As Girish Karnad, the noted theatre and film personality, passed away yesterday, colleagues and friends go down the memory lane to pay a tribute.
After battling a prolonged illness, actor, director and noted playwright Girish Karnad passed away on Monday at his residence in Bengaluru. The 81-year-old actor was known for his timeless plays such as Tughlaq, Hayavadana, and Yayati, among others and also for his work in South and Hindi films. Although he predominantly worked in Kannada cinema, the veteran actor had been a part of films such as Nishant, Manthan, Swami and Dor. Karnad was last seen in Salman Khan’s 2017 blockbuster Tiger Zinda Hai. During the making of the film, Girish was ailing (he played the character with tubes in his nose). Says director Ali Abbas Zafar emotionally, “Girish Sir never allowed his spirits to sag. His enthusiasm was infectious, and his knowledge was vast, and not just about cinema. He could converse authoritatively on any subject under the sun.” Ali reveals that the veteran actor, best known for his powerful performances in the films of Shyam Benegal and Basu Chatterjee, became attached to the lead actors. “Girish Sir was very fond of Salman Bhai and Katrina during the shooting. We are all going to miss him.”
Shabana Azmi, who has known the late playwright for four decades, is deeply saddened by the news. In a tweet, Shabana Azmi wrote: “Deeply saddened to learn about Girish Karnad. Haven’t yet been able to speak with his family. It’s been a friendship of 43 years and I need the privacy to mourn him. I request the media to kindly excuse me from giving quotes. (sic)” Amol Palekar, who has also been associated with him for decades, shared, “My personal loss is beyond words. It’s an irreparable loss at many levels— cultural, intellectual, and moreover political. Very few artists had the courage to stand up against the atrocities of the system at the time when speaking up against the Modi establishment was inhibited. Salute to a grand doyen,” says the actor, who worked with him in Kumar Shahani’s Tarang and Basu Chatterjee’s Apne Paraye.
Veteran actor Anupam Kher’s association with him goes back to the time when Karnad directed him in Utsav. The Saaransh actor had acted in both his masterpieces Tughlaq and Hayavadana during his days at National School of Drama. “Deeply saddened to know about the sad demise of Shri Girish Karnad ji. He was a great artist, scholar and a brilliant playwright. He was much more than an actor,” he says.
One of Karnad’s closest associate, Kannada filmmaker Chaitanya K.M. recalls the time he spent with him in London. “He was a very busy person. I wanted to explore the city but didn’t want to disturb him. When I left for sightseeing, he just followed me and walked with me for almost 15 kilometres. I remember him saying ‘If you want to see London, you have to walk’. He showed me the place where he grew up and the places he loved the most to visit,” shares Chaitanya, who worked with the filmmaker as his assistant and recently made a documentary Nadedu Banda Daari on Karnad’s life and work. “If a man like him spends that much time with a 25-year-old boy, it shows how amazing and legendary he was,” rues the director, who credits his mentor for his skills. “I have learnt all my filmmaking from him. He taught me how a text can be transformed into a cinematic vision for the world,” he says.
Veteran lyricist and producer Amit Khanna has known Girish Karnad from the time he started working in Hindi cinema. Amit worked with the actor in Man Pasand, along with Dev Anand and Tina Ambani. “We had a lot of common friends like Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal, B.V. Karanth. When we were finalising the cast of the film I was producing, his name came up. I was happy to cast him in my film because I knew his professionalism and talent,” says Amit, who has also written songs for films where Karnad acted, the most famous being Swami. “It was my first association with him, which turned into a strong personal relationship as well. He was multi-talented, a modern playwright, a fine actor and director. He was someone who knew how to stand with what he believed in,” shares the producer, who last met Girish, two years ago in Mumbai. Veteran actress Hema Malini who worked with Karnad in Ratna Deep says, “He played my hero in a film that my mother produced. He was a restrained actor and a dignified gentleman.”
(With inputs from Subhash K Jha)