Thursday, May 22, 2008

Salute Vijay Tendulkar, the Iconoclastic Playwright who Modernized Indian theatre.



One more master playwright passes away….
Salutations to Vijay Tendulkar (06 January, 1928– 19 May, 2008)
The author of Gidhade (The Vultures) (1961), Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe (Silence! The Court is in Session) (1967), Ghasiram Kotwal (1972), Sakharam Binder (1972), Kamala (1981), Kanyadaan (1963), and many more plays including plays for children like Bāle Miltāt, (1960) and Pātlāchyā Poriche Lagin (Marriage of a Village Mayor's Daughter) (1965), etc…
He wrote about the wretched lives of the lower middle class and was part of the new awakening in the theatre of 1960’s along with Mohan Rakesh, Girish Karnad, and Badal Sircar; and gave a new idiom in the style, language and substance of contemporary Indian theatre.
Tendulkar was part of the Quit India movement and India’s freedom struggle, but cannot negotiate with the optimism of the Nehruvian age; he wrote stark plays about middle class agony, ambitions, fake morality, anarchy and paradoxes within …
His plays were sagas of conflicts between individuals and society in general, which took his characters through endless and complex emotional states which had no reverence to the so called morality and value system of the society…
He was exploring the themes of violence in its various forms: domestic, sexual, communal, and political.
Kamala is an indictment of the success-oriented male society in which women are the springboard for the accomplishments of men.
Silence! The Court is in Session combines social criticism with the tragedy of an individual (that to a female actor) victimized by society pf her colleagues in theatre.


Sakharam Binder is about the domination of the male gender over the female. The main character, professes not to believe in "outdated" social codes and conventional marriage. He regularly gives ‘shelter’ to abandoned wives, and uses them for his sexual delights without considering the emotional and moral implications of his victims. Paradoxically, some of the women also falls into his arguments and simultaneously want to be liberated from their enslavement.
Ghashiram Kotwal dealt with political violence which unveils the decadent Peshwa kingdom and its political machinations, and analyses how the pursuit of power results in moral decay. This play recounts the power game played out in terms of caste ascendancy in politics. The structure of narration is different from other Tendulkar plays which are mostly written the realistic mode and under obvious influence from the western drama. Ghashiram is written as a musical drama, and the performance of it directed by Jabbar Patel, for Theatre Academy Pune combined traditional Marathi folk forms with contemporary theater techniques to create a new paradigm of expression, turned out to be one of the milestones that decided the direction of the later Indian theatre. Ghashiram Kotwal' was staged over 6,000 times in its original and adapted versions, making it one of the longest running plays in Indian theatre history
Vijay Tendulkar wrote his best plays in the 60’s and 70’s when the Marathi theatre was on the uphill road, shaking of the melodrama and the tear busters to create something more genuine and meaningful in theatre. This was also the period when Marathi theatre was perfecting its craft of acting and technique to give high aesthetic standards in theatre. His plays were produced many enthused directors and actors including Sriram Lagoo, Vijaya Mehta, Damu Kenkre, Arvind Deshpande, Bhakti Barwe, Satich Alekar, Satyadeo Dube, Mohan Agashe, Sulabha Deshpande, Naseeruddin Shah, Amol Palekar, Om Puri, and Smita Patil, among others..
Tendulkar wrote his plays mostly based on real experiences. He says in an interview. “I personally don’t bother about people who haven’t seen life. They close their eyes at the sight of suffering as if it doesn’t exist. The fact is that life is dark and cruel; it’s just that you don’t care for the truth. You don’t want to see it because it might make you uncomfortable. If escapism is your way of living then you will fail to see the truth. I have not written about hypothetical pain or created an imaginary world of sorrow. I am from a middle class family and I have seen the brutal ways of life by keeping my eyes open. My work has come from within me, as an outcome of my observation of the world in which I live. If they want to entertain and make merry, fine go ahead, but I can’t do it, I have to speak the truth.”
He was so active and responding about social and political situations and concerned with environmental problems and the like but did not want to make a sound out of it and just to attract the media. He did not make a noise where he was not intended to. He told his immediate friends that he wanted his death is to be mourned and made a big function.
"I don't want my death to be mourned," Vijay Tendulkar told his friend Ashok Kulkarni a few days ago from his hospital bed.
"He said he wished a quiet passage," Kulkarni recalled his conversation with an ailing Tendulkar in a Pune hospital. "He didn't want the last rites to be performed. And he said 'No' to condolence meetings." "My innings is over," Tendulkar told Kulkarni and his friends. He didn't even want the Press to know about his death. "He insisted that we inform the Press about his death only after the funeral," Kulkarni said. He made sure his last days were normal.
Salutations to the maestro playwright, for the dark and realistic expression about the unpleasant truths and brutality of the middleclass, the snobbery, inherent violence and manipulation of power, that runs through various strata of the social structure.

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