Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 01/5/22 8:07 AM

Book review: This Life at Play by Girish Karnad

This Life At Play, the English translation of Karnad`s Aadaadtha Aayushya, translated from Kannada by Girish Karnad and Srinath Perur (HarperCollins Books),  gives readers a clear glimpse of a man of formidable intellect, a man who wrote plays that were sheer genius (some of them at least), a good actor, a very good writer, and a man who stood up to protest all forms of injustice in society.
Apart from tracing his early days, there are his jibes about BV Karanth, Naseeruddin Shah, Girish Kasaravalli, and to a lesser extent Raj Kapoor; there are interesting snippets like the match-making efforts to get him wed to Hema Malini; his long courtship of Saraswathy, the woman he eventually married; his interactions with the likes of AK Ramanujan, and more.
There is a passage where he talks of some `members of the public without much exposure to theatre, watching Dore Oedipus and, unable to take the intensity of the play, tittering and laughing to ease their own discomfort,` and how this annoyed him as an actor, as a playwright. That was then. Now, alas, most of us know this has become a common side-effect to serious theatre.
There is another passage where Karnad talks of an India in the throes of a cultural renaissance. The nation was struggling economically but the gates were opening, says Karnad, onto a wonderfully vibrant era of cinema, theatre, literature, and arts. That was then; the scene now is too dismal to talk about.
However, it all probably came easy to him. Because as a reader, I would have welcomed some more details on the process of his creating what he created. That is the one lacuna I found in this book. But maybe that was how he wanted to tell his story.
English translation of autobiographyGirish KarnadHarperCollins BooksSrinath PerurThis Life at Play

Sheila Kumar • January 5, 2022

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