Actor, activist G.K. Govind Rao passes away

Writer, theatre personality, film actor and activist Prof. G. K. Govind Rao, 86, passed away in Hubballi on October 15. He breathed his last at 4.30 a.m. in his daughter’s house. As per his last wish, he was cremated in a simple manner, family sources said.

He is survived by two daughters. He was suffering from age-related illnesses, and was with his daughter in Hubballi for some time now.

Multi-faceted personality

Govind Rao was a teacher, writer, theatre personality, actor and an uncompromising activist. A prominent voice championing secularism and constitutional values, he never minced his words and often ran into controversies.

“A progressive intellectual, he was part of several movements in Karnataka, especially in Bengaluru, for over five decades. He never compromised on his ideals,” said K. Marulasiddappa, another prominent Kannada writer and a friend of Mr. Rao for many decades.

Against communalism

He wrote a novella ‘Eshwar Allah’ about communal harmony and divisive politics back in 1979. In an epilogue he wrote to the novella in 1994, two years after demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, he said it was high time the country woke up to the sweeping communalism, but lamented that was not happening. He publicly took on the late Vishveshwara Teertha Swamiji of Pejawar math many times, including during the Made Made Snana controversy. He opposed policies of the BJP and actively campaigned for Congress in 2014.

Govind Rao taught English in Sagar, Shivamogga, and then for many decades at St. Joseph’s College in Bengaluru. Active in theatre, he produced, directed and acted in several plays, and was associated with Samudaya for many decades. He was president of Samudaya in the 1980s.


“He was a passionate advocate of theatre and produced innumerable plays for his students at St. Joseph’s College. He always encouraged the youth and enjoyed mentoring them,” said Prof. H. V. Venugopal, another theatre personality associated with Samudaya. Noted actor Prakash Raj was one of his students, he added.

Fan of Shakespeare

Govind Rao’s abiding passion was Shakespeare. He wrote two books – Shakespeare Samvada and another book of critical essays on Shakespeare’s plays. He directed several adaptations of the bard’s plays and also played Macbeth in a Samudaya production that was critically acclaimed. He played the lead role in Girish Karnad’s ‘Tughlaq’ and Praneshacharya in the Samudaya produced stage adaptation of U. R. Ananthamurthy’s ‘Samskara’. He played Oedipus in a play adapted by P. Lankesh and directed by B. V. Karanth at Bayalu Rangotsava, a landmark event of Kannada theatre in 1972.

His passion for theatre took him to films where he essayed prominent character roles in not only art house films but commercial potboilers as well. He was a part of Puttanna Kanagal’s Katha Sangama, the debut film of T. S. Nagabharana Grahana, Rajendra Singh Babu’s Bhoomi Tayiya Chochala Maga and popular tele serials – Shankar Nag’s Malgudi Days and T. N. Seetharam’s Maha Parva.

Several people, including Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and Leader of Opposition in Legislative Assembly Siddaramaiah, have condoled his demise.

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Sagar Biswas

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