Girish Karnad | A Multi Faceted Personality

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His Life: A Proponent of Multiculturalism

  • Year 1938 – Born in Matheran, Maharashtra.
  • Year 1963 – Elected as the President of the Oxford Union.
  • Year 1974 – Received the Padma Shri Award.
  • Year 1992 – Got the Padma Bhushan Award.
  • Year 1998 – Received the Kalidas Samman Award.

“A man must commit a crime, at least once in his lifetime. Only then will his virtue be recognized.”

Girish Karnad is a well known Indian writer, playwright, screenwriter, actor and movie director who is active in South Indian cinema and Bollywood. He has been conferred with two Padma honors and has also received four Filmfare Awards.


Girish Raghunath Karnad was born on May 19, 1938 in Matheran, Maharashtra in a Konkani speaking family. His mother was Krishna Bai, who became a young widow. After some time she married Dr. Raghunath Karnad, a doctor in Bombay Medical Service and after five years Girish Raghunath was born to the couple.

Personal Life

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Girish had his initial schooling in Marathi. While he was young, he was a great admirer of Yakshagana and his village’s theatre. When he was 14, his family moved to Dharwad in Karnataka. There, he completed his Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics and Statics from the Karnatak Arts College in Dharwad in 1958. After completion of his degree, he went to England and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics in Oxford and earned his master degree there. He was also elected as the President of the Oxford Union in 1963.

Girish married Dr. Saraswathy Ganapathy and has two children with her. His son Raghu is a journalist and daughter Radha is a doctor.

Career Journey

Girish had his directorial debut in the movie Vamsha Vruksh (1971), based on a Kannada novel written by S.L. Bhairappa and this movie won numerous national and international awards. Before this, Girish acted in a movie called Samskara (1970) which was based on a novel by U.R. Ananthamurthy and it was directed by Pattabhirama Reddy. The movie won the President’s first Golden Lotus Award in Kannada cinema.

Then Girish directed numerous movies in Kannada and also in Hindi. Some of his well-known Kannada movies include Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane (1977), Ondanondu Kaaladalli (1978), Cheluvi (1992) and Kaadu (1973). The recent movie by Karnad was Kanooru Heggaditi (1999) based on a novel written by the Kannada writer Kuvempu. Karnad has also acted in numerous other movies and received compliments.

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Girish is also a famous playwright. His plays, which were mostly written in Kannada, have been widely translated into English and in all major Indian languages. When he started writing plays, Kannada literature was highly influenced by the rebirth in Western literature and so his plays are written neither in English nor in his mother tongue Konkani but they are composed in his adopted language Kannada.

His first play was Yayati in 1961 which mimics the ironies of life through the characters of Mahabharata. It became an instant success and was immediately translated and staged in several other Indian languages. His next one was Tughlaq in 1964 and it established Karnad as one of the greatest playwrights in the country. His next work Hayavadana, based on a theme drawn from The Transposed Heads came in 1971. He also provided the voice of A. P. J. Abdul Kalam in the audiobook of Kalam’s biography which was written by Charkha Audiobooks in Wings of Fire.

Awards and Recognition

In 1994, he got the Sahitya Akademi Award and in 1998, the Jnanpith Award for his works. In 1971, he received the National Film Awards for Best Direction in Vamsha Vriksha. He also got the National Film Award for The Best Feature Film for Ondanondu Kaladalli in Kannada and in 1971, he received the Karnataka State Film Awards for Best Dialogue Writer for Vamsha Vrikska.

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