About the Series
The series is hosted by Arshia Sattar and Anmol Tikoo, with special guests such as Vivek Shanbhag, Shanta Gokhale, and Sunil Shanbag, who provide the context for Girish’s comments. Each episode also contains scenes from his plays read by members of Bangalore’s theatre community. The readings show us how closely his philosophical and political ideas were to what he wrote. They also provide an opportunity for audiences, particularly those who might not be already familiar with Girish’s works, to experience the power of his work.
The title for the series is taken from the song in Hayavadana (ಹಯವದನ), a song which has been musically recreated for us by Pallavi MD and Konarak Reddy. Apart from the fact that Neerina Mele Chitra remains one of Kannada’s most beloved ranga geethe, we found it to be particularly evocative as we remember a man who profoundly impacted India’s cultural arena in the last half of the 20th century. This podcast series, we hope, will bear witness to Girish Karnad, a man who gave us so much to remember, but also so much to take forward.
This podcast series was supported by a grant from the Nilekani Philanthropies.
About Girish Karnad
As a playwright, film star and engaged public intellectual, Girish Karnad was one of the most visible and influential figures of our time. Karnad’s vibrant presence met with both critical and popular acclaim – he was the recipient of the Padma Bhushan and the Jnanpith awards as well as several National and State awards for his work in films and theatre.
After graduating from Karnataka University (Dharwad) in 1958, Girish Karnad studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford (1960–63). He returned to India and worked with the Oxford University Press in Chennai, a job he resigned from in 1970 to devote himself to writing full time. He was only 35 years old when he was appointed Director of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune (1974–1975). In 1987-88, he was a Fulbright Scholar in Residence at the University of Chicago. This was followed by stints as the Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi (1988–93) the Chairman of the Film and Television Institute (1999-2001) and the Director of the Nehru Centre, London (2000–2003).
Over four decades, Karnad wrote fifteen plays, including Tughlaq, Hayavadana, Tale Danda, The Dream of Tipu Sultan, Bikhre Bimb, Boiled Beans on Toast and Wedding Album. His best known works use historical or mythological events and characters to throw light on contemporary issues. Although Karnad wrote all his plays (except Anju Mallige) in Kannada, he translated them into English himself. They were also translated into many Indian languages and were presented on stages across the country by such directors as Ebrahim Alkazi, Alyque Padamsee, Satyadev Dubey, Vijaya Mehta, Neelam Man Singh Chowdhry and Shankar Nag. Karnad also wrote critical essays in Kannada and a memoir which was translated into English as This Life at Play (2021).
Karnad was at the forefront of the parallel cinema movement in India and began his film career with the Kannada film Samskara, based on the novel of the same name by UR Ananthamurthy and directed by Pattabhi Rama Reddy. The film won the National Award for Best Feature in 1970. He went on to write and direct films himself in Kannada and Hindi, working with such distinguished collaborators as BV Karanth and Shyam Benegal. His appearances on television in The Discovery of India, Turning Point and the serial Malgudi Days did much to cement his national presence as did his work in such mainstream films as Iqbal, He Ram and Ek Tha Tiger.
The last two decades of Karnad’s life were marked by an increasing engagement in social and political issues. He used the recognition his celebrity status brought to speak out against discrimination and injustice and was a familiar figure at protest rallies and marches across the country.