Girish Karnad, a playwright, writer, actor, activist and one of India’s most versatile theatre personalities, died in his home city of Bengaluru on Monday at the age of 81.
The cause of death was multiple organ failure, according to several news outlets.
A recipient of the Jnanpith Award – India’s highest literary honour – and a Rhodes scholar, Karnad wrote his first play, “Yayati” while studying at Oxford. At the age of 26, he wrote “Tughlaq”, considered to be a seminal work in Indian theatre. He also wrote notable plays in Kannada, the primary language of the state of Karnataka.
A fierce advocate of freedom of expression, he lent his voice to the protests against the 2017 murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru. In 2014, he campaigned for Nandan Nilekani when the former Infosys chairman contested the Lok Sabha election on a Congress ticket.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind were among those who expressed their grief at his passing. Karnataka declared a one-day holiday and a three-day mourning period in his honour.
Karnad wanted a simple funeral, his son, journalist Raghu Karnad, told The Hindu. His last wish was that no VIPs visit him, no funeral procession be held, and that no flowers be placed on his body, the newspaper quoted the younger Karnad as saying.
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