Girish Karnad: Veteran actor dies at 81

Veteran film and theatre personality Girish Karnad passes away at 81

Veteran actor, playwright Girish Karnad passes away at 81

With his maiden film Samskara (1970) - which he wrote and acted in - on caste system, Karnad had set the tone of his creative expression - bold and fearless, and he continued that streak in a stream of Kannada, Hindi and Marathi films.

Karnad's Kannada plays, such as Yayati written in 1961 when he was 23, were extremely influential and successful. In his plays, he combined history and myth to expound upon contemporary issues plaguing the society. "Girish Karnad will be remembered for his versatile acting across all mediums". Karnad starred in the lead role of a devout Brahmin Praneshacharya, driven to inner conflict regarding his religious beliefs. Other popular films in Kannada include Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane (1977) and Ondanondu Kaaladalli (1978).

He ventured into the parallel cinema movement of the '70s with the Shyam Benegal-directed "Nishant" and "Manthan". He also featured in television serials, including the famous "Malgudi Days", based on the works of renowned Indian English author, R.K. Narayan. Known for creating thought-provoking narratives through his plays, Karnad has been credited for being one of India's leading theatre veterans who brought Indian theatre to a global audience.

A Jnanpith victor and a recipient of the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan, apart from multiple National Film Awards and a Sahitya Akademi honour, Girish Karnad was born on May 19, 1938 in Matheran. He had also won four Filmfare Awards. The film won Best Marathi film award at National Awards and it is considered as "a honest cinematic statement on the theme of a woman seeking to establish her identity by pursuing a career, even at the risk of alienation from her family".

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of India Ram Nath Kovind and many top political leaders paid tribute to the legend on Twitter.

Karnad's home state of Karnataka has declared the day a holiday for schools, universities and government offices.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed sorrow as well. "In his life, he embodied the richness and depth of Indian civilisation more nobly and less self-consciously than anyone else I knew". A striking image of Karnad from recent times is that of him, not in the best of health, at an event to mark the first death anniversary of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru.

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