BENGALURU: Girish Karnad, a giant of the theatre world, a filmmaker, an actor and an outspoken advocate of rights, passed away at his Lavelle Road residence on Monday morning after a prolonged illness. He was 81. Even in death, Karnad demonstrated humility and simplicity, qualities he was admired for all his life: his last wish was that there should be no elaborate formalities involving VIPs or crowds following his demise. Accordingly, his family — wife Saraswathi Ganapathy, son Raghu Karnad and daughter Shalmali Radha — held a private, low-key meet at their apartment, which was attended by select relatives and friends.Fans, politicians and other groups of mourners were politely asked to stay away from the residence and Kalpally crematorium. The cremation took place around 2pm. A person close to the family said instead of religious chants, portions of Karnad’s works were read out. “My father’s last wish was to be cremated in a very simple manner. He didn’t want any politicians, actors or others to visit him. He didn’t even want flowers or wreaths to be placed over his body, and he was against the idea of being given state honours,” said Raghu, a writer and journalist. President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in paying tributes. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy declared a holiday in government offices, schools and colleges across the state on Monday and a threeday mourning period. Karnad breathed his last around 8am after suffering multiple organ failure, according to relatives. He had been unwell for quite some time. The distraught family had a difficult time managing well-wishers, who started turning up in numbers to pay their respects. Police increased security at the Lavelle Road apartment and also set up barricades on stretches leading to the building. At one point, Raghu briefly stepped out and urged people to respect his father’s wish for a quiet farewell. Saraswathy made a similar appeal. At 12.48pm, the body was placed inside an ambulance, which then travelled to Kalpally crematorium in Fraser Town. Saraswathy and her daughter were aboard the ambulance; Raghu and some other relatives travelled in a car. Poet KS Nissar Ahmed, film director TS Nagabharana, ministers RV Deshpande and DK Shivakumar, and theatre personalities SG Kappanna and B Jayashree paid their last respects at the crematorium. Shivakumar spoke to the family about organising a state funeral, but Raghu and his sister declined. “The government will think of other ways to remember him,” the minister said. Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun, the city’s first citizen, could only pay tributes from a distance on Monday. “The family does not want anyone to visit. It requested me to stand a little far from where the body was kept,” she said. ‘I might not call you tomorrow’ The family’s driver for over 20 years, Nagesh Shanbhag, had a brief phone conversation with Karnad on Sunday, and he now wishes he had said more. “Just yesterday (Sunday), I received a call from Karnad sir. He said I must drop off his daughter at the airport for an early flight the next day. When I asked him how he was feeling, he said: ‘I am not keeping well and might not call you tomorrow (Monday),” Shanbag said. The next day, he reached the residence at 7.45am. “I called Karnad sir, but he didn’t answer. He usually attended calls after one ring. I rushed upstairs. Raghu opened the door and asked me to wait downstairs. After a few minutes, he revealed Kanard sir had passed away,” Shanbag said. “Karnad sir was a lovely man who treated me like a friend.”