Bangalore: Well-known theatre personality and the first-ever woman film-maker of Kannada cinema, Prema Karanth, died at a private hospital here on Monday. She was 71.
Prema Karanth, wife of noted theatre person B.V. Karanth, was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday after she suffered a massive heart attack. Though she showed some signs of recovery on Sunday, she later suffered kidney failure and went into coma. She died at 12.40 p.m.
Her body was immediately shifted to her residence and later taken to Samsa Rangamandira, where hundreds of people paid their last respects to her. She was cremated at Wilson Garden crematorium in the evening. Born on August 15, 1936 at Bhadravati, Prema Karanth lost her parents Devoji Rao and Kamalamma at a young age. A voracious reader as a child, she completed schooling at Shidleghatta and came to Bangalore to do her teachers’ training at St. Teresa Convent, where she was later appointed as a teacher.
She met B.V. Karanth during these days. “When I met Karanth for the first time, I found him to be a serious-minded man. I felt he was the perfect life partner for me,” Prema once said. They were married at the Arya Samaj in 1958 and moved to Banaras where Prema continued her education at Banaras University. When Karanth joined the National School of Drama in Delhi, Prema became a teacher at Delhi’s Aurobindo Ashram.
It was there that her talent attracted attention as she staged delightful children’s plays such as “Heddayana,” “Daithya,” “Banda Banda Gunavantha,” “Giant Mama,” “Nakkala Rajakumari,” “Nirupama” and “Shetty Kathe.”
Prema later joined the NSD and studied dramatics along with Om Puri and Sai Paranjape. She accidentally entered the film world as a costumer for G.V. Iyer’s “Hamsageethe” and was gradually drawn to cinema making. She carved a niche for herself by becoming the first-ever woman director of Kannada cinema with “Phaniyamma,” a poignant story of a widow based on M.K. Indira’s novel. The film brought Prema national and international awards. She directed many films including “Nakkala Rajakumari,” “Bandh Zaroke” (Hindi), “Lakshmi Kataksha” and “Abdulla-Gopala.” She also directed documentary films such as “Manipur— the land of jewels,” “Appkio,” “Swapna Huvi Saakar,” “Chalo Hambhi Sukhi Bane,” “Vikranth My Friend,” and “R. Nagarthanamma” (on the life and achievements of the veteran woman artiste of Kannada professional theatre).
She conducted workshops on dramatics across the country. She designed costumes for over 120 plays, including “Hayavadana,” “Oedipus,” “Jokumaraswamy,” “Che Guevara,” “Sankranthi,” “Othello,” “King Lear,” “Macbeth,” “Dharthi Desh Punjab Di” ( Punjabi), and Chandra Gupta and Skanda Gupta (Hindi).
Governor Rameshwar Thakur has condoled the death of Prema Karanth. He recalled the services of Karanth to theatre in Karnataka.