Girish Karnad at Cornell University, 2009
Girish Raghunath Karnad|
19 May 1938
Matheran, Bombay Presidency, British India
(now in Maharashtra, India)
|Occupation||Playwright, film director, film actor|
|Alma mater||Karnatak University, University of Oxford|
Girish Raghunath Karnad (born 19 May 1938) is an Indian actor, film director, Kannada writer, playwright and a Rhodes Scholar, who predominantly works in South Indian cinema and Bollywood. His rise as a playwright in the 1960s, marked the coming of age of modern Indian playwriting in Kannada, just as Badal Sarkar did in Bengali, Vijay Tendulkar in Marathi, and Mohan Rakesh in Hindi. He is a recipient of the 1998 Jnanpith Award, the highest literary honour conferred in India.
For four decades Karnad has been composing plays, often using history and mythology to tackle contemporary issues. He has translated his plays into English and has received acclaim. His plays have been translated into some Indian languages and directed by directors like Ebrahim Alkazi, B. V. Karanth, Alyque Padamsee, Prasanna, Arvind Gaur, Satyadev Dubey, Vijaya Mehta, Shyamanand Jalan, Amal Allana and Zafer Mohiuddin. He is active in the world of Indian cinema working as an actor, director, and screenwriter, in Hindi and Kannada cinema, earning awards along the way. He was conferred Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the Government of India and won four Filmfare Awards, of which three are Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada and the fourth a Filmfare Best Screenplay Award.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Career
- 3 Awards and honours
- 4 Controversies
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Activism
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 Filmography
- 9 Movies directed
- 10 Other works
- 11 Works in translation
- 12 Autobiography
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 Further reading
- 16 External links
Early life and education
Girish Raghunath Karnad was born in Matheran, in present-day Maharashtra, in 1938. His mother Krishnabai nee Mankikar was a young widow with a son, and while training to be a nurse, met Dr Raghunath Karnad who was a doctor in the Bombay Medical Service. For five years they could not get married because of the prevailing prejudice against widow remarriage. Finally their marriage was sanctified under the dispensation of the Arya Samaj. Girish was the third of the four children born thereafter.
Girish Karnad's initial schooling was in Marathi. In Sirsi, Karnataka, he was exposed to travelling theatre groups, Natak Mandalis as his parents were deeply interested in their plays. As a youngster, Karnad was an ardent admirer of Yakshagana and the theater in his village. His family moved to Dharwad in Karnataka when he was 14 years old, where he grew up with his two sisters and niece.
He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and statistics from Karnatak Arts College, Dharwad (Karnataka University), in 1958. Upon graduation Karnad went to England and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Magdalen in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (1960–63), earning his Master of Arts degree in philosophy, political science and economics. Karnad was elected President of the Oxford Union in 1963.
After working with the Oxford University Press, Chennai for seven years (1963–70), he resigned to take to writing full-time. While in Madras (now known as Chennai) he got involved with local amateur theatre group, The Madras Players.
During 1987–88, he was at the University of Chicago as visiting professor and Fulbright playwright-in-residence. During his tenure at Chicago Nagamandala had its world premiere at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis based on Karnad's English translation of the Kannada original. Most recently, he served as director of the Nehru Centre and as Minister of Culture, in the Indian High Commission, London (2000–2003).
When Karnad started writing plays, Kannada literature was highly influenced by the renaissance in Western literature. Writers would choose a subject that looked entirely alien to manifestation of native soil. C. Rajagopalachari's version of the Mahabharata published in 1951, left a deep impact on him and soon, sometime in the mid-1950s, one day he experienced a rush of dialogues by characters from the Mahabharata in Kannada. "I could actually hear the dialogues being spoken into my ears ... I was just the scribe," said Karnad in a later interview. Yayati was published in 1961, when he was 23 years old. It is based on the story of King Yayati, one of the ancestors of the Pandavas, who was cursed into premature old age by his preceptor, Shukracharya, who was incensed at Yayati's infidelity. Yayati in turn asks his sons to sacrifice their youth for him, and one of them agrees. It ridicules the ironies of life through characters in Mahabharata. It became an instant success, immediately translated and staged in several other Indian languages.
Karnad found a new approach of drawing historical and mythological sources to tackle contemporary themes and existentialist crisis of modern man through characters locked in psychological and philosophical conflicts. His next was Tughlaq (1964), about a rashly idealist 14th-century Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad bin Tughluq, and allegory on the Nehruvian era which started with ambitious idealism and ended up in disillusionment. This established Karnad, now 26 years old, as a promising playwright in the country. It was staged by the National School of Drama Repertory under the direction of Ebrahim Alkazi, with the actor Manohar Singh, playing the visionary king who later becomes disillusioned and turns bitter, amidst the historic Purana Qila in Delhi. It was staged in London by the National School of Drama for the Festival of India in 1982.
Hayavadana (1971) was based on a theme drawn from The Transposed Heads, a 1940 novella by Thomas Mann, which is originally found in the 11th-century Sanskrit text Kathasaritsagara. Herein he employed the folk theatre form of Yakshagana. A German version of the play was directed by Vijaya Mehta as part of the repertoire of the Deutsches National Theatre, Weimar.
Naga-Mandala (Play with Cobra, 1988) was based on a folk tale related to him by A. K. Ramanujam, brought him the Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award for the Most Creative Work of 1989. It was directed by J. Garland Wright, as part of the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis. The theatre subsequently commissioned him to write the play, Agni Mattu Male (The Fire and the Rain). Though before it came Taledanda (Death by Beheading, 1990) which used the backdrop, the rise of Veerashaivism, a radical protest and reform movement in 12th century Karnataka to bring out current issues.
Karnad made his acting as well as screenwriting debut in a Kannada movie, Samskara (1970), based on a novel by U.R. Ananthamurthy and directed by Pattabhirama Reddy. That movie won the first President's Golden Lotus Award for Kannada cinema.
In television, he played the role of Swami's father in the TV series Malgudi Days (1986–1987), based on R. K. Narayan's books. He also hosted the science magazine Turning Point on Doordarshan, in the early 1990s.
He made his directorial debut with Vamsha Vriksha (1971), based on a Kannada novel by S. L. Bhyrappa. It won him National Film Award for Best Direction along with B. V. Karanth, who co-directed the film. Later, Karnad directed several movies in Kannada and Hindi, including Godhuli (1977) and Utsav (1984). Karnad has made number of documentaries, like one on the Kannada poet D. R. Bendre (1972), Kanaka-Purandara (English, 1988) on two medieval Bhakti poets of Karnataka, Kanaka Dasa and Purandara Dasa, and The Lamp in the Niche (English, 1989) on Sufism and the Bhakti movement. Many of his films and documentaries have won several national and international awards.
His Hindi movies include Nishaant (1975), Manthan (1976), Swami (1977) and Pukar (2000). He has acted in a number of Nagesh Kukunoor films, starting with Iqbal (2005), where Karnad's role of the ruthless cricket coach got him critical acclaim. This was followed by Dor (2006), 8 x 10 Tasveer (2009), with lead actor Akshay Kumar and Aashayein (2010).
He came back to Hindi movies after three years. He played a key role in Yash Raj Film's movie "Ek tha tiger"(2012) and "Tiger zinda hai"(2017).
Karnad has acted in the Kannada gangster movie Aa Dinagalu.
Other notable works
Awards and honours
- Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Varthur navya Award – 1972
- Padma Shri – 1974
- Padma Bhushan – 1992
- Kannada Sahitya Parishat Award – 1992
- Sahitya Academy award – 1994
- Jnanpith Award – 1998
- Kalidas Samman – 1998
- Rajyotsava Awards
- 1971: Best Direction: Vamsha Vriksha (with B. V. Karanth)
- 1971: Best Feature Film in Kannada: Vamsha Vriksha
- 1973: Second Best Feature Film: Kaadu
- 1977: Best Feature Film in Kannada: Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane
- 1978: Best Screenplay: Bhumika (with Shyam Benegal and Satyadev Dubey)
- 1978: Best Feature Film in Kannada: Ondanondu Kaladalli
- 1989: Best Non-Feature Film: Kanaka Purandara
- 1990: Best Non-feature Film on Social Issues: The Lamp in the Niche
- 1992: Best Film on Environment Conservation: Cheluvi
- 1999: Best Feature Film in Kannada: Kaanuru Heggadathi
- 1972: Filmfare Award for Best Director - Kannada – Vamsha Vriksha
- 1974: Filmfare Award for Best Director - Kannada – Kaadu
- 1978: Filmfare Award for Best Director - Kannada – Ondanondu Kaladalli
- 1983: Filmfare Award for Best Actor - Kannada - Ananda Bhairavi
- 1980: Filmfare Best Screenplay Award: Godhuli (with B. V. Karanth)
- 1980: Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award: Aasha: Nominated
- 1982: Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award: Teri Kasam : Nominated
- 1971-72 First Best Film – Vamsha Vriksha
- 1971-72 Best Dialogue Writer – Vamsha Vriksha
- 1973-74 Second Best Film – Kaadu
- 1989-90 Best Supporting Actor – Santha Shishunala Sharifa
- 1995-96 Best Supporting Actor – Sangeetha Sagara Ganayogi Panchakshara Gavai
- 1999-00 Second Best Film – Kanooru Heggadithi
- Gubbi Veeranna Award for his services to theatre (as a playwright)
- Karnad served as the director of the Film and Television Institute of India from 1974–1975, the Indian co-chairman for the Joint Media Committee of the Indo-US Sub-Commission on Education and Culture from 1984–1993, chairman of the Sangeet Natak Academy from 1988–1993, and president of Karnataka Nataka Academy from 1976–1978.
- Honorary Doctorate from University of Southern California, Los Angeles – 2011
At the 2012 TATA Lit Fest held in Mumbai, Karnad was invited to speak about "his life in theater" in an hour-long session. Instead of talking about the subject, he took the opportunity to lash out at V. S. Naipaul for his "antipathy towards Indian Muslims". V. S. Naipaul had earlier been conferred the Lifetime achievement award by the festival's organisers. Karnad also criticized the organizers for having honored Naipaul.
The audience, which had gathered to hear Karnad speak, had mixed reactions to the speech. Some, like organizer Anil Dharker, tried ineffectually to steer the speech to more politically correct waters. Others were amused by the episode, and some commented on the research and logic that had gone into the speech (unfortunately overshadowed by its 'scandalous' nature).
In November 2015, during celebrations marking the birth anniversary of 18th-century Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan, Karnad stated that Bangalore International Airport should have been named after Tipu Sultan instead of Kempe Gowda. This created a furore among right-wing groups. Karnad apologised the following day.
Karnad is married to Dr. Saraswathy Ganapathy and they have two children. He lives in Bangalore. Girish Karnad, while working in Madras for Oxford University Press on his return from England, met his future wife Saraswathi Ganapathy at a party. They decided to marry but the marriage was formalised after 10 years, when Karnad was 42 years old. Saraswathi was born to a Parsi mother, Nargis Mugaseth and a Kodava father, Kodandera Ganapathy.
He is a proponent of multi-culturalism and freedom of expression, Girish Karnad has been a critic of religious fundamentalism and Hindutva in India. He publicly condemned the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and later spoke against the attempts to create controversy about the Idgah Maidan in Hubli. He is a proponent of secularism and has opposed RSS, BJP and other Hindu organizations on several occasions. He has opposed Narendra Modi for the Prime Minister's post in the 2014 parliament elections.
Plays in Kannada
- "Maa Nishaadha" (One Act Play)
- "Yayati" (1961)
- "Tughlaq" (1964) (translated in Hindustani by B. V. Karanth. Major Indian directors who have staged it: Ebrahim Alkazi, Prasanna, Arvind Gaur, Dinesh Thakur & Shyamanand Jalan (in Bengali).
- "Hayavadana" (1972)
- "Anjumallige" (1977) (translated in Bengali name "JAMINI", by Dr. Biswa Roy, Director Film and T.V media. Published by Papyrus, in the year January 2007. )
- "Hittina Hunja" aka "Bali" (The Sacrifice) (1980)
- "Nagamandala" (1988) (Play with Cobra)
- "Taledanda" (1990) (Death by Beheading), in Hindi it is known as Rakt-Kalyan translated by Ram Gopal Bajaj, first directed by Ebrahim Alkazi for NSD rep., then by Arvind Gaur (1995–2008, still running) for Asmita Theater Group, New Delhi.
- "Agni mattu Male" (1995) (Agni Aur Varsha, The Fire and the Rain), first directed by Prasanna for NSD Rep.
- "Tipu Sultan Kanda Kanasu" (The Dreams of Tipu Sultan)
- "Odakalu Bimba" (2006) (Hindi, Bikre Bimb; English, A heap of Broken Images)
- "Maduve Album" (2006)
- "Flowers" (2012)
- "Benda Kaalu on Toast" (2012)
Plays in English
- Collected Plays, Vol.1, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005 (Tughlaq, Hayavadana, Bali: The Sacrifice, and Naga Mandala)
- Collected Plays, Vol.2, Oxford University Press, 2005 (Tale-Danda, The Fire and the Rain, The Dreams of Tippu Sultan, Two Monologues: Flowers and Broken Images)
- Yayati, Oxford University Press, 2008.
- Wedding Album, Oxford University Press, 2009.
- Boiled Beans on Toast, Oxford University Press, 2014.
|Sultan: The Saviour||2018||S.I Mahesh Deshpande||Bengali|
|Tiger Zinda Hai||2017||Dr. Shenoy (RAW Chief)||Hindi|
|Chalk n Duster||2016||Manohar Sawant||Hindi|
|Dheera Rana Vikrama||2015||K. V. Anand Rao (Home Minister Of Karnataka)|
|Rudra Tandava||2015||Chiranjeevi Sarja's Father|
|Samrat & Co.||2014|
|Sweety Nanna Jodi||2013|
|Ek Tha Tiger||2012||Dr. Shenoy (RAW Chief)|
|Kempe Gowda||2011||Mahadev Gowda (Kavya's Father)|
|Komaram Puli||2010||Narasimha Rao (Prime minister)||Telugu|
|Life Goes On||2009||Sanjay|
|8 x 10 Tasveer||2009||Anil Sharma|
|Chilipili Hakkigalu||2008||School Master||Kannada|
|Lava Kusha||2007||Heros' Father||Kannada|
|Aa Dinagalu||2007||Girish Nayak||Kannada||Screenplay Writer also|
|Shankar Dada MBBS||2004||Satya Prasad||Telugu|
|Vande Matharam||2001||Vijayashanti's Father||Kannada|
|Hey Ram||2000||Uppilli Iyengar||Tamil|
|Prathyartha||1999||Sheshanag Dixit (Home Minister of India)|
|Janumadatha||1999||Dr. Akbar Ali||Kannada|
|AK-47||1999||Jagannath Rao (Shiva Rajkumar's Father)|
|Kanooru Heggadithi||1999||Kannada||Director also|
|Aakrosh: Cyclone of Anger||1998||Rajwansh Shashtri|
|China Gate||1998||Forest Officer Sunder Rajan|
|Minsaara Kanavu||1997||Amal Raj||Tamil|
|Sangeetha Sagara Ganayogi Panchakshara Gavai||1995||Hanagal Kumaraswamiji|
|Kadhalan||1994||Kakarla Satyanarayana Murti||Tamil|
|Mysore Mallige||1991||Sudharani's Father||Kannada|
|Nehru: The Jewel of India||1990|
|Santha Shishunala Sharifa||1990||Govindabhatta||Kannada|
|Mil Gayee Manzil Mujhe||1989|
|Naan Adimai Illai||1986||Rajinikanth's Father-in-law|
|Neela Kurinji Poothappol||1986||Appu Menon||Malayalam|
|Sur Sangam||1985||Pandit Shivshankar Shastri|
|Meri Jung||1985||Deepak Verma|
|Nee Thanda Kanike||1985||Dr. Vishnuvardhan's Father|
|Ek Baar Chale Aao||1983||Din Dayal|
|Ananda Bhairavi||1983||Narayana Sarma||Bilingual Film|
|Umbartha||1982||Advocate Subhash Mahajan||Marathi|
|Shama||1981||Nawab Yusuf Khan|
|Beqasoor||1980||Dr. Anand Bhatnagar|
|Sandharbha||1978||Psychiatrist||Kannada||Special Appearance in climax|
|Jadu Ka Shankh||1974|
|Vamsha Vriksha||1971||Raju(lecturer )|
2. Indradhanush (1989) as Appu and Bala's Father
- Vamsha Vriksha (1971, Kannada)
- D.R. Bendre (1972, documentary)
- Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane in (1977, Kannada)
- Godhuli (1977, Hindi)
- Ondanondu Kaladalli (1978) in Kannada
- Kanooru Heggadithi in Kannada
- Kaadu (1973, Kannada)
- Durga in Mahendar
- Utsav in Hindi
- Woh Ghar (1984, Hindi), based on Kirtinath Kurtakoti's Kannada play Aa Mani
- The Lamp in the Niche (1990) (documentary)
- Cheluvi (1992, Kannada and Hindi (Dubbed))
- Chidambara Rahasya (2005, Kannada) (tele film for DD1)
- Evam Indrajit (English) by Badal Sircar. Tr. by Girish Karnad. 1974.
Works in translation
- Yayati. Oxford University Press.
- Yayati (Hindi). Tr. by B. R. Narayan. Rajkamal Prakashan Pvt Ltd, 2008. ISBN 81-7119-627-6.
- Tughlaq: A play in 13 scenes, Oxford Univ. Press, 1972
- Hayavadana, Oxford University Press, 1975.
- Tughlaq (Marathi), Tras. Vijay Tendulkar. Popular Prakashan Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 81-7185-370-6.
- Three Plays: Naga-Mandala; Hayavadana; Tughlaq. Oxford University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-19-563765-8.
- Tughlaq (Hindi). Tr. by B. V. Karanth. Rajkamal Prakashan Pvt Ltd, 2005. ISBN 81-7119-790-6.
- Collected plays Vol 1: Tuglaq, Hayavadana, Bali: The Sacrifice, Naga-Mandala. Oxford University Press. 2005. ISBN 0-19-567310-7.
- Collected Plays: Taledanda, the Fire and the Rain, the Dreams of Tipu Sultan, Flowers and Images: Two Dramatic Monologues: Flowers : Broken Images, Vol. 2. Oxford University Press, USA. 2005. ISBN 0-19-567311-5.
- Three plays by Girish Karnad. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-563765-8.
- Aadaadtha Aayushya. Manohara Grantha Mala, 2011
- "Sahitya Akademi : Who's Who of Indian Writers". Sahitya Akademi. Sahitya Akademi. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
- "Drama between the lines". Financial Express. 28 January 2007.
- "Jnanpith for Dr Girish Karnad". Rediff.com. 21 January 1999. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- AWARDS: The multi-faceted playwright Frontline, Vol. 16, No. 3, 30 Jan.–12 Feb 1999.
- Kumar, p.115
- "Conversation with Girish Karnad". Bhargavi Rao on Muse India. Muse India. Archived from the original on 16 March 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
- "Conversation: 'I wish I were a magician'". Livemint. 11 October 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
- Sachindananda, p. 57
- "PROFILE: GIRISH KARNAD: Renaissance Man". India Today. 12 April 1999.
- Sachindananda, p. 58
- Don Rubin (1998). The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: Asia. Taylor & Francis. p. 196. ISBN 0-415-05933-X.
- "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
- "USC News". Mobile.usc.edu. 14 April 2011. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
- "25th National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
- "25th National Film Awards (PDF)" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
- Biography and plays of Girish Karnad
- Girish Karnad slams V S Naipaul for his anti-Islam views, questions his Mumbai fest award, Indian Express, 3 November 2012.
- Deccan Chronicle.
- "Rabindranath Tagore a 'second-rate playwright', Girish Karnad says". The Times of India. Retrieved 9 November 2012.
- "Karnataka Simmers Over Tipu Sultan Row, Girish Karnad Offers Apology". NDTV. 12 November 2015.
- "Girish Karnad offers apology over remarks on Kempegowda". The Hindu. 12 November 2015.
- Kumar, p. 114
- Drama critics. "Girish Karnad's Rakt Kalyan (Tale-Danda)". Retrieved 25 December 2008.
- Nand Kumar (2003). "Myths in the Plays of Girish Karnad". Indian English Drama. Sarup & Sons. ISBN 81-7625-353-7.
- Sachindananda (2006). "Girish Karnad". Authors speak. Sahitya Akademi. ISBN 81-260-1945-X.
- Dr. Prafull D. Kulkarni (2010). The Dramatic World of Girish Karnad. Creative Books Nanded. ISBN 978-81-906717-5-0.
- Dr. Prafull D. Kulkarni (2010). The Enchanting World of Indian English Drama A Socio-Cultural Review. Lulu, USA. ISBN 978-0-557-74285-1.
- Jaydipsinh Dodiya, ed.,The Plays of Girish Karnad: Critical Perspectives Prestige Books, New Delhi, 1999.
- Pradeep Trikha, Multiple Celebrations, Celebrating Multiplicity in Girish Karnad – A Monograph
- Chhote Lal Khatri, Girish Karnad: Naga-mandala : a critique. Prakash Book Depot, 2006. ISBN 81-7977-165-2.
- Dr. Prafull D. Kulkarni, The Dramatic World of Girish Karnad. Creative Books Nanded, 2010. ISBN 978-81-906717-5-0.
- P Dhanavel, The Indian Imagination of Girish Karnad, Prestige Books, New Delhi, 2000.
- G Baskaran, ed., Girish Karnad and Mahesh Dattani: Methods and Motives, Yking Books, Jaipur, 2012.
- Vanashree Tripathi, Three Plays of Girish Karnad: Hayavadana, Tale-Danda, The Fire and the Rain, Prestige Books, New Delhi, 2004.
- Neeru Tandon (2006). "Myth and Folklore in Girish Karnad's Fire and the Rain". Perspectives and challenges in Indian-English drama. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. ISBN 81-269-0655-3.
- Julia Leslie, "Nailed to the Past: Girish Karnad's Plays" Journal of South Asian Literature, 1999, 31–2 (for 1996–7), pp. 50–84. JSTOR
- Julia Leslie, "Understanding Basava: History, Hagiography and a Modern Kannada Drama" Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1998, 61, pp. 228–61. DOI
- Zinia Mitra " A Tale of Subversion with a Conundrum of Mask: A Reading into Girish Karnard's Naga Mandala" in Indian Drama in English ed.K.Chakraborty, Delhi, PHI,2011,ISBN 978-81-203-4289-7, INR:295.00 395 pp.
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