Mumbai: The Mumbai Lit fest on Friday witnessed a major drama when veteran actor, theatre artist and playwright Girish Karnad slammed VS Naipaul and called him anti-Muslim. Naipaul was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the festival.
Karnad, who was present at the lit-fest on Friday to conduct an hour-long master class on theatre, spoke at length about Naipaul instead for almost 45 minutes and even questioned the decision of the organisers for honouring the Nobel laureate at the festival.
Calling him an anti-Muslim, tone deaf and an unreliable writer of non-fiction as far as India is concerned, Karnad said, “He really doesn’t pay much attention to the details of the texts he studies”. He also asserted that Naipaul “has no idea of how Muslims contributed to Indian history”.
Naipaul was awarded the Landmark Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this week. Karnad questioned the festival’s decision to do so and asked how the festival justified valorising him despite Naipaul’s leaning towards the right-wing in the matter of the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. “My question is to organisers who keep giving him lifetime awards as though what he has to say about a large section of the Indian population, about a whole rich period of Indian history which was our glory, doesn’t matter.”
A red-faced festival director Anil Dharker told Karnad that it wasn’t quite polite of him to speak negatively about Naipaul at the platform that he had been provided. “We gave you the chance to speak about your life in theatre, but you never spoke about it. Instead, you chose to go on about a writer who has won the Nobel Prize for literature. When we gave him the award, it was because of his entire body of work and not any one particular book. To have taken this up here was not polite.”
Karnad seemed unapologetic and retorted, “I don’t have to be polite. I’m following in the footsteps of Naipaul.”Karnad also said the Nobel Prize seemed to have given Naipaul “sudden authority”.