Vijay Tendulkar’s Plays

Swapna Mirashi

Vijay Tendulkar was a leading dramatist of twentieth century. He was playwright, screen and television writer, literary essayist, political journalist, one act play
writer, novelist, short story writer and social commentator. After 1950, he has been the most influential dramatist and theatre personality for next five decades in Marathi.Tendulkar’s drama highlights the complexity of human relationships and contains a latent critique of modern Indian society, His plays, like Shakespeare’s, are neither moral, nor immoral in tone but may rather be seen amoral.

His plays have given Indian theatre a rich and challenging heritage. Tendulkar has written original scripts for film makers like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani. His plays and film scripts are penetrating studies of violence, power and repression in different forms in that contemporary Indian society.

His first play was Grihasti (1955) and last plays were completed in 1992.

Manus Navache Bet was staged in 1956. It gave expression to the tormenting solitude and alienation of a modern individual in an urban, industrialized society.With this play, Tendulkar broke away from the three-act convention. Tendulkar along with Girish Karnad changed the dramatic mould by demolishing three act structure of the well-made play and giving it a new mould appropriate to the performance tradition.

His plays sometimes used the expressionistic technique of dramatic make believe of dreams within the framework of naturalistic play. Chimaniche Ghar Hote
Menache (1960) was a play, which battled the audience with its farcical element, interspersed with lyrical movements. He also wrote around that time, Mee Jinklo Mee Harlo, and Sari Ga Sari.

In Kavalyachi Shala (1963) Tendulkar used farcical element to highlight the tragedy of middle class ambition.

Madhlya Bhinti and Ek Hoti Mulgi are more than the ‘family dramas’.

These all plays set the trend of avant-garde for Marathi theatre. In all his early plays Tendulkar is concerned with the middle class individuals set against the backdrop of a hostile society. And another distinctive feature of these plays is that the absence of any easy solution. Tendulkar presents modern man in all its complexities. He portrays life as it is from different angles without moralizing or philosophizing in any way. Most of his dramas are endowed with his
characteristic dialogue, which is jerky, half finished, yet signifying more than what it says. Another important quality of his plays is treatment of characters, his sympathy for ‘little big man’. Play of Tendulkar variously deals with the different dimensions of man’s cultural deformity and brings out its evil consequences on human body, mind, and spirit. His feminist approach is also praise worthy.

Biologically as well as culturally, human beings are divided into two classes; men and women. This division is farther accentuated by the roles they are assigned to play in the making of family. Man is the head of the family, governing and controlling all its affairs. Woman is entrusted with household responsibilities, particularly those of cooking food and rearing children. This leads to the formation of exploitative and oppressive society of men as against the exploited and oppressed society of women.

Tendulkar seems agree with Simone De Beauvoir’s statement.

“One is not born but rather becomes a woman… It is civilization as whole that produces this culture… which is described as feminine.”

Hence Shailaja Wadikar describes his plays as; Tendulkar’s plays bring a turning point in Indian theatre as they shock the sensibility of the conventional audience by projecting the reality of life, human relationship, and existence. His plays are revolutionary in the sense that they bring about a transformation in the audience’s mindset. They depict the doomed or lost generation of the post-independence India, where people are victims of willful monstrosity.


His later plays are concerned with the intrigues of power and the effects of oppression, especially Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe (1968) and Ghashiram Kotwal (1972).

With the production of Shantata.. (Silence! Court is in Session), Tendulkar became centre of general controversy. He had already gained the name Angry Young Man of Marathi Theatre. But now he is definitely identified as a rebel against the established values of a fundamentally orthodox society. A theatre group from Bombay comes to a village to stage a play in a mini cross-section of middle-class society. The members of group are representatives of sub-strata. Their spiteful attitudes to Leela Benare, the central character of the play, reflect their malicious and spiteful attitude towards their fellow beings. A well targeted conspiracy is hatched out against her, and in the name of a mock trial, they expose and dissect her personal life and blight her psyche. Their attitudes towards her reveal the basic
hypocrisy and double standards of society. The play exposes the vulnerability of women in Indian society.

With Ghashiram…, Tendulkar broke away from the traditions of Marathi theatre dominated by family melodramas centered on the middle class. Sakharam Binder a study of human violence and terror amounted to a powerful dramatic statement. There are some lighter plays too, like the light-hearted
fantasy of Ashi Pakhrey Yeti, created by Tendulkar.

After ‘Ghashiram’, Tendulkar turned to the naturalistic theatre with two very contemporary themes. Kamala (1982) and Kanyadaan (1983) are this two plays in this style. Kamala is a study of marital status, of the motives behind the popular investigative journalism, as well as study in many layers of exploitation. Kanyadaan is a complex play about the cultural and emotional upheavals of a family. It deals  with the violence in the subconscious of Dalit poet who is married to the daughter of native socialist.

“All my creative writing begins, not from an idea but from an experience, mine or somebody else’s which then becomes mine. It was such an experience, another’s to begin with, that provided the starting for Kanyadaan” – Vijay Tendulkar

In the early days, Tendulkar was influenced by western films, mainly the Hollywood films of the forties, and western playwrights like Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and J. B. Priestley in particular. He was also stated that, he has consciously or unconsciously been inspired by just about everything around him: real life experiences, hearsay, news items, films, plays and literature in general… But the basic urge has always been to let out his concern viz-a-viz his reality: the human
condition as perceive it. His plays span varied issues which explain their appeal to a cross section of society ‘Kamala’ attacks the media’s credo of ‘anything for good story’, to Mitrachi Goshta there is a bold look at hetero and homosexual love (116) Tendulkar is Osborne of Indian theatre. His Leela Benare in Silence! Remind us Ibsen’s Nora who challenges outdated customs and traditions. Sakharam is duplicate copy of Jimmy Porter, representative of frustrated post 1970 generation.
Encounter in Umbugland, which was written and produced a year after ‘Silence!’ is a play that is totally different in nature.

Gidhade (The Vultures) is chronologically the next play by Tendulkar (1970). It is entirely different kind of work that underlines the astonishing range of  Tendulkar’s dramatic genius. About it Girish Karnard said that the staging of Gidhade could be compared to the blasting of a bomb in an otherwise complacent marketplace. With the production of this play, Tendulkar’s name became associated with sensationalism, sex and violence. This play is a ruthless dissection of
human nature revealing its inherent tendencies to violence, avarice, selfishness, sensuality and sheer wickedness. It does not have the redeeming humour of Silence! Court is in Session. It is extremely morbid in the portrayal of its characters and action. The decadence and degeneration of individuals belonging to middle class miller is exposed through interactions among the members of a family.
Ramakant and Umakant’s greed and viciousness, their fathers degenerate nature, their sister Manik’s gross sensuality-all add into naturalistic depiction of those baser aspects of human that one would shut one’s eyes to. The beating of the father by his own children, the two brother’s forcible abortion of their sister’s child and the mutual hatred among the members of the family underline the fundamental evil inherent in human character. But there is something more in Gidhade than sheer violence and evil. In the character of Rama, Ramakant’s wife, Tendulkar is able to create a sensitive, naturally kind and good hearted individual. Tendulkar produced Sakharam Binder after this play. Some critics commented about this play that for many decades no play has created such a sensation in the theatre
world of Maharashtra as Vijay Tendulkar’s Marathi play Sakharam Binder. It brought more resistance from the censor boards than Gidhade had

Tendulkar witnessed many social movements and had traveled to remote parts of the country. And yet, as an artist, he was never tempted to use his information for photographic representation of social reality. His sensation as a human being goes deeper than that. His dramas present social reality. But his characters are imbued with dramatic power. He has created raw theatre language for his ape characters. Tendulkar chose themes, characters and situations from the contemporary life except some historical plays. His material for plays comes from the observation of life. Violence in society, the human response to violence, and individual freedom, has manifested itself in many ways in his plays.

He has translated in Marathi, Mohan Rakesh’s Aadhe Adhure (from Hindi), Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq (from Kannada) and Tennessee Williams A Street car
named Desire (from English). He is also original writer of screen plays for eight plays in Marathi including Samana (1975), Simhasan (1979) and
Umbartha (1981). He has also worked as screen-writer in Hindi, India’s majority language and the preferred medium to the world’s largest film industry. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, he wrote the original script and dialogue for eleven Hindi films among them are Nishant (1975), Manthan (1977), Akrosh (1980), Ardha Satya (1983) and Aghat (1986). These all paved the pattern for the ‘middle class cinema’ movement.

Characters in his plays

Most of the characters in Tendulkar’s plays are seen as defeated or frustrated since they acquire deformed personalities. They seem to have a tragic dimension.
Deformity of one sort or another such as gender, social, political, physical, mental and spiritual is perceptible in Tenulkar’s characterization. He seeks to project men and women, not in their brighter, but in their darker aspects.
Mostly, they are shown life-like, i.e., as what they are but, at times, they are shown worse than what they are in actuality

One – Act Plays

His first one-act play is ‘Identity’. His unforgettable one act plays are Bali, Madi (Female), Frightened, Python and Gandharva, Thief, Police! Night, etc. One act play got its dignity after 1950, before it one act play was not considered equal with drama. Tendulkar’s ‘Night and other one act plays’ are on various subjects. But Tendulkar’s one act plays represent the inner feelings of two different persons. ‘Night’, ‘Darkness’, ‘Four days’ and Identity’ are some of his best one act plays. ‘Bali’ is a horror one act play. Tendulkar is less imaginative but more realistic in his plays.


Source: Life and Works of Vijay Tendulkar