Girish Karnad is a playwright, film-maker and actor. He was born in 1938 and educated at the Karnataka University, Dharwad (1954-58) and at Oxford where he was a Rhodes Scholar (1960-63).
After working with the Oxford University Press for seven years (1963-70), he resigned to concentrate on writing and film-making. He has served as Director of 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-cum-Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence and taught classical Indian drama and poetics. Most recently, he served as Director, The Nehru Centre and simultaneously as Minister, Culture, in the Indian High Commission, London (2000-03).
His play, Hayavadana (1971) won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. The Oxford Dictionary of Plays, edited by Michael Patterson (2005), which sets out to list ‘the 1000 most significant plays of world theatre’ includes Hayavadana. Naga-Mandala (1988) was premiered in the US by the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis as part of its Thirtieth Anniversary Celebrations in 1993 and has since been staged the world over. His next play, The Fire and the Rain was commissioned by the Guthrie Theater. In 2002, the Haymarket Theatre, in Leicester, UK, commissioned and premiered Bali the Sacrifice.
He was invited by the International Theatre Institute of the UNESCO, Paris to deliver the World Theatre Day Message on 27 February 2002.
He was invited by The Clay Sanskrit Library to contribute a Foreword to Bhava-bhuti’s play, Rama’s Last Act (Uttara Rama Caritam), translated from the Sanskrit by Professor Sheldon Pollock, William B Ransford Professor of Sanskrit at Columbia University, published by the New York University Press and JJC Foundation, 2007.
His other plays are: Yayati (1961), Taledanda(1990), The Dreams of Tipu Sultan (1997 ) and Two Monologues: Flowers / Broken Images (2004). Wedding Album is his most recent play.
He scripted and presented the film, The Bhagavad Gita, as part of the series, ‘Art that Shook the World’, for B.B.C. Two in 2002. [He has acted in, directed and produced several television and feature films in Kannada and Hindi.]
He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1974 and the Padma Bhushan in 1992 by the President of India. The Karnatak University conferred a D.Litt. on him in 1994. This year, the International Theatre Institute, Paris, of UNESCO has nominated him World Theatre Ambassador.
He was awarded the Bharatiya Jnanpith, the country’s highest literary prize, in 1999.