Vijay Tendulkar, who passed away on 19 May, wrote all his plays in Marathi, but his audience was never limited by language or geography, with many of his plays holding a mirror to the post-Independence Indian middle class. In an interview with Lounge, playwright and Sahitya Akademi winner Mahesh
Dattani called Tendulkar the father of modern Indian theatre, who turned his “acid gaze” on the middle class, laying bare on stage for the first time its hypocrisies and latent violence. Dattani who, like Tendulkar, has examined the urban Indian bourgeois and its discontents, aspirations and self-serving attitudes to widespread acclaim in plays such as Dance like a Man, On a Muggy Night in Mumbai, Tara, Thirty Days in September and Final Solutions, lists his favourite Tendulkar plays.
A performance of Ghasiram Kotwal. Photograph: PTI
Shantata! Court Chalu Ahe (Silence! The Court is in Session) (1967): The hypocrisy of middle-class Indian society is brought out brilliantly through a plot that involves a play within a play. The protagonists’ impassioned pro-choice (a woman’s right to abort a foetus) speech at the end must have been shocking in the 1970s when the play was first performed.
Sakharam Binder (1972): A brilliant study in working-class man-woman relationships, the play is about Sakharam, who ‘rescues’ women only to use them to satisfy his own appetites. How the power play shifts from man to woman towards the end is shown with astonishing dramatic force.
Vijay Tendulkar. Photograph: Vijayanand Gupta / Hindustan Times
Kanyadaan (1983): The play, although set within a family , deals with upper-caste class consciousness, where ideology matters more than human lives. The patriarch in this play is a completely self-absorbed man who really couldn’t care about anything beyond his own armchair intellectualism. Unlike other plays of the time, the authoritative male is not all knowing and self-righteous.
Kamala (1981): Again, a fascinating study of an urban man-woman relationship, with the man coming out as egocentric and self-absorbed. The play revolves around a journalist who buys a woman to expose the flesh trade market without caring about what will become of her.
Ghasiram Kotwal (1972): The drama of Ghasiram, who enjoys immense power after he is appointed the kotwal (police chief) of Pune, reaches classic proportions with revenge as its theme that in a way reminds one of Iago or Richard III. The music and the scale make it a timeless piece of theatre.
Read the Lounge interview with Mahesh Dattani, where he talks about Vijay Tendulkar, at www.livemint.com/dattani.htm