Girish Karnad, playwright, actor, scholar, philosopher and historian died this morning. My first memories of Girish Karnad go back to the early 70s, when parallel cinema by Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Mani Kaul etc was making waves. My grandfather, no real film buff, loved these realistic films and while Shabana and Smita were his favourites, I distinctly recall him making mention of several other good new actors like Naseer, Om Puri, Anant Nag, Amrish Puri and Girish Karnad. Of course, Girish chose to free himself from the shackles of any particular genre and played some significant characters in mainstream commercial cinema too.
However, he was a man of varied interests, as aforesaid and he stretched him to achieving other feats. He took to theatre, wrote plays and scripts, took to direction and of course, aired his views and opinions fearlessly. A champion of secularism, he at times created controversies through his views, but his intent was unquestionably patriotic.
Some of the obituaries paid to him on Twitter and other social media are not true representatives of the man’s character and depth and we, as a nation, ought to be more open to accommodating and assimilating contrarian views.
I remember him for his innocent looks, deep bass in his voice, his easy demeanour and of course his natural acting. There have been actors galore, but very few have gone beyond the arc lights of studio and name and fame to try and make meaningful contribution to the society at large (and I don’t count those jumping election bandwagon to reap quick political benefits). Girish’s contribution to literature, arts, drama, theatre, films and above all to society through his frank and independent views will be remembered for long time to come.
RIP Girish Karnad.