BENGALURU: The foyer at Ranga Shankara saw a full house on Sunday morning, as theatre lovers and artists alike gathered to pay tribute to Girish Karnad.
Theatre groups across the city, such as Indian Ensemble and Jagriti Theatre, took turns in reading select portions from the many plays Karnad has penned, including The Dreams of Tipu Sultan, The Fire and the Rain, Yayati and Tughlaq.
While Karnad’s looming presence was missed, lines written by him ensured that the audience felt like he was right there with them.
Among the audience members were Ranga Shakara’s founder Arundhati Nag, director T S Nagabharana, actor-singer B Jayashree and director Arjun Sajnani.
Theatre actor Swati De, who was part of the group that read out lines from Yayati, recalled how Karnad always gave actors the freedom to interpret his characters in the way they saw fit. De, who played the character of Sharmishtha in Yayati, said, “I asked Mr Karnad about my character, who I found extremely intriguing.
I was scared to do the play because every staged production has some nuance because the playwright can’t put everything in black and white.
But all he told me was that I was Sharmishtha, and that it was up to me to play her. This shows his magnanimous personality.”
Agreed Nagabharana, who said he was greatly influenced by how Karnad made everyone around him comfortable.
He recalls an incident when the late playwright and he had to share a room in Chennai, with the former using the cot and the latter a mat to sleep at night.
“But one afternoon, Karnad said he would not be back before 4pm so I took a nap on the cot. He arrived earlier and saw me asleep but didn’t wake me up. That night, he insisted I use the cot instead,” said the director, adding that Karnad knew how to create a comfort zone for anyone.
“Even today, I feel like he is with me. He lives on through his work. If you keep reading them, it’s almost like you are talking to him,” he said.
Politician Sowmya Reddy said Karnad will be remembered not just for his works but also for his bold stance on matters.
“My most recent memory of Karnad is him standing with a placard that read ‘Not in my name’, along with the oxygen cylinder in tow. His influence and principles are things we need to think about, introspect and reflect on for generations to come,” said Reddy.
Nag too spoke of how Karnad stood “like a rock” behind her during the inception of Ranga Shankara. As the smell of freshly-made sabudana vadas wafted through the air, Nag fondly recalled how Karnad would often ask for those as soon as he entered Ranga Shankara. This, she explained, was one of her many favourites memories of him.
“The other would be the chance I got to act in his first directorial venture. Listening to him talk about Karnataka history, Hitler, the holocaust or the world at large was a pleasure,” she said, adding, “Where will we find such beacons?”