Veteran theatre artist PC Ramakrishna's acquaintance with Girish Karnad dates back to 1969. That was the year in which the former joined the theatre group Madras Players. Half a century later, he still remembers his first play with the group — Arthur Miller's The Crucible, where Karnad played the protagonist, Reverend Samuel Parris. Incidentally, this was Karnad's last play with the group. The play was staged at the then Madras' Museum Theatre.
It is quite unsurprising to know that Ramakrishna was deeply saddened by his dear friend's demise. Taking a walk down the memory lane, he recalls a few good memories about Karnad, from his early theatre days in Chennai. Karnad joined The Madras Players, during his span at the Oxford University Press. By then, he had written his first play Yayati, which was yet to be published and performed. "The Madras Players was the first theatre group to perform Yayati. This was in 1971. I played the protagonist Yayati in it," says Ramakrishna.
Later, Karnad went on to direct a few plays by the group. "He directed us in a couple of plays which included Badal Sircar's Evam Indrajit. We halve also performed a few other plays of his — Nagamandala, Hayavadana, The Dreams Of Tipu Sultan and Tughlaq," says Ramakrishna.
He admits that he wasn't able to be in constant touch with Karnad, after the former left Chennai and moved back to his hometown Dharwad. "We weren't regularly in touch. But we made it a point to meet every time he came to Chennai or when I went to Bengaluru," he says. Their last meeting was two years back when Karnad had come to Chennai to release his son Raghu KArnad's book Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War. "He had called me when he was here and we had met then," says Ramakrishna, "It was really sad to see him with an oxygen tube in the past couple of years though. Probably this was what years of smoking gave him," he adds.
"He was definitely a legend," Ramakrishna sorrowfully reminisces. "He was a good friend and this is a great loss."
(This article was originally published on EdexLive)