Birth: 19-05-1938, Matheran, Maharashtra.
Girish Raghunath Karnad is a contemporary writer, playwright, actor and movie director belonging to the Kannada industry. He is the latest of the seven recipients of the Jnanpith Award for Kannada, the highest literary honour conferred in India.
For four decades Karnad has been composing plays, often using history and mythology to tackle contemporary issues, directed by eminent directors like Ebrahim Alkazi, B. V. Karanth, Alyque Padamsee, Prasanna, Arvind Gaur,Satyadev Dubey, Vijaya Mehta, Shyamanand Jalan and Amal Allana. He is also active in the world of Indian cinema working as an actor, director, and screenwriter, earning numerous awards along the way. He has been conferred with the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.
Girish Karnad was born in Matheran, Maharashtra, and had his initial schooling in Marathi. As a youngster, Karnad was an ardent admirer of Yakshagana and the theater in his village. After graduating in Arts from Karnataka College Dharwad, in 1958he went to England and studied at Lincoln and Magdalen colleges in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (1960-63), earning his Master of Arts degree in philosophy, political science and economics.
After working with the Oxford University Press for seven years (1963-70), he resigned to freelance. He has served as Director of the Film and Television Institute of India (1974-1975) and Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the National Academy of the Performing Arts (1988-93). During 1987-88, he was at the University of Chicago as Visiting Professor and Fulbright Playwright-in-Residence. It was during his tenure at Chicago that NAGAMANDALA had its world premiere at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis based on an English translation of the Kannada original that was done by Karnad. Most recently, he served as the director of the Nehru Centre and as Minister of Culture, in the Indian High Commission, London (2000-03).
Karnad made his acting as well as screenwriting debut in a Kannada movie, Samskara (1970), based on a novel by U.R. Ananthamurthy and directed by Pattabhirama Reddy. That movie won the first President's Golden Lotus Award for Kannada cinema. Over the years he had acted in a number Hindi and Kannada feature films, and worked with directors like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Shyam Benegal.
He made his directorial debut with Vamsha Vriksha (1971), based on a Kannada novel by S.L. Bhairappa. It won him National Film Award for Best Direction along with B. V. Karanth, who co-directed the film. Later, Karnad directed several movies in Kannada and Hindi, including Godhuli (1977) and Utsav (1984). He has made number of documentaries, like one on the Kannada poet D. R. Bendre (1972), Kanaka-Purandara (English, 1988) on two medieval Bhakti poets of Karnataka, Kanaka Dasa and Purandara Dasa, and The Lamp in the Niche (English, 1989) on Sufism and the Bhakti movement. Many of his films and documentaries have won several national and international awards.
His Hindi movies include Nishaant (1975), Manthan (1976), Swami (1977) and Pukar (2000). He has acted in a number of Nagesh Kukunoor films, starting with Iqbal (2005) written by Vipul K Rawal, where his role of the ruthless cricket coach too got him critical acclaim. This was followed by Dor (2006), 8 x 10 Tasveer (2009), with lead actor Akshay Kumar and Aashayein (2010). A recently acclaimed movie by Karnad is Kanooru Heggaditi, based on a novel by Kannada writer Kuvempu.
He recently acted in the movie called He also acted in critically acclaimed Kannada gangster movie Aa Dinagalu.