Girish Karnad -The playwright
Girish Raghunath Karnad was born on 19th May 1938.He is a contemporary writer, playwright, screenwriter, actor and movie director in Kannada language. His rise as a playwright in 1960s, It marked the coming of age of Modern Indian playwriting in Kannada, He is a recipient of the 1998 Jnanpith Award, the highest literary honour conferred in India. Girish karnad has been composing plays for fourty years now, often using history and mythology to tackle contemporary issues. He has translated his plays into English and has received greatest acclaim.His plays have been translated into some Indian languages.He is better known as an actor, director, and screenwriter, in Hindi and Kannada flicks, earning awards along the way. He was conferred Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the Government of India and won four Filmfare Awards where three are Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada and one Filmfare Best Screenplay Award.
Girish Karnad was born in Matheran, Maharashtra,His initial schooling was in Marathi. In Sirsi, Karnataka,where he was exposed to Natak Mandalis ,travelling theatre groups, as his parents were deeply interested in their plays.Karnad was an ardent admirer of Yakshagana and the theater in his village.His family moved to Dharwar in Karnataka when he was 14 years old, where he grew up with his two sisters and niece. He earned his Bachelors of Arts degree in Mathematics and Statistics, from KarnatakArtsCollege, Dharwad in 1958. Upon graduation Karnad went to England and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lincoln and Magdalen colleges in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (1960–63), after earning his Master of Arts degree in philosophy, political science and economics.
After working with the Oxford University Press, Chennai for seven years,he resigned to take to writing full-time.While in 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.He also served as director of the Nehru Centre and as Minister of Culture, in the Indian High Commission, London (2000–2003).He served as director of the Film and Television Institute of India in 74–75 period and as chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the National Academy of the Performing Arts (1988–93).
Karnad is better known as a playwright. His plays, written in Kannada, have been translated into English and some Indian languages. Karnad’s plays are written neither in English, in which he vainly dreamt of earning international literary fame as a poet, nor in his mother tongue Konkani. Instead they are composed in his adopted language Kannada. Initially, his command on Kannada was so poor that he often failed to distinguish between short and long vowels (laghu and deergha). When Karnad started writing plays, Kannada literature was highly influenced by the renaissance in Western literature. 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. Over the years he had acted in a number of Hindi and Kannada feature films and worked with directors like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Shyam Benegal.In television, he played the role of Swami’s father in the TV series Malgudi Days, based on R. K. Narayan’s books.
He made his directorial debut with Vamsha Vriksha (1971), based on a Kannada novel by S.L. Bhairappa. 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.Karnad is married to Dr. Saraswathy Ganapathy and they have two children. He lives in Bangalore.
Plays in Kannada :
“Maa Nishaadha” (One Act Play)
“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).
“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.
“Tippuvina Kanasugalu” (The Dreams of Tipu Sultan)
“Odakalu Bimba” (2006) (Hindi, Bikre Bimb; English, A heap of Broken Images)
“Maduve Album” (2006)
“Benda Kaalu On Toast” (2012)