It was the spring of 2002. I was meeting Girish Karnad for the first time, over lunch at a pub in London, where he had graciously invited me after watching a performance of our play Dance Like A Man at a well-known theatre in the city. As the director of Nehru Centre, we had reached out to him to help publicise our weeklong run in the Metropolis.
Across me sat this giant of modern Indian theatre, a man whom I had admired since I was in college for his enormous intellect, talent, erudition, wide breadth of understanding of the arts, strongly articulate and forthright voice and not the least, his charming and attractive persona.
I know reams have been, and will be, written about Girish’s astounding body of work as an actor, playwright, director, screenplay writer, translator, arts administrator, and outspoken champion of causes he believed in. He played many roles with effortless ease and brilliance.
I write here, therefore, modestly, only of the Girish Karnad I knew a little from theatre. A man who loved it with every fibre of his being. A man as passionate about it as I was and who, I realised over time, placed it above all other forms, though his contribution to it as a writer of immense intelligence, penetrative insight and knowledge far outstripped my own as a mere practitioner.
That afternoon, I realised that with his furlough in London, Girish had rediscovered his great love for theatre. He told me how it was an unimaginable treat to have feasted for the last couple of years on some of the best international theatre in London, and how seeing it had fuelled and fired him. We spoke for hours over some excellent lager and fish and chips, which he enjoyed with...