Girish Karnad had unmatched rigour and great ideological clarity: Director KM Chaitanya
The director, who recently made a documentary on the late playwright-actor-director, talks about his association with the legend
Director KM Chaitanya, whose documentary on playwright, actor, director Girish Karnad has taken the internet by storm talks about his association with the literary legend, who passed away early on Monday.
Tell us about your association with Girish. When did you first meet each other?
It was in 1996. I was straight out of university and wanted to go to Mumbai to look for a job. My father (Kannada writer K Maralasiddhappa) was acquainted with Girish. When I visited him to ask how to go about looking for a job, he asked me if I would be his assistant director. I assisted him on two television serials, and then a feature film, Kanooru Heggadathi.
How did Girish influence your work?
I started my film career with him. When he won the Jnanpeetha Award, we were in the middle of our shoot in Malenadu, and he asked me to fill in for him as a director. I was just 23 years old, and he reposed faith in me. I then directed two classics he produced — Kusumabaale and Om Namo — and then co-directed Bikhre Bimb, a play he wrote. It was his first play that he also directed. Arundhati Nag played the lead. He acted and co-wrote the screenplay (with Agni Sreedhar) for Aa Dinagalu, which was my directorial debut.
How different were his plays from those of other playwrights?
He brought an unmatched rigour to the structure of his plays. There was also great ideological clarity in his creations. The plays he wrote transcended time and regional boundaries. For instance, Tuglaq, was perceived as anti-Nehru, then Anti Emergency, later, Anti-Zia-Ul-Haq in Pakistan, and anti despotic government when played in Sri Lanka. Same was the case with other plays — they were all always relevant.
Tell us about your documentary that has become an internet rage.
It is strange that the documentary has caught on five years after its making. I had shared it on Youtube and thought it was forgotten till a few days ago when it began trending. The documentary was shot over three years, and since I was associated with him and knew about his life and works, I thought I could do justice to the narration. So we went to places where he studied, worked, lived. And he spoke about those times and places.
How do you think people will remember Girish Karnad?
He was one of the few playwrights who stayed relevant. Youngsters connected with him and found him to be very contemporary in nature. He was sensitive to gender equality, LGBT rights, much before the movements came in. He was much ahead of his time. He fought to safeguard the Indian constitution and law as it has been written by our founding fathers.