Talking 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 his contemporaries. The contemporary Bengali theatre never accepted them. I think they did one or two plays. His comedy succeeded but not his other plays."
Asked 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, behind acclaimed plays like "Yayati", "Tughlaq", "Naga Mandala" and "Broken Images", also contended that 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. For instance, Bengali theatre personality Girish Ghosh and others were not influenced by him," 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 have angered the Bengali film and theatre world with Dadasaheb Phalke winning actor Soumitra Chatterji calling it "embarrassing".
"It is embarrassing to call a Nobel laureate second rate. You also devalue his contribution to the original development of dramatic literature in the country. Tagore had his own way of visualising reality. Karnad also said that he never wrote for the poor which I think is rather foolish," he said.
Debashish Ray Chaudhuri, who has directed some of Tagore plays, said Karnad is a non-Bengali and so he does not have access to all of the Tagore's plays.
"His comments should not be taken seriously. I think it was in passing. Tagore's plays are famous even globally. As a playwright, he was ahead of his time," he said.
Another leading Bengali theatre personality, Bibhas Chakravorty, said, "It is his personal view. Of course, I disagree with him but we cannot treat it as the view of the entire theatre field."
CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta also took exception to Karnad's remarks.
"This is extremely unfortunate that a man of knowledge , a man of culture, a man of theatre and a man whose works have been liked by us, should have made such an unfortunate statement. It is perhaps an expression of lack of understanding about people. After more than 100 years, if somebody says he had been writing substandard material, it is sad."
It is a question as to why Dr.Karnad had to wait so long for this comment of his when everything of Tagore's works were available since quite a long time.
Karnad is entitled to his opinion. Tagore did enjoy a "halo" effect" that was always resented by the Bankim-Sharath aficionados. If Tagore's plays have a contemporary following, it is for them to take up the cudgels? P.S. Would Karnad have the courage to deconstruct political demi-Gods? Mediocre pretenders to the authorship of the Indian Constitution, for example?
Mr Girish Karnad is a highly respected author, playwright and has the requisites to comment and label. What surprises me is that what purpose does the comment serve? Except creating some noise it does not affect any person. I opine that country has a few geniuses like Girish karnad and he should be pragmatic rather than a grave digger.Undisputedly Girish Karnad is a great son of the soil and he should reflect his genius in ways that fit his stature and not to create unnecessary controversies.
This man has either gone off his head. I just do ot understand the context of his utterances. A Nobel laureate and a sensitive writer like Rabindranath Tagore was far from mediocre. He was brilliant. He was passionate. Girish Karnad, sop vying for cheap publicity and shut up
One of Tagore's play DAK GHAR (POST OFFICE) , deals with a child who is dying and is aware of it. This play was performed in the Warsaw Ghetto by the Jewish people awaiting deportation to gas chambers. It resonated with them , the similar situation where death being inevitable , the moral strength and the grace to accept the inevitable