Born in May 1938, Karnad studied at Karnataka University and then went to the Oxford University to study philosophy, politics and economics as a Rhodes Scholar. He wrote his first play Yayati at the age of 23. He entered films in 1970, when he wrote the screenplay and played a lead role in Samskara.
Karnad was awarded the Padma Shri in 1974 and the Padma Bhushan in 1992. He was also a winner of the Jnanpith Award in 1999. Karnad’s work was known for its treatment of modern-day issues through history and mythology.
Some of Karnad’s best-known films were in Kannada – including Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane (1977) and Ondanondu Kaaladalli (1978). He also worked in Hindi films.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy were among several leaders to express their sorrow after Karnad’s death on Monday. “In his death, we lost a cultural ambassador,” Kumaraswamy tweeted.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi condoled the actor’s death. “Playwright, actor, director but above all a great human being, in Girish Karnad’s passing India has lost a beloved son, whose memory will live on in the vast treasure trove of creative work he leaves behind.”
Historian and writer Ramachandra Guha also mourned Karnad’s death, calling him a “colossus”. “Playwright, actor, institution-builder and patriot, Girish Karnad was a colossus. It was a privilege to have known him, a far greater privilege to have seen his plays and read his work.”