Playwright, theatre director, screenwriter and actor: these are the facets that caused Girish Karnad’s rise to fame at a young age. However, at his memorial meeting in Matunga’s Yashwantrao Chavan Natya Mandir this evening, it was his role as an activist that everyone chose to highlight. It was an apt tribute as throughout his life, the late thespian used his art as a means of dissent.
Among those in attendance were several noted personalities such as playwrights Jabbar Patel, Atul Tiwari and Avinash Kadam; publisher Ramdas Bhatkal of Popular Prakashan; theatre critique and columnist Shanta Gokhale; actors Sushama Deshpande, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Anjan Srivastav.
“He was among those who spoke up — against Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and more recently at the time when Nayantara Sehgal’s invite at the literary festival was revoked or when atrocities against minorities were on the rise.”
Talking about his art as a means of recording his dissent, Kadam added, “His plays such as Tughlaq and Hayvadan among others, were relevant to the times and continue to be. They were performed across the country in several languages.”
Many pointed out that even after his health started to suffer, Karnad would continue to show up at protests. “Even when he was told by doctors that he has little time left, he made time for other things. He would come to the protests – after Gauri Lankesh’s murder, to speak up against government apathy towards the slain activists, the #NotInMyName movement – with his oxygen tank. He never shied away from standing up and being counted where it mattered,” said Tiwari.
He also pointed out that Karnad was among the few artists took up the responsibilities of managing cultural organisations, such as the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and Sahitya Natak Akademi.
The two-hour programme also included readings of his works.
Actor Rasika Agashe read out excerpts from translations of his plays Agni Aur Varsha and Hayvadan.
Tiwari read a part of the first chapter from Karnad’s autobiography, Aadaadtha Aayusha, which the late thespian had entrusted him to translate from Kannada to Hindustani.