The 73-year-old director, who was suffering from cancer of the prostrate gland, was in a coma for the last few days. He died at about 2000 IST, sources at the nursing home said.
Karanth was admitted to the nursing home a week ago and kept on a ventilator in the intensive care unit since Tuesday evening.
A multi-faceted personality, Karanth was a passionate dramatist, actor, and director, combining all roles with consummate ease.
Developing a flair for drama from childhood, Karanth never confined his creative inspiration to any one language and experimented with folklore in Punjabi, Bengali, Sanskrit, and other Indian languages.
Karanth joined the then famous Gubbi Theatre at a very early age. As he grew in stature, he gave a big boost to theatre movements in Bangalore and Bhopal.
Karanth was director of the National School of Drama, director of the Nataka Karnataka Rangayana, and first director of the repertoire established by the Karnataka government.
Among the honours he earned were the Padma Shri, the Sangeet Natak Akademi award and the Kalidas Samman of the Madhya Pradesh government.
His plays were firmly rooted in folklore, but he was never found wanting in experimentation. Jokumaraswamy and Hayavadana were among his most popular productions.
Oedipus and Hayavadana in Kannada were among the famous plays directed by him as also Andher Nagari Chaupat Raja, King Lear, and Skandagupta in Hindi.
Karanth dabbled in films too. His Chomana Dudi won the national award for best film in 1975. He also co-directed films such as Vamshavruksha and Thabaliyu Neenade Magane with Girish Karnad, a Jnanpeeth Award winner.
He also composed music for 22 films, giving some great melodies.
Karanth's remains will be cremated on Monday, his family said.
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