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In June 2019, a few days before his death, Girish Karnad and Arshia Sattar had extensive conversations about his work, his life, and the concerns that had occupied him over almost sixty years as a writer and a public intellectual. This podcast is a distillation of those freewheeling conversations, a short intellectual biography to celebrate the life and work of one of India’s finest playwrights and thinkers. In this series, we hear Girish talk about Kannada literature, existentialism, making of modern Indian theatre, the art and craft of playwriting, and his life as a public intellectual.
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.
Episode 1: An Introduction
Girish spoke mainly about his writing and the ideas that formed and motivated him. Arshia and Anmol speak about how the series took shape and introduce the subsequent episodes. In this episode, we hear Girish talk about his life in films and in cultural institutions, topics he did not return to in later conversations.
Arshia Sattar obtained her PhD in South Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago in 1990. Her abridged translations of the epic Sanskrit texts, Kathasaritsagara and Valmiki’s Ramayana have both been published by Penguin Books. She has also written books for children and her literary reviews appear regularly in various Indian and international publications.
Anmol Tikoo is a filmmaker and educator, most recently at the United World College, where he taught philosophy and film. He has worked on Indian and international film projects and written for various media outlets.