I first saw Girish Karnad on the big screen in Shyam Benegal’s Manthan (1976). I was very young then. Yet, I have followed his cinematic work since then. Later, I grew to appreciate him as an intellectual who had strong views on many socio-political issues.
When I was making Ek Tha Tiger (2012), I thought of casting actors who weren’t from that world (commercial cinema). The idea was to create a new world around Salman Khan with them. So, I reached out to Girish sir. He was very gracious and came on board.
I had the privilege of shooting with him in various cities such as Mumbai, Dublin and Istanbul. In Dublin and Istanbul especially, I used to just sit and chat with him on various subjects. His health was fine at that time. We even used to go on long walks. It was some time after that his health started deteriorating.
During this period, we spoke about the Azad Hind Fauj at length. These discussions helped me in fine-tuning the script of my upcoming web series, The Forgotten Army. Girish sir’s uncle was one of the first cadets of the Azad Hind Fauj. He was sent to Japan in 1944 to be trained as a fighter pilot. I had already written the script of this show. But these discussions helped me polish it.
Girish sir was a giant in the theatre world. I watched a production of his play Tughlaq when I was living in Delhi. It is one of the most definitive plays of Indian theatre. His contribution to cinema and theatre is immense but he was also a pillar of social justice, speaking about issues he felt about. In the last few years, he spoke out strongly on the need to preserve India’s social and secular fabric. He was brave and never held back his views. It is rare to come across someone like him in the world of cinema. That is our biggest loss and should be mourned about.
As told to Parth Khatau.