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Master Hirannaiah, Political Satirist and Actor Who Held Mirror to Power for 65 Years, Dies

Hirannaiah revolutionised professional theatre in Kannada by bravely staging the plays against social evils and political corruption of his times.

D P Satish | CNN-News18dp_satish

Updated:May 2, 2019, 12:29 PM IST
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Master Hirannaiah, Political Satirist and Actor Who Held Mirror to Power for 65 Years, Dies
Hirannaiah, who also acted in several Kannada movies and television serials, was an iconic figure in Karnataka.

Bengaluru: "Master" Hirannaiah, renowned Kannada theatre personality, satirist and stand-up comedian is no more. He was 85.

Hirannaiah, who also acted in several Kannada movies and television serials, was an iconic figure in Karnataka. Born Narasimhamurthy to a veteran theatre personality, Hirannaiah became "Master" Hirannaiah in Kannada entertainment field.

He revolutionised professional theatre in Kannada by bravely staging the plays against social evils and political corruption of his times. His play "Lanchavathara", a powerful statement on corruption, has been staged over 10,000 times creating a record of sorts.

His other plays like "Bhrastachara", "Kapi Mushti", "Athyachara" and "Nadu Beedi Narayana" are also landmarks in Kannada theatre. Millions of audio cassettes of his plays have been sold over the last 50 years. According to industry sources, he was the most popular for many decades.

His big break came during the draconian Emergency between 1975 and 1977. When most actors stopped acting or were afraid of criticising the government of Indira Gandhi, Hirannaiah took on her courageously by staging plays against the "murder" of democracy. He was proud of his act and used to describe how he fought Emergency through his plays.

His own drama company - Hirannaiah Mithra Mandali - is a household name in Karnataka. His plays were always a big hit and it was almost impossible to get a ticket at times during the peak of his popularity in pre-television days.

Even though he had friends in all political parties, his acerbic tongue spared none. He took on all Karnataka chief ministers, including S Nijalingappa, Devaraj Urs and R Gundurao. In the 1990s, he started acting in television serials. Some of them became big hits. His stand-up comedy shows were also popular on the small screen.

A Brahmin from a conservative background, he was fond of alcohol and had no inhibitions about making it public. He used to joke that his blood group is 'alcohol group'. After a heart attack, he had stopped drinking.

An untoward incident involving former chief minister Siddaramaiah a few years ago had made him bitter. His comments on Siddaramaiah had angered his supporters who had gheraoed him demanding an apology. A proud Hirannaiah had tendered an apology, making it clear that he was not going to criticize any political leader after that.

He was quite active till recently and was full of life.

Condoling his death Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy described him as an icon of Kannada professional theatre. "He was a legend, a stalwart. A doyen of Kannada cultural field" he said.

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