Chambhar Chaukashiche Natak

Swapna Mirashi

One of the very few children’s plays written by noted playwright Vijay Tendulkar and published in 1970 by Mouj Prakashan. Since that first edition, two more editions have been published in 1987 and 2005. A translation in English by Dr. Ajay Joshi was published by Scholastic India (along with English translation of 4 other Tendulkar’s children’s plays) in 2009.

I first came across the English translation and was immediately taken to the play (and another elaborate one – Raja Ranila Ghaam Hawa or The King and Queen want Sweat) titled in English as The Play of the Nosey Parker. The play is remarkably simple in its setting and language, an over the top comedy, almost absurd in its sequence of events and happenings.

The setting and characters are the usual in Indian children’s plays – King, Queen, Ministers, Soldiers, Prince, and a not so usual one – a cobbler.

In true Tendulkar style, the dialogues are zippy – to the point and hence short and precise. They are witty and humorous.

At first the script looks simple and linear; there is a new problem in the kingdom and the prince is crying inconsolably, the king throws everyone and everything in frenzy for a solution to the problem. 3 main solutions are tried but fail. Just when it seems impossible to solve the problem, the solution comes from a completely random source. But, there are multiple layers to the script and characters; the king-PM dynamic, PM churning solutions under pressure, attendance to the symptom (the prince crying) rather than the root cause, absurd experiments at beating the enemy – sun and finally, mindless punishments, rewards appointments of people in court.

There are a total of 12 characters; king, queen, prince, prime minister, royal doctor, court jester, head of military, minister in-charge of construction,  minister for water resources, 2 soldiers and cobbler.

There maybe 3 different settings; king’s drawing room or court, a public place in the kingdom (a park or chowk or a street), and royal garden/ courtyard.

Tendulkar is known for writing directional instructions in brackets and they are brilliant in this script, especially the opening scene – very unconventional, instantly building tension and establishing the conflict.