Karnad discovered actor in Shankar Nag

Veterans of theatre, literature and cinema came together to pay tribute to the playwright-director

Girish Karnad

It was an evening marked by laughter, grief and nostalgia. At an event organised to celebrate the life and work of Girish Karnad, a host of stage and screen personalities, writers and fans gathered at Bangalore International Centre (BIC) and shared their memories and thoughts of the celebrated actor, playwright and director.

The event started with a brief address by Shanth Kumar, president of BIC and director of Printers Mysore Ltd, who lauded the crucial role played by Karnad in BIC. He highlighted how Karnad’s theatre experience was put to use in designing the auditorium which Karnad never saw as his health had deteriorated by the time the construction was over.

Historian Ramachandra Guha, the host of the event, regaled the audience with the story of his first live glimpse of Karnad. “He would dine alone at Delhi’s India International Centre, on a table in the middle of the large room. There would be many people from different fields in the room and all of us would look at him adoringly. But no one dared disturb him,” he recounted.

Guha went on to add that Karnad embodied Indian culture and was a bridge between Karnataka and India, and India and the world.

A documentary film, made by KM Chaitanya, gave the audience a sense of Karnad’s background, influences, how he became a writer, some of his early works in theatre and film and so on. Titled ‘Scattering Golden Feathers’, the narration was by Karnad himself.

After that, actor Arundhati Nag, writer Vivek Shanbag and historian Arshia Sattar paid tributes to Karnad. Nag spoke about her association with Karnad, developed through Shankar (“he discovered the actor in Shankar, who initially wanted to become a director”) and strengthened through theatre (“I have done three Karnad plays, all in Kannada”).

Shanbag and Sattar too shared their personal experiences. The latter spoke of how she met many famous personalities and lesser-known artistes at Karnad’s house, all of whom were treated with the same respect “or in Girish’s case, with the same disdain.”

The event ended with recorded tributes of friends and admirers of Girish, artist S G Vasudev, filmmaker Shyam Benegal and actor Naseeruddin Shah. Shah said his first introduction to Karnad was through his play ‘Tughlaq’, of which he read the Urdu translation. He recalls that when he saw him on screen in a Raymond commercial, he couldn’t believe that the same person had written the play. He also smilingly remembers his then-girlfriend letting go of his hand and staring in an awestruck manner at Karnad on screen. Shah also spoke about Karnad’s FTII stint and the unpleasant incidents which marked it.

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