Theatre personalities, artistes and film personalities in Pune remembered playwright-actor-director Girish Karnad as an intellectual giant, a humble person and a fearless artiste who stood by his beliefs and left an indelible mark in art and cinema.
FTII director Bhupendra Kainthola said Karnad was the only FTII director who went on to serve as the the institute’s chairman. Karnad was FTII director from January 1974 to December 1975 and its chairman from February 1999 to October 2001. “He was also the first non-civil servant to become the director of FTII, as well as, the youngest at 35. In fact some of his students were older than him at the time,” Kainthola said.
Director Saeed Akhtar Mirza, an FTII student between 1974 and 1975, said although there were “skirmishes” between the playwright and students during his tenure as institute’s director, he was loved and appreciated by all. “He was a very fine human being… He was a great intellectual who had courage and conviction to take on big names. He stood by his convictions till the end,” Mirza said.
Jayoo Patwardhan, art director and production designer who worked with Karnad for several films, including Utsav for which she won a National Award (with Nachiket Patwardhan), remembered him as a “multifaceted and illustrious man who did not behave like a star among friends and colleagues”. She described Karnad as a “neighbour, friend and colleague” for 47 years.
“Working as production designer with Karnad was great, as he never cramped our style or compromised on work for time or money… Not even the smallest link in the work felt intimidated by him. On the contrary, he was accessible to all and stuck out for honesty and democratic rights of all working under him,” Patwardhan said.
Uma Kulkarni, who translated Karnad’s autobiography ‘Adaatha Ayusha’ from Kannada to Marathi, which was published as ‘Khelta Khelta Ayushya’, said Karnad himself had an excellent command over Marathi and was very fond of Pune and had talked at length in the book about the time he spent here as a child.
“When he gave me the autobiography, he told me to skip parts of his time in Karnataka, as he thought Marathi readers would not be able to connect with them. Instead, he wrote more about his association with Maharashtra and Marathi, which we added in the Marathi version. Such was his flexibility,” Kulkarni said.