Girish Karnad - an activist who epitomised the freedom of expression

Legendary actor and playwright Girish Karnad, known for his contribution to Kannada literature and theatre, passed away on Monday morning in Bengaluru. A recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, Karnad was one of the most important literary minds of the present era.

Renowned playwright, actor, and social activist Girish Karnad, who left his indelible mark in the world of literature, theatre, and cinema spanning over five decades, passed away at his residence on Monday morning after a prolonged illness, according to news reports.

The 81-year-old Jnanpith awardee was known for raising his voice against social and political issues, and was a well-known social activist who championed the freedom of expression.

Born in 1938 in Mumbai, Karnad often voiced his opinions against religious fundamentalism. He was also one of the 200 writers who put out an open letter to vote out hate politics and favour a “diverse and equal India” during the recent general elections.

Girish Karnad (image: The Week)

Even in the state of serious health condition, he attended the first death anniversary of journalist Gauri Lankesh with a placard around his neck, which read ‘Me Too Urban Naxal’, and spoke against the house arrests of activists across the country. He was also charged for wearing the placard around his neck at the event.

A prominent figure in the Kannada literary scene, his critically acclaimed plays such as Yayati, Hayavadana, and Tughlaq are a mix of myth and history and speaks of the contemporary reality. This helped transform Kannada theatre to a great extent, reports NDTV.

Besides directing, he acted in many plays and movies as well. In Malgudi Days, one of the cult classics based on RK Narayan's series with the same name, Karnad portrayed the role of Swami’s father. He also hosted the science show Turning Point on Doordarshan during the early 1990s, reports India Today.

(Image: Hindustan Times)

A Rhodes Scholar from Oxford University, he earned his Master of Arts in Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics.

Mourning the loss of a well-known personality, author Amitav Gosh paid a tribute by tweeting,

Karnad was conferred with the Padma Shri in 1974, and the Padma Bhushan in 1992.