In Memoriam: Girish Karnad 1938-2019

Girish Karnad was a leading playwright, actor, director, bellettrist, polymath and public intellectual of independent India. He was born in Matheran, near Bombay, on May 19, 1938, grew up in Dharwar on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, and lived mostly in Bangalore, where he passed away on June 10, 2019. He wrote his plays and other literary prose primarily in Kannada and English, but was multilingual, working in Konkani, Marathi and Hindi with equal facility. He wrote, directed and acted in plays for the theatre, but also had a successful career as a film-maker and a film and TV actor, again working in a range of movies and television series, from Kannada to Hindi and art-house cinema to mainstream Bollywood.

Karnad was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Jnanpith Award, the Padma Shri, the Padma Bhushan and the Kalidas Samman, in addition to numerous National and State awards for his films.

His best known literary works are the Kannada plays Yayati and Tughlaq, which he wrote as a young Rhodes Scholar in Oxford while studying for his Masters degree in the early 1960s, where he was also President of the Oxford Union (1962-63). He later wrote other important plays like Hayavadana and Naga-Mandala, as well as award-winning screenplays.

He worked at Oxford University Press (Chennai), and at various points in time headed the Film and Television Institute of India (Pune), the Sangeet Natak Akademi (New Delhi) and the Nehru Centre (London). He was a visiting professor and writer in residence at the University of Chicago (1987-88) in the renowned Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, then headed by his friend and fellow Kannadiga writer, scholar and translator A.K. Ramanujan. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of California Los Angeles (2011).

Girish Karnad was a close friend of the Centre, and served on its board of governors for two terms, from 2012-2015, and 2015-2018. He delivered one of the Centre's Golden Jubilee lectures, titled 'Rasa in the English Fashion' in February 2013.

CSDS deeply mourns the loss of Girish Karnad.


(Click on the Title to Read the Tribute)

Girish Karnad’s last work was an unfinished autobiography in English

Girish Karnad (1938-2019): An Artiste Who Belonged to Us

The quiet patriot