By Himanshu Guru: Girish Karnad (74) is a writer, poet, actor and movie director. Recently he has hit the headlines for his remarks against Nobel laureate writer V.S. Naipaul. While Karnad has acted in full core commercial Bollywood films like ‘Ek Tha Tiger’, he also happens to be a top personality of Indian Theatre world. Most of his works including films, plays and writings, are either in Hindi or in Kannada.
Girish was born in Matheran, Maharashtra, into a Konkani Saraswat Brahmin family on 19 May 1938 and soon became interested in theatre. He earned his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Mathematics and Statistics from the Karnataka University in 1958 and later went to England to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics in Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar during 1960 to 1963. He has his Master of Arts degree in Philosophy, Political science and Economics.
At the dawn of his professional life Karnad worked for the Oxford University Press, Chennai for seven years from 1963 to 70 and then resigned to take writing as a full-time profession.
Karnad has taken topics from history and mythology to compose plays and dealt with contemporary issues in many of his literary works as well as plays. He has translated his major plays into English to claim critical commendation across the country.
During his career of five decades, Karnad hold top posts of India in the literary and cultural field. He has served as Director of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the institution that produced several successful Bollywood actors. He was also the Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Academy, the National Academy of the Performing Arts.
While Karnad’s plays have been translated into several Indian languages and directed by eminent theatre directors, he is also a busy artist both in Hindi and Kannada cinema. He has worked in films like Salman Khan Starrer Ek Tha Tiger, Hey Ram, Pukar, Akrosh, China Gate, Aakarshan, and Meri Jung as an actor and directed a few Hindi and Kannad films.
Kannad has earned numerous awards and honors for his works in Indian Cinema as well as literature. Most prominent among them are – the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the Government of India, Sangeet Natak Academy Award, Sahitya Academy Award and the Filmfare awards. He got the Filmfare Award for Best Director – Kannada and 1 Filmfare Best Screenplay Award. He also received the Jnanapith Award for his literary works in 1998.
Girish is married to Dr. Saraswathy Ganapathy and together they have two children, Shalmali Radha and Raghu Amay.
While Karnad is a proponent of secularism, multi-culturalism and freedom of expression, he also happens to be a critic of religious fundamentalism and Hinduism in India. In 1992 he had publicly condemned the demolition of Babri Masjid, spoke on Idgah Maidan in Hubli and now abuzz with his remarks against the Nobel laureate.