After his public criticism of VS Naipaul, writer-actor Girish Karnad has kicked up a fresh storm by calling Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore a "second-rate playwright".
Talking to reporters near Nelamangala in the outskirts of Bangalore, 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".