Farewell my friend: Shabana Azmi pays tribute to Girish Karnad


“He didn’t fancy himself as an actor and rued that it would damage his reputation as a playwright (who was fast getting acknowledged as one of the best in India). “I was playing the schoolmaster’s wife in Nishant. I would tease him and say, ‘No matter… even if you aren’t good, you are so good looking that all will be forgiven!’ He would laugh loudly and then proceed to regale us with umpteen stories. “Gone was the initial reluctance and hesitation. Venkatesh launches Virataparvam

In Benegal’s 1975 film, Azmi remembers that it was the first time that she shared screen space with Karnad. More Explained

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“But the fact is that he had undeniable screen presence and very soon turned into a fine actor.”
She said her last film collaboration with the veteran was 2016 film Chalk and Duster. “It was a troubled tenureship because the students were on strike and very hostile. The actor said she last met Karnad in Bengaluru on the sidelines of his play Broken Images and added that despite his failing health, the veteran was still full of “his passion or his commitment as an engaged citizen”. “Few people know that when Shyam Benegal first made Ankur it was a very lengthy film. I warmed up to him.”
Azmi said she was later cast as Karnad’s wife in Basu Chatterjee’s 1997 film Swami, which was based on a short story by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhayay. But Girish handled it with great maturity and compassion. “Girish and I were tickled pink and made a pact that we wouldn’t let on that we both thought otherwise! it was a pleasure to hear him speak. He faced the camera like a total pro, as though to the manor born! Advertising

“It was his fearlessness, his speaking his mind without mincing words, his total commitment to freedom of speech that defined him. We kept in touch on e-mail and the occasional phone call,” Azmi wrote. Legend has it that Naseeruddin Shah was
in the forefront of the strike and there were some unpleasant altercations between them. If that’s how the audience saw him we would keep the secret between ourselves! “But to Girish’s remarkable credit that didn’t deter him from recommending Naseer to Shyam for a very important role in Nishant — his first break in films that launched his career and established him as a fine actor. Advertising

Azmi on Saturday finally opened up about her work relationship with Karnad, who died at the age of 81 at his residence in Bengaluru after prolonged illness on June 10. That’s when I first heard of Girish.”

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Azmi recalled that when Karnad was director at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), he showed immense maturity in handling the students’ strikes that she said were headed by actor Naseeruddin Shah. In a Facebook post, titled Farewell My Friend, the actor said she first heard about Karnad during the making of Benegal’s 1974 feature Ankur, when he assisted the director with the editing. Even so being an actor was only a small aspect of his personality,” Azmi recalled. Girish played the somewhat timid school master – quite the opposite of what he was in real life – confident, articulate, erudite, a true intellectual. Shyam roped in Girish to help him edit the narrative. 0
Comment(s) A lesser person than Girish could have been revengeful.”

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