Born on May 19, 1938, in Mathern, Maharastra, Girish Karnad has become one of India's brightest shining stars, earning international praise. For four decades, Karnad has been composing marvelous plays, often using history and mythology to tackle contemporary issues. He is also active in the world of Indian cinema working as an actor, director and Screenwriter earning numerous awards along the way.
As a young man studying at Karnataka University, Dharwar, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mathematics and Statistics in 1958, Karnad dreamed of earning international literary fame, but he thought that he would do so by writing in English. Upon graduation, he went to England and studied at Oxford where he earned a Rhodes Scholarship and went on to receive a Master of Arts Degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He would eventually achieve the international fame he had dreamed of, but not for his English poetry. Instead, Karnad would earn his reputation through decades of consistent literary output on his native soil.
His first play, Yahati (1961), was written neither in English nor in his mother tongue Konkani. Instead, it was composed in his adopted language Kannada. The play, which chronicled the adventures of mythical characters from the Mahabharata, was an instant success and was immediately translated and staged in several other Indian languages. His best loved play, however, would come three years later. By the time Tughlaq, a compelling allegory on the Nehruvian era, was performed by the National School of Drama, Karnad had established himself as one of the most promising playwrights in the country. He soon quit his post at the Oxford University Press, deciding to focus all of his energies on his writing.
For four decades, Karnad has continued to compose top-notch plays, often using history and mythology to tackle contemporary themes. He has also forayed into the jungle of cinema, working alternately as an actor, director, and screenwriter, and earning numerous awards along the way. At the age of sixty, however, Karnad is vowing to give up cinema for the stage. "I've had a good life," he says. "I have managed to do all I could wish for--even be a government servant! Now I feel whatever time I have left should be spent doing what I like best--writing plays."
Karnad's awards include the Mysore State Award for Yayathi (1962), the Government of Mysore Rajyotsava Award (1970), Presidents Gold Medal for the Best Indian film for Samskara (1970), the Homi Bhabha Fellowship for creative work in folk theatre (1970-72), the Sangeet Natak Academy (National Academy of the Performing Arts) Award for playwriting (1972), the Kamaladevi Award of the Bharatiya Natya Sangh for the Best Indian play of the year for Hayavadana (1972), the National Award for Excellence in Direction for Vamsha Vriksha (shared with B.V. Karanth - 1972), the Mysore State Award for the Best Kannada film and the Best Direction for Vamsha Vriksha (1972), the Presidents Silver Medal for the Second Best Indian film for Kaadu (1974), the Padma Shri Award (1974), the National Award for the Best Kannada film for Ondanondu Kaaladalli (1978), the National Award for the Best Script for Bhumika (shared with Shyam Benegal and Satyadev Dubey - 1978), the Film Fare Award for the Best Script for Godhuli (shared with B.V. Karanth - 1978), the Best Bengal Film Journalists Association Award for the Best Actor in Swami (1978), the Karnataka Nataka Academy Award (1984), the Nandikar, Calcutta, Award for Playwriting (1989), the Golden Lotus for the Best Non-Feature Film for Kanaka Purandara (1989), the National Award for the Best Non-Feature Film on Social Issues for The Lamp in the Niche (1990), "Writer of the Year" Award from Granthaloka Journal of the Book Trade for Taledanda (1990), Karnataka State Award for the Best Supporting Actor in Santa Shishunala Shareef (1991), the Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award for the Most Creative Work for Nagamandala (1992), the B.H. Sridhar Award
for Taledanda (1992), the Padma Bhushan Award (1992), the Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award for Best Play for Taledanda (1992), the Booksellers and Publishers Association of South India Award (1992), the National Award for the Best Film on Environmental Conservation for Cheluvi(1993), a Special Honour Award from the Karnataka Sahitya Academy (1994), the Sahitya Academy Award for Taledanda (1994), and the Gubbi Veeranna Award (1996-97), and the Jnanpith Award (1999). He also served as Director of the Film and Television Institute of India (1974-75), President of the Karnataka Nataka Academy (1976-78), Indian Co-Chairman for the Joint Media Committee of the Indo-U.S. sub-Commission on Education and Culture (1984-93), Visiting Professor and Fulbright Scholar in Residence at the University of Chicago (1987-88), and Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Academy of Performing Arts (1988-93).