Girish Karnad: Good film personality, not so good activist

Girish Karnad: Good film personality, not so good activist

by Jaywant Pandya


Source: Internet
Jaywant Pandya
What one man can do in his entire life!


Some do nothing notable!


Some do so many things.


Some do many things memorable.

Girish Karnad comes in last category.

But now he is no more. When people woke up today, they shocked to hear this news.

Girish Karnad was progressive writer, director and actor. May be his family background made him so. His mother Krushnabai Mankikar was a young widow with a son, and while training to be a nurse, met Dr. Raghunath Karnad who was a doctor in the Bombay Medical Service. They could not marry for five years because at that time, society did not permit widow marriage. However, progressive Arya Samaj made them married.


Girish Karnad is another gift from Maharashtra to south Bharat and Hindi film industry. He was born in Matheran. His initial schooling was in Marathi. His family moved to Dharwad in Karnataka. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and statistics from Karnatak Arts College, Dharwad (Karnataka University), in 1958. For further studies, he went England and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics in Oxford.


Karnad proved his mettle as he was elected President of the Oxford Union in 1963.


He worked with Oxford University Press, Chennai for seven years. But his passion was for writing. So, he resigned. Then he started working with local theatre group, The Madras Players in Chennai, then known as Madras. Then he moved to Kannada dramas.


At that time, Kannada literature was highly influenced by Western literature. But Girishjee inspired from C. Rajgopalachari’s version of Mahabharat. No wonder, his ‘Yayati’ and ‘The Fire And The Rain’ was inspired by Mahabharat. His ‘Hayavadan’ play was also based on Hindu literature ‘Yakshagan’ and ‘Kathasaritsagar’. In this play, he narrated story of a woman who feels incompleteness of his husband and exchanges his husband’s friend’s head with his husband’s head.  Reason was her husband’s body was quite thin and weak, while his friend’s body was attractive and healthy. Then with blessing of Maa Durga, she gives them life. Like original story from ‘Kathasaritsagar’, woman namely Padmini accepts his husband’s head on husband’s friend’s body as her husband. Here, original story ends, but Girishjee’s story goes further. Padmini stays with her husband’s head and his friend’s body, but body is getting unhealthy and thin day by day. She goes to the man who had her husband’s body and husband’s friend’s head. Now his body was good. Her husband follows her and sees her with his friend. Fight happens and both gets killed. Padmini also becomes Sati after her husband.


In Yayati, he tried to show sad side of woman in society. When Yayati gets curse, his wife Chitralekha commits suicide because she realized that there is no hope that she will get her married life again. In Naga-Mandala, Appanna marries to Rani but he left and locked her and went to some other woman. When he knows about her wife’s pregnancy he claims her and to tells her that to prove her chastity [14]. This is the attitude of man in many parts of country.


Thus, apparently from his mother’s pain, Girishjee tried to show women’s pain in society.


Girishjee was not those who praised rulers for personal benefit. Through his drama ‘Tughalaq’ he showed Jawaharlal Nehru’s failure of ruling.  


He started acting in 1970 with ‘Samskara’. We often pronounce wrongly some Samskrut and Hindi words. Samsakara is also one of them. But south Bharat has preserved true Hindu dharma and language. That’s why its spelling is ‘Samskara’ and not ‘Sanskara’. Anyways, he ventured in Hindi cinema with ‘Nishant’ film. This film was by Shyam Benegal, great director of parallel or say art cinema. In Nishant, Girishjee played role of school master whose beautiful wife was kidnapped by Zamindar’s sons. When no one dares to raise voice, school master gives fight and awakes villagers against misdeeds of Zamindar.


Girish Karnad had indirect Gujarat connection. He acted in Shyam Benegal’s ‘Manthan’ which was based on Gujarat’s milk co-operative movement. Girishjee played role of Verghese Kurien.


He acted in ‘Swami’ whose songs ‘Ka karu sajani’ and ‘Pal bhar mein ye kya ho gaya’ composed by Rajesh Roshan are very popular even today. He played role of husband of Shabana Azmi who is married to him without her desire. 
Girish Karnad with Master Manjunath in Malgudi days serial, source; Internet
From name ‘Swami’, we get remembrance a little Swami of ‘Malgudi Days’ serial. It was based on R. K. Narayan’s books. I am sure you must have recalled and started singing ‘Tanana Tanana na’ song of this Doordarshan golden age serial. Girishjee played strict father’s role. He acted in popular family drama ‘Khandaan’. This serial had great tv and film actors like Neena Gupta, Mohan Bhandari, Jayant Kriplani and Shekhar Kapoor, Om Puri and Tanuja. He also hosted science based show ‘Turning point’ on Doordarshan. Thus in every way he tried to put society forward.


He made his directorial debut with Vamsha Vriksha (1971), based on a Kannada novel by S. L. Bhyrappa. It won him National Film Award for Best Direction along with B. V. Karanth, who co-directed the film.


He also directed Hindi films like Godhuli and Utsav. Godhuli was based on Kannada novel Tabali neenade Magane, written by S.L. Byrappa. Here, I should mention that reader of this blog post must read S. L. Byrappa’s Aavaran. It exposes manipulation to Bharat’s history by leftist historians. Later in 2013, Girishjee said that “It was my mistake to make two films — Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane and Vamshavruksha — authored by Bhyrappa”.


Since 2015, there is much debate on cow products based science and cow protection. ‘Godhuli’ showed cow importance much earlier. ‘Utasav’ film was produced by Shashi Kapoor. Shashijee was successful hero of commercial cinema but his love was for parallel cinema and play. He established and looked after Prithvi Theatre. He produced films like ‘Junoon’, ‘Kalyug’, ’36 Chowringhee Lane’, ‘Vijeta’ and ‘Utsav’. His ‘Ajooba’ was commercial film. ‘Utsav’ and its songs are now considered as classic. It was age ahead from its time. Few filmmakers have produced or directed film based on Samskrut literature. Shashijee was one of them. ‘Utsav’ was based on ‘Mruchhakatikam’ Samskut drama by Sudraka. Actress Rekha was in full form in this film and acted beautifully as well as erotically. Laxmikant Pyarelal had composed songs based on Hindu rag-ragini. ‘Man kyun behka’, ‘Sanj dhale’, ‘Mere mann baja mrudang’, and ‘Neelam pe nabh chhaye’ were truly melodious songs. Girishjee directed it very aesthetically.


His very little appearance in ‘Meri Jung’ film directed by Subash Ghai and acted by Anil Kapoor, Meenakshi Sheshadri was also memorable. He also acted in notable films like ‘Iqbal’, ‘Door’, ‘8 X 10 Tasveer’, ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ and ‘Tiger Abhi Zinda Hai’. But I remember his role in ‘Sur Sangam’ which was remake of ‘Sankarabharanam’. Film was directed by K. Viswanath who used to make clean film with message. His Hindi films such as ‘Sargam’, ‘Kaamchor’, ‘Shubh Kamna’ ‘Jaag Utha Insaan’, ‘Sanjog’, ‘Eeshwar’, ‘Sangeet’ and ‘Dhanwaan’ were also memorable with great acting by Rishi Kapoor, Jaya Prada, Rakesh Roshan, Rati Agnihotri, Mithun Chakraborty, Sridevi, Anil Kapoor and Vijayashanti.


‘Sur Sangam’ was story of classical music maestro who is trying to find a successor for his rare craft. If I am not wrong, classical music singers Rajan and Sajan Mishra both sang simultaneously for Girish Karnad. This was I think this was unique experiment done by Laxmikant Pyarelal. ‘Aaye soor ke panchhee aaye’, ‘jaaun tore charan kamal par vari’ and ‘dhanya bhag seva ka avasar paya’ are memorable.
Girish Karnad in protest against mob lynching, source: Internet
However, in his later life, Girish Karnad was in news for his political views. He opposed Narendra Modi’s candidature for Prime Ministership in 2014 general elections. Girish Karnad was always opponent to BJP for her ideology. But it should be noted that he got Gnanpeeth award in 1999 when BJP’s alliance was in power. He was admirer of Tipu Sultan of Mysore Kingdom. But actual history says Tipu Sultan was cruel forcing non muslim to embrace Islam.


Mysore Gazetteer says he (Tipu Sultan) was signalized by the forcible circumcision of many thousands of Indian Christians and their deportation to Seringapatam. In January 1788 Tipu descended to Malabar, and remained there several months arranging for its effective administration and the reformation of its people, calling upon them either to give up their sinful practices or be honoured with Islam.


He with other eminent writers, and film makers opposed sentence of death penalty in Bharat.  He suggested Bengaluru air port to be renamed after Tipu Sultan. He also joined in bandwagon of ‘Intolerance of Modi government’ gang. He saw mob lynching only from psudo secular view. He supported ‘Tukde Gand’ leader Kanhaiya Kumar. He protested against beef (cow meat) ban in Maharashtra.


I think political activism caused loss to creative actor and writer Girish Karnad. He is survived by his wife Saraswathi, son Raghu and daughter Shalmali Radha Karnad. May Ishwar bless his soul peace!



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