Girish Karnad passes away: Master Manjunath revisits fond memories of working with him during Malgudi Days

Subha J Rao

Jun 11, 2019 12:54:37 IST

Former child actor Manjunath, more popular known with the prefix ‘Master’, shared a warm, loving relationship with the late Girish Karnad in the 1980s. He was part of two seminal works featuring Mr Karnad. In Utsav, the Hindi film directed by the litterateur-actor-playwright, he played Charudatta’s son, and in RK Narayan’s Malgudi Days, directed by the late Shankar Nag, he played Swami, whose strict father was essayed eloquently by Mr Karnad.

Girish Karnad passes away: Master Manjunath revisits fond memories of working with him during Malgudi Days

Girish Karnad with Master Manjunath

(Also read: Girish Karnad's plays like Kalyug and Tughlaq showed his work was perfect amalgamation of tradition and modernity)

“I was five or six when I first met him. He cast me in Utsav, and I have very fond memories of that phase. There were no gadgets in those days, and his children, who were almost the same age as I was, were travelling with the team too. We were shooting close to Kundapura, in a 100-year-old home. We stayed in a tiny hotel, and he treated me as one of his kids. We would play when not shooting, and in the evening, we would be taken to the beach.”

Manjunath would go on to play the iconic character of Swami in Malgudi Days, and Mr Karnad would play his father, the deeply traditional man who wielded knowledge of English like a pro. “My memories of Girish Uncle are very different. I knew him as this wonderful chilled-out person. Later, he developed this image of being a very serious person. Working with him was an awesome learning experience. During the shoot of the series in the summer of 1986 in the village of Agumbe, he and Shankar Nag would have unending discussions on a variety of topics. They shared a theatre background. We would have a campfire in the evenings…they are lovely memories.”

By the time Manjunath was roped in for the show, he was already part of many films, and was an experienced child actor. Despite that, “working with Girish Uncle, the actor, would leave me scared”, he laughs. “I belong to a generation that was eternally afraid of our parents. And the moment Uncle would get into the character, he would become the strict father. I especially remember the scene where I had to explain to him what happened to the cap, after I burnt it in a fit of enthusiasm. The look he gave me, oh god, it left me with the same sick feeling I had when I blundered and stood in front of my parents. For a second, I was convinced I had actually burnt the cap. His acting was that intense."

Girish Karnad and Master Manjunath in Malgudi Days

Girish Karnad and Master Manjunath in Malgudi Days

“His command over languages left me awestruck. He was a pro in English, Kannada and Hindi, all three contrasting languages. His rich baritone, his very presence…I count myself as fortunate to have had the opportunity to share screen space with him.”

After Manjunath bid goodbye to cinema, he did not stay in touch with Mr Karnad, but in the last couple of years, they touched base again, when Manjunath was associated with the Indian Association of Cartoonists. “In the last two-three years, we interacted when it came to discussing exhibitions and the like. But what I’ll always cherish most is the influence he had on my childhood.”

Updated Date: Jun 11, 2019 12:55:41 IST