A Rhodes scholar, Mr Karnad debuted in films in 1970 and acted in almost a 100 movies since then. He also worked in Hindi cinema's parallel film movement in movies such as Swami, and Nishant.
In a career spanning six decades, Karnad acted mostly in Kannada and Hindi films, which were both mainstream and off-beat.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala: "Litterateur par-excellence, actor, director, playwright and activist- the passing away of Girish Karnad shall leave an irreplaceable void in the Indian creative arena". He directed Utsav (1984), a critically acclaimed film which was an adaptation of the Sanskrit play Mrichchakatika. He wrote the screenplay and played the lead role in the film.
Three years later, in 1964, Karnad wrote Tughlaq, another play based on the story of the 14th-century king Muhammad bin Tughluq. He has shared the screen space with some of the most popular actors like Bollywood actor Salman Khan and south actor Venkatesh Daggubati.
Actress Neena Kulkarni acknowledged Karnad's contribution to the Marathi theatre and cinescape.
Karnad served as the Director of the Film and Television Institute of India (1974-1975) and Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the National Academy of the Performing Arts (1988-93). Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy announced a holiday for government offices, schools and colleges on Monday following his demise. He was a recipient of the 1998 Jnanpith Award, the highest literary honour conferred in India. He made his directorial debut with Vamsha Vriksha (1971), based on a Kannada novel by S.L. Bhyrappa.
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Shruti Haasan mourned the death of Girish Karnad.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed sorrow as well.
Karnad, who straddled the worlds of theatre and cinema in various languages, was born on May 19, 1938 in Matheran. "In his life, he embodied the richness and depth of Indian civilisation more nobly and less self-consciously than anyone else I knew".
Samskara marked Karnad's entry into filmmaking in 1970.
Here are some other tributes from Twitter.