Rabindranath Tagore mediocre, second-rate playwright: Girish Karnad


After his public criticism of V S Naipaul, writer-actor Girish Karnad has kicked up a fresh storm by calling Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore a "mediocre" and "second-rate playwright".

Video: Karnad attacks Rabindranath Tagore

Speaking to reporters near Nelamangala in the city's outskirts, he said, "Tagore was a great poet but a mediocre and second-rate playwright. He produced his plays but those were never produced by contemporaries. The contemporary Bengali theatre never accepted them... His comedy succeeded but not other plays."

Asked for the reason behind his contention, the Jnanpith awardee said, "Because he is second rated, what else should one call him? In the last 50 years, India has produced many playwrights like Badal Sarcar, Mohan Rakesh and Vijay Tendulkar, who are better than Tagore."

Last week, during a session on theatre at a literature festival in Mumbai, Karnad criticised Naipaul for his views on Muslims in India, calling him "stone deaf" and an "unreliable" writer of non-fiction as far as India is concerned.

Karnad also said Tagore did not understand poor characters because he came from the aristocracy. "The poorer people in his plays are really cardboard characters. They have no passion and anguish at all.... His plays did not have any impact," he said. "People have the tendency to be reverential about people and think that they are marvellous because they got Nobel prize or something like that."

Karnad's comments angered the Bengali film and theatre world. Dadasaheb Phalke winning actor Soumitra Chatterji said, "It is embarrassing to call a Nobel laureate second rate... Tagore had his own way of visualising reality. Karnad also said that he never wrote for the poor which I think is rather foolish."

Debashish Ray Chaudhuri, who has directed some of Tagore's plays, said: "His comments should not be taken seriously. Tagore's plays are famous even globally. As a playwright, he was ahead of his time."

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