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Chapter 3 Plays of Vijay Tendulkar

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Chapter 3 Plays of Vijay Tendulkar Vijay Tendulkar, one of the outstanding Indian playwrights, was born in Mumbai on 6th January He started writing at an early age, and as a writer, has excelled
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Chapter 3 Plays of Vijay Tendulkar Vijay Tendulkar, one of the outstanding Indian playwrights, was born in Mumbai on 6th January He started writing at an early age, and as a writer, has excelled in many areas like essays, short stories, criticism, screenplay writing and drama. He has carved his place as a leading Indian playwright, movie and television script-writer, literary essayist, political journalist, and social commentator primarily in Marathi. Although, initially labeled as a controversial writer, gradually he emerged as an honest artist. His honesty and skill won him reputation and recognition. For the past five decades, Tendulkar has been a highly influential dramatist and theater personality in Maharashtra and today, he is celebrated as a great Indian playwright. Since the independence since 1950, to be precise the name of Vijay Tendulkar has been in forefront of the Marathi drama and stage. His personality both as a man and writer is multifaceted. He is a creative writer with a fine sensibility and at the same time a contemplative and controversial dramatist. Because of his highly individual viewpoint and vision of life and personal life style of writing he has made a powerful impression in the field of literature and drama, and has given the post independence Marathi drama a new idiom. He not only pioneered the experimental theatre movement in Marathi but also guided it. By doing this he has put Marathi drama on the national and international map. He experimented with all aspects of drama including content, acting decor, and audience communication. 122 Tendulkar was popular with art house filmmakers like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani to produce some of the most remarkable political films in the country. Nihalani, whose early films were scripted by Tendulkar, said: Tendulkar gave a certain direction to new cinema when we were starting out. His vision and his engagement with the reality of the period gave a direction not just in terms of content but also form. That would be his contribution to Indian cinema. (cited in Ramnarayan 1992: 34) Vijay Tendulkar's plays reflect a magical combination of currency and timelessness, (Gokhale 2009: 32) says Shanta Gokhale. Topicality and timelessness combine to create an enigma around his plays. The fierce controversy surrounding his plays, many of which were censored following their immediate publication, is perhaps an obvious indicator of their currency, their strong rootedness to the socio-political context in which they were written. At the same time, the magnetic quality of the plays, reflected in the frequency with which they continue to be performed in different parts of India and abroad, suggests a certain universal quality. Commenting on his motivation to write quality plays Tendulkar said, As a child I grew up watching some wonderful western plays. It instilled in me a passion to create such plays. I like to watch and learn from people who have excelled in their field. (Tendulkar 1997:5) Asked if he may follow the popular trend to write abstract plays Tendulkar replied, I have my style and I can get my point across with my style of writing. If someone wants to use abstract plays, it is their choice. 123 I write plays for myself, not for audience. (Ibid 06) Describing the role of politics in plays, Tendulkar frankly admitted that more happens behind the curtains than on stage. He believes, Writers have the gift to express their ideas clearly. It is a big responsibility. They should bring out what they feel, without forgetting their responsibility towards the readers, said Tendulkar. (Ramnarayan: 1992: 34-35) However, before plunging deeper into the fictional world of Tendulkar, it would not be incongruous to have a glance at his life and career as a playwright. Early life Vijay Dhondopant Tendulkar was born on 7 January 1928 in a Bhalavalikar Saraswat Brahmin family in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, where his father held a clerical job and ran a small publishing business. The literary environment at home prompted young Vijay to take up writing. He wrote his first story at age six. He grew up watching western plays, and felt inspired to write plays himself. At age eleven, he wrote, directed, and acted in his first play. At age 14, he participated in the 1942 Indian freedom movement, leaving his studies. The latter alienated him from his family and friends. Writing then became his outlet, though most of his early writings were of a personal nature, and not intended for publication. Early career Tendulkar began his career writing for newspapers. He had already written a 124 play, Āmchyāvar Kon Prem Karnār (Who will Love us?), and he wrote the play, Gruhastha (The Householder), in his early 20s. The latter did not receive much recognition from the audience, and he vowed never to write again. Breaking the vow, in 1956 he wrote Shrimant, which established him as a good writer. Shrimant jolted the conservative audience of the times with its radical storyline, wherein an unmarried young woman decides to keep her unborn child while her rich father tries to buy her a husband in an attempt to save his social prestige. Tendulkar's early struggle for survival and living for some time in tenements ( chawls ) in Mumbai provided him first-hand experience about the life of urban lower middle class. He thus brought new authenticity to their depiction in Marathi theater. Tendulkar's writings rapidly changed the storyline of modern Marathi theater in the 1950s and the 60s, with experimental presentations by theater groups like Rangayan . Actors in these theater groups like Shreeram Lagoo, Mohan Agashe, and Sulabha Deshpande brought new authenticity and power to Tendulkar's stories while introducing new sensibilities in Marathi theatre. In his writing career spanning more than five decades, Tendulkar has written 27 fulllength plays and 25 one-act plays. Several of his plays have proven to be Marathi theater classics. His plays have been translated and performed in many Indian languages. By providing insight into major social events and political upheavals during his adult life, Tendulkar became one of the strongest radical political voices in Maharashtra in recent times. While contemporary writers were cautiously exploring the limits of social realism, he jumped into the cauldron of 125 political radicalism, and courageously exposed political hegemony of the powerful and the hypocrisies in the Indian social mindset. His powerful expression of human anger has resulted in his simultaneously receiving both wide public acclaim, and high censure from the orthodox and the political bigwigs. Many of Tendulkar's plays derived inspiration from real-life incidents or social upheavals. Thus, the rise of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra in the 1970s was reflected in his Ghashiram Kotwal. The true story of a journalist who purchased of a woman from the rural sex industry in order to reveal police and political involvement in this trade, only to abandon the woman once he had no further need for her, is detailed in Tendulkar's Kamala. The real-life story of an actress whose acting career got ruined after her same-sex affair became public knowledge inspired Tendulkar to write Mitrachi Goshta. Tendulkar has translated nine novels, two biographies, and five plays by other authors into Marathi. Besides that, he has written a biography; two novels; five anthologies of short stories; 16 plays for children, including Bale Miltat (1960) and Patlachya Poriche Lagin (1965); and five volumes of literary essays and social criticism, including Ratrani (1971), Kowali Unhe (1971), and Phuge Sobānche (1974). In short, Tendulkar's writings have contributed to a significant transformation of the modern literary landscape in both Marathi and other Indian languages. In 2005, a documentary titled Tendulkar Ani Himsa: Kal Ani Aj' (Tendulkar and Violence: Then and Now) with English subtitles (produced by California Arts Association - 126 CAlAA - directed by Atul Pethe) was released. In 2007, a short film about Tendulkar, Ankahin (Director Santosh Ayachit), was released. Tendulkar has also contributed by penning screenplays for the movies Nishānt (1974), Akrosh (The Cry) (1980), and Ardh Satya (The Half-Truth) (1984), established him as an important Chronicler of Violence of the present times. He has written eleven movies in Hindi and eight movies in Marathi. The latter include Sāmanā ( Confrontation ) (1975), Simhāasan ( Throne ) (1979), and Umbartha ( The Threshold ) (1981). The last one is a groundbreaking feature film on women's activism in India. Awards Tendulkar won Maharashtra State Government Award in 1956, 1969 and 1972 and Maharashtra Gaurav Puruskar in He was honored with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1970, and again in 1998 with the Academy's highest award for lifetime-contribution , the Ratna Sadasya. Known for some of the best screenplays of Hindi cinema such as Ardh Satya and Shyam Benegal's Manthan, he also received Padma Bhushan award in 1984 from the Government of India for his literary accomplishments. In 1977, Tendulkar won the National Film Award for Best Screenplay for his screenplay of Shyām Benegal's movie, Manthan (1976). He has written screenplays for many significant art movies, such as Nishānt, Ākrosh, and Ardh Satya. In 1991, Tendulkar wrote a metaphorical play, Safar , and in 2001 he wrote the play, The Masseur. He wrote, next, two novels, Kādambari: Ek and Kādambari: 127 Don, about sexual fantasies of an aging man. In 2004, he wrote a single-act play, His Fifth Woman--his first play in the English language as a sequel to his earlier exploration of the plight of women in Sakhārām Binder. This play was first performed at the Vijay Tendulkar Festival in New York in October In the 1990s, Tendulkar wrote an acclaimed TV series, Swayam Siddha, in which his daughter, Priyā Tendulkar, performed in the lead role. His last screenplay was for Eashwar Mime Co. (2005), an adaptation of Dibyendu Palit's story, Mukhabhinoy, and directed by theatre director, Shyamanand Jalan and with Ashish Vidyarthi and Pawan Malhotra as leads. Tendulkar s plays have dealt with the themes that unravel the exploitation of power and latent violence in human relationships. (Dubbe, : 17-26) The world at large -- particularly western Europe -- had saluted Tendulkar way back in the early 1970s after his most overtly political play Ghashiram Kotwal did the international rounds following a controversial run in India. That admittedly was a one-off glimpse of the playwright's creative universe. But it was only a few years ago that critics and theater-lovers alike began undertaking a more holistic appraisal of Tendulkar's oeuvre. The appraisal took varied forms. There was, for instance, the publication of The Tendulkar Omnibus (a collection of his most representative writings) edited by fellow playwright and director Makarand Sathe, followed by an hour-long video documentary titled Tendulkar and Violence: Then and Now produced by the California Arts Association in which the playwright discussed his views on violence and its depiction. However, the Tendulkar festivals where several of his original Marathi plays were performed in various 128 languages - including English - in India and abroad, speaks volumes about his genius and popularity. Undoubtedly, he is one of the most influential playwrights in the country. Ghashiram Kotwal, with a tally of more than 6,000 performances worldwide is believed to be the longest-running play in the history of Indian theater. His popularity can be ascribed to his innovative ideas and presentations. For instance, a brutalized character in Gidhade is shown wearing a blood-stained sari to signify a forced abortion. In Ghashiram Kotwal, he has used history as a backdrop to mull on the politics of power. The rise of a political ideology (such as fascism) in response to conducive social and economic circumstances, and how the masterminds behind this rise exploit and then discard people as pawns in a power game-these form the crux of the play's enduring statement. The final lynching of Ghashiram by the Brahmin lumpen is its climactic tour de force. It is always tempting to psychoanalyze the psychoanalyst. In fact, Tendulkar's concerns as a writer probing the depths of deviant minds can be ascribed to his small-town upbringing in a lower middleclass Saraswat Brahmin family in Kolhapur, where he had to contend with an insane uncle, among others; an elder sister who died an old spinster and the years spent in a gutter-ridden chawl in Bombay where he lived with his growing family in penurious circumstances, and saw life unvarnished by middle-class mores. Apart from being a pioneer, he was gracious enough to mentor younger 129 playwrights. After pushing open the door himself, he, in a manner of speaking, held it ajar for other lesser writers. Many critics have labeled Tendulkar s entire work as a commentary on human violence, which is partially true. Tendulkar has, in fact, over the last few decades, scanned the life-world of contemporary Indians in order to identify the sources and nature of the violence that have come to pattern it. Even when violence is not ostensibly his theme, it casts its shadow on his characters - their cultivated or panicky reactions to it, their numbing fear of their own selves. By bringing their world close to ours through his creative powers, he has shaped the way we look at ourselves. Tendulkar's perspective on violence is bifocal. In works like Giddh (staged in 1971; written in 1961) and, lesser directly, in Shantata, Court Chalu Ahe (1968), Kanyadaan (1983) and Ghasiram Kotwal (1973), violence tends to become an end in itself. It is the easiest way left for many ordinary citizens to cope with their fractured selves and problems of living. No longer does violence come from ideology, faith, or even self- interest. On the contrary, it seeks outlet through ideology, faith and perceived self-interest and latches on to these causes to find public expression and legitimacy. In this paradoxical world, violence is prior to its causes. Tendulkar's violence, therefore, is sometimes tinged with - as the psychiatrist would diagnose it - the psychopathic. It carries the impress of an empty interpersonal world and a maimed conscience. He often invokes a milieu where the individual is caught in a crosscurrent of social forces that he or she does not understand. Buffeted by these forces, the individual finds the traditional concept of evil diffused, 130 fragmented or invalidated at every step. Evil lurks everywhere, yet it rarely takes tangible form, and when it is tangible, the victim's survival frequently demands his silence. Vijay Tendulkar has received both bouquets and brickbats in a playwriting career that has spanned five decades. His first plays Grihastha and Shrimant appeared in In his heyday, from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, brickbats were more frequent. His plays such as Gidhade (1970), Sakharam Binder (1972) and Ghashiram Kotwal (1972) offended the self-appointed moral brigade who branded him a subversive writer who courted controversy and peddled sex and violence. Smug notions of morality received a beating in his plays, which exposed middle-class hypocrisy in a clinical, naturalistic manner, something no other playwright in Marathi had attempted before him. Tendulkar is internationally known as a path-breaking theatre writer. But from newspaper columns to short stories to novels, film scripts and television programmes, he has done it all, bringing to each genre the searing honesty that has been the hallmark of his writing. A conversation with Tendulkar spans an entire spectrum of subjects. He comments on the apathy of the government and the bureaucracy after the 26/7 deluge in Mumbai, the latest books he read, the latest films he saw (he is an avid watcher of international cinema and is present at all the film festivals in Mumbai), all in a quiet, understated style far removed from some of his sharp, explosive writing. I had to struggle for survival very early in life, he says, due to a lack of any formal qualifications (Dubbe, : 44-46) 131 Another reason for his success lies in the astonishing range of his plays, be it the victimization of the individual by society in Shantata! Court Chalu Ahe! or the moral collapse of a family in Gidhade, or the ruthlessness of the media in Kamala, provides a director a very large thematic canvass to choose from. At the same time, the lack of moralizing gives the plays a very open-ended feel, leaving ample scope for directorial interpretation. Major Plays of Vijay Tendulkar: Symbol of Slavery: Kamla Tendulkar s play Kamla was inspired by a real life incident published in the Indian Express. A person called Ashwin Sarin, actually bought a girl from a rural flesh market and presented at a press conference. Using this incident as a launching pad, Tendulkar has raised certain value system of modern, success oriented generation who are ready to sacrifice human values in the name of humanity itself. The central character of the play is a self-seeking journalist, Jai Singh Jadhav, who treats the woman he has purchased from the flesh market as a object that can procure from him a promotion in his job and a refutation in his professional life. Jai Singh buys, Kamla, an Adivasi woman, at the flesh market of Luhardaya beyond Ranchi for two hundred and fifty rupees. Jai Singh's enthusiasm is directed towards sheer sensationalism.. He creates sensationalism at the express of Kamla. He sells a woman that poor and illiterate woman. Jai Singh Jadhav discards Kamla is an orphanage for woman and washes off his 132 hands for his safety, after she ceases to be an advantage to him. Jai Singh Jadhav exploits not only Kamla but also his wife, Sarita. It is through Sarita, Tendulkar exposes the Chauvinism intrinsic in the modern male who believes himself to be liberal minded. Jai Singh- through his treatment of Kamla, makes Sarita realize that she is also a slave a lovely bonded labourer to him. She observes how he refuses a bath to Kamla and takes her in clumsy clothes to the press-conference for his professional profit. Jai Singh uses both the woman, Kamla and Sarita as pawns in his game of chess. Jai Singh the Persecutor, persecutes his victims- Kamala, Sarita and Kamala bai. His role shifts to that of the victim and he is persecuted by his proprietor, the persecutor. Kamala according to Catherine Thankamma, reveal that in the patriarchal set up marriage is not only a mean of regulating sexual and reproductive behavior but also a means of upholding male dominance. (2009: 82) A woman is considered useless if she is not able to conceive a child. For instance, when Sarita tells Kamala that she does not have children, Kamala comments: It was an expensive bargain, memsahib the master bought you, he bought me, too. He spent a lot of money We ll keep the master happy I ll do the hard work and I ll bring forth the children you put on lovely clothes and make merry with the master Fifteen days of the month, you sleep with the master, the other fifteen days I ll sleep with him. (Kamala : 35) 133 Like Kamala, Tendulkar s Laxmi also create an example of gender stereotyping. She is thrown out of her house by her husband, yet she considers him as her God. In portraying the women characters, Tendulkar stands on par with the writers like Mahasweta Devi. He is one of those dramatists who use their medium in the service of their favourite socio-political ideology. He is not out to propagate any particular philosophy of life. Tendulkar's plays are open to diverse interpretation and cannot be tied down to a single line of thinking. Silence! The Court Is In Session Based on a 1956 short story, Die Panne (Traps) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Tendulkar wrote the play, Shāntatā! Court Chālu Aahe (Silence! The Court Is In Session). It was presented on the stage
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