Veteran playwright, actor and director Girish Karnad dies at 81

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Veteran playwright and actor Girish Karnad died in Bangalore, June 10, of a prolonged illness. He was 81. He is survived by his wife Saraswathi and son Raghu Karnad.

A well known theater and film personality, Karnad has written several plays in Kannada, been translated into English and several Indian languages.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering his condolences on Twitter 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.”

President Ramnath Kovind also expressed grief on Karnad’s death. Sad to hear of the passing of Girish Karnad, writer, actor and doyen of Indian theatre,” he wrote. “Our cultural world is poorer today. My condolences to his family and to the many who followed his work.”

According to his profile on the Encyclopedia Britannica website, Karnad was born on May 18, 1938 in Matheran in Maharashtra. He graduated from Karnataka University in 1958, after which he went to the University of Oxford to study as a Rhodes Scholar to study philosophy, politics, and economics. While still at Oxford, Karnad wrote his first play “Yayati” in 1961. Originally written in Malayalam, it was translated into English by the author himself, several decades later. The book offers a fresh look on the myth of Yayaji and Pooru from the Mahabharata.

Almost nine years later, in 1970, Karnad made his acting and screenwriting debut in the Kannada movie, “Samskara,” based on a novel by U.R. Ananthamurthy. Directed by Pattabhirama Reddy, the film won the first President's Golden Lotus Award for Kannada cinema. Karnad wrote the screenplay and played the lead role in the film. Next, he starred in “Vamsha Vriksha” (1971), co-directed by B.V. Karanth. Along with acting, Karnad continued to produce work as a playwright. Some of his well-known work includes “Hayavadana” (1971) and Nagamandala (1988), among others. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1974 and the Padma Bhushan in 1992 for his contributions to the arts. He also received the Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary prize, in 1999 for his contributions to literature and theatre

Karnad’s other well-known films in Kannada include “Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane” (1977) “Ondanondu Kaaladalli” (1978) and “Kanooru Heggadithi” (1999). He also worked in Hindi films, directing the critically acclaimed “Utsav” (1984) and was seen on TV in “Malgudi Days.” He also hosted the science magazine "Turning Point" on Doordarshan in the early 1990s.

He was also seen in commercial films like Salman Khan's "Tiger Zinda Hai" and Ajay Devgn-starrer "Shivaay.”

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