In this Idea Exchange session with the Loksatta in Pune,actor-director-playwright Girish Karnad talks about his love for fiction,the transition to cinema,his decision to write an autobiography and why his attacks on Naipaul,Tagore were justified.
Girish Kuber: You have been doing theatre and films,even Hindi films,and many of us have grown up with them. Over time,have you seen a degeneration of Hindi cinema?
Not really. Indeed,multiplexes have given good cinema a chance. A while back,only commercial movies did good business. There was also good cinema with strong themes,good structure and an audience that was ready to experiment,but such films were fewer. For an audience who liked only entertainment,a lot of song,dance routines and action scenes would be packed in the film. Many a time distributors would decide the format of the film. Punjabi distributors would want action scenes whereas Tamil ones would want lots of song and dance routines. It became a challenge for the writer/director to work around this format and make something different. Then multiplexes arrived. It was a dramatic turn for cinema. Multiplexes changed the economic equation. For an audience that had a different taste in cinema,different theatres opened. Then,corporates started producing films. Through these efforts,some good cinema was seen. Girish Kulkarnis Vihir,Vicky Donor were films that were made outside the set formula. Another noticeable film was Shanghai.
Ravindra Pathare: As an eminent playwright,what is it about theatre you miss now?
The four of us,Id say. (Mohan Rakesh,Vijay Tendulkar and Badal Sircar,and me.) Satyajit Ray,Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt were making movies at the time. The National School of Drama had been established. Satyadev Dubey had just started a Hindi theatre movement in Mumbai. From around 1960 till 1982,theatre was the only form of entertainment. Most importantly,there was no television. So there was a good audience which regularly watched plays. We are lucky in a way that we all worked around the same time period. Dubey and Arvind Deshpande were given space at Walchand Terrace,and we finally had a place of our own… There was no competition among us. Once I went to meet Dubey at Walchand Terrace,and Vijay Tendulkar was there. We fell asleep there and woke up to find Badal Sircar sleeping next to us!
It was an exciting time… We translated each others plays into our own languages. Once,just before the opening night of a play,Mohan Rakesh joked,The future of Indian theatre is in our hands. I was 10 years younger than Tendulkar,Badal Sircar,Mohan Rakesh and that worked to my advantage. Everything that they received,they passed it on to me. Even awards. In fact,Tendulkar deserved to get the Jnanpith Award before me.
Abhijeet Tamhane: Why did you choose the story of Tughlaq for your first play?
When I started writing historical plays,that genre was very prevalent. I researched on everything right from the Mohenjo-daro era to the Mauryas and then finally to the Tughlaq dynasty. Tughlaq was known as the mad king. That drew me to the story. I wanted to write a historical play which would reflect the times continued…