a mesmeric tune by L.Vaidyanarayan. Historian Ramachandra Guha wrote, “In his plays, Girish Karnad beautifully and seamlessly blended North and South, the folk and the classical, the demotic and the scholarly. In his life, he embodied the richness and depth of Indian civilisation more nobly and less self-consciously than anyone else I knew.”

I have never worked with Karnad. The only thing I maintained was a respect for his deeper statements. But my brother K.P. Madhu had an occasion to work with him. While being in charge of production of a series of video serials on Science, Madhu invited him to be the anchor for the series on Doordarshan. This series on science education had a lot of impact. And I do remember what my brother told about him. His experience was that Karnad was extremely cooperative in this production.

Karnad was strong supporter of many social and political issues. He was a strong critic of Sangh Parivar in Karnataka. Therefore, I was a bit taken aback when even Narendra Modi praised him just after his death. The Prime Minister 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.

Karnad was a scholar as well as campaigner against the politics of hate and communalism. It was not surprising that he lashed out against VS Naipaul for his pro Hindutva attitude. He was strong critic of Hindutva forces. He had publicly condemned the demolition of Babri Masjid.. He was a strong proponent of multi-culturalism, secular values and freedom of expression. He opposed BJP and RSS as well Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Prime Minister has praised him after his death. And I do not know how he would have responded to such praise, if he were alive.

Not too many people in Karnataka were moulded like Karnad. Even the creator is a bit choosy on such births.

K.P. Sasi is a film maker, writer and cartoonist


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K P Sasi

K.P. Sasi is a film maker, cartoonist, writer and an activist

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