A rebellious, courageous, visionary playwright
Vijay Tendulkar’s fame has crossed the boundaries of Marathi culture. His forte was that he voiced the silence of the common man. His ranking on the national as well as international stage for dramatics is indisputable. Very few Indian authors have been able to achieve this. Looking at his fantastic literary achievements, one wonders on what strength he made this memorable journey.
Born in Kolhapur, he was named Vijay Dhondopant Tendulkar, born into a simple family with no literary heritage. He did not acquire any great education, but learnt his lessons well in the school of life, and poured these lessons and experiences into his writings. That is how Tendulkar could bring in reality into dramatics and brought new authenticity to the depiction of the common man’s life in Marathi Theater.
While learning in the school of life, Tendulkar found his subjects for study, of which man’s lifestyle was his favorite. The uniqueness of this subject took him to the international level. According to him man learns through living; writing comes from this living; therefore living is important!
This uniqueness ensured that his writings were always unconventional. His writings never directly handled social issues, or ever reported any incident that occurred, but derived inspiration from real-life incidents or social upheavals. The core of his writing was human behaviour and human life. The cruelty of human behaviour is seen through his plays Gidhade (Vultures) and Sakharam Binder, whereas male bigotry is seen through his Ghashiram Kotwal. His Shantata! Court Chalu Ahe attacks false valour and etiquette and puts forth a different aspect of human behaviour.
Tendulkar was hailed as a playwright who revitalised Marathi theatre. His story lines were courageous and he handled them with great aplomb. He was therefore far ahead of his time. The subjects that he handled forty years back are relevant even today, which shows his foresight. In 1955, the audience which was used to the gentle musicals and Bal Kolhatkar’s plays, were shaken by Tendulkar’s play. The audience as well as the critics bitterly rejected his play. He faced public flak at the beginning of his career for this play, which ironically brought him international glory later. Tendulkar’s views on receiving this flak were very telling and revealed his thought processes; he said that his need for writing was simply to be able to write the way he wanted. Writing was his need. He never intended to make any social changes or had any good or bad intentions against anybody.
He never thought of saleability while writing, rather would consider what the society needs to contemplate on and assiduously worked towards presenting human feelings. This is how he became an eminent playwright in the history of Indian dramatics. With his rebellious ideology, he not only broke the picket fences of dramatics, but also gave a new dimension to script, dialogues, and backstage.
The vocabulary of his plays is a separate subject of study altogether. His story line unfurls through extremely simple and appropriate wordplay. Though the language is easy to hear and read, it depicts extremely complex feelings. His words create the expected impact. (Does this mean that he had understood the language of living?). His selection of words is so perfect that not a single word can be added or deleted. Though there is a metre to his language it isn’t poetic and definitely prose and realistic. His screenplays and plays are as readable as they are viewable; one is struck by his command over the medium while reading these. His plays do not require a director, since the direction is written in detail in parenthesis against each scene. These directions not only guide the actor, but are also an inseparable part of the story and aid in the smooth flow of the story. In short he conceptualized a new method of story writing and presentation of plays and screenplays.
His plays were an antithesis to his calm and gentle persona. Violence seemed to be a common theme of his writings, and it was a subject for his contemplation. He opined that violence is inherent in humans. One can observe different forms of violence in all his stories.
Though Tendulkar assiduously described the hideousness of the human mind through his writings, he was amazingly optimistic in life. Explaining this duality, he says that whatever he experienced and observed of others, he expressed through his writings. Just as needs create paths, so did he serendipitously find the path of writing.
This author, who perceived the mind of the society, was himself a social activist by heart. He always tended towards and was at the forefront in social movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan (a movement to save the people displaced by the Narmada dam project), cultural movements like Granthali, movements that expressed freedom of thought, experimentations in dramatics, etc. He was an activist of the Sevadal party for some period. Very few Marathi authors have such varied interests, or are so active and socialistic. This breadth of his ideology took him to national and international plane.
Tendulkar not only took Marathi plays to the international level, but was also an excellent critic and a connoisseur of fine arts. He was an aesthetist and enjoyed beauty in all the little things that he observed in his lifetime. He was a lover of modern fine arts, as also new thoughts and all novelty in life. He always welcomed modernistic thoughts, literature, art and artists who created them.
He could complete his education only upto matriculation. But he was an exemplary example of what a person could achieve even without advanced education. His first story was published in 1948. But his writing actually blossomed after 1955. He worked as a journalist for some time at the beginning of his career, and later with the weeklies Maratha, Navyug and the magazine Vasudha. He also taught in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences from 1978 to 1981.
There might not be a stage in the world on which his play was not enacted. Festivals are held of Tendulkars plays internationally, and renowned actors feel blessed to act in these plays. He has made Maharashtra proud. Such a courageous, visionary, rebellious and talented playwright is born one in a century.
A comprehensive list of awards is given below:
1970 Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
1970 Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay Award
1977 National Film Award for Best Screenplay: Manthan
1981 Filmfare Best Screenplay Award: Aakrosh
1981 Filmfare Best Story Award: Aakrosh
1983 Filmfare Best Screenplay Award: Ardh Satya
1984 Padma Bhushan
1993 Saraswati Samman
1998 Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship
1999 Kalidas Samman
2001 Katha Chudamani Award
2006 The Little Magazine SALAM Award
The first Janasthan Award by the Kusumaagraj Foundation
He received the Nehru scholarship for researching The Increasing Violence in the country
Kadambari: Ek (Novel: One) (1996)
Kadambari: Don (Novel: Two) (2005)
Short Story Anthologies
Dwandwa (Duel) (1961)
Phulapakhare (Butterflies) (1970)
Gruhastha (Householder) (1947)
Shrimant (The Rich) (1956)
Manoos Nawache Bet (An Island Named 'Man') (1958)
Gidhade (The Vultures) (1961)
Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe(Hindi: Khamosh! Adalat Jari Hai) (Silence! The Court is in Session) (1967)
Ajgar Ani Gandharwa (A Boa Constrictor and Gandharwa)
Sakharam Binder (Sakharam, the Book-Binder) (1972)
Kamala (Kamala) (1981)
Madi [in Hindi]
Kanyadan (Giving Away of a Daughter in Marriage) (1983)
Dambadwicha Mukabala (Encounter in Umbugland)
Ashi Pakhare Yeti (Hindi: Panchi Aise Aate Hain) (Thus Arrive the Birds)
Safar/Cyclewallah (The Cyclist) (1991)
The Masseur (2001)
Pahije Jatiche (It Has to Be in One's Blood)
Jat Hi Poochho Sadhu Ki (Ask a Fakir's Lineage)
Majhi Bahin (My Sister)
Jhala Ananta Hanumanta (Infinite Turned Hanumanta)
Footpayricha Samrat (Sidewalk Emperor)
Mitrachi Goshta (A Friend's Story) (2001)
Anand Owari [A play based on a novel by D. B. Mokashi]
Mee Jinkalo Mee Haralo (I won, I Lost)
His Fifth Woman [in English] (2004)
Bebi, Madhlya Bhinti,Chimnicha Ghar Hota Menacha, Kavlyanchi Shala, Sari Ga Sari, Ek Hatti Mulga, , Devdivapacha Mukabla, Gharte Amuche Chan, Chiranjeev Soubhagyakanshini, Bhau MurarRao, Bhalyakaka, Anji, Lobh Nasava Hee Vinanti, Kutre, Bhalyakaka,Vitthal! Safar, Niyatichya Bailala Ho!
One Act Plays
Ratra ani itar Ekankika, Chitragupta ani Chitragupta, Ajgar ani Gandharv, Bhekad ani itar Ekankika, Thief! Police!, Ekekacha Ajar, Andher Nagari
Ithe Bale Miltat (1960)
Patlachya Poriche Lagin (Marriage of a Village Mayor's Daughter) (1965)
Mesh Patre, Chimana Bandhto Bangla, Chambhar Chaukashicha Natak
Ghashiram Kotwal (Ghashiram, the Constable) (1972)
Mohan Rakesh's Adhe Adhure (originally in Hindi)
Girish Karnad's Tughlaq (originally in Kannada)
Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire (originally in English)
Tendulkar's Works Available in English
Silence! The Court Is in Session (Three Crowns). Priya Adarkar (Translator)
Ghashiram Kotwal, Sangam Books, 1984
The Churning, Seagull Books, India, 1985
The Threshold: (Umbartha - Screenplay), Shampa Banerjee (Translator), Sangam Books Ltd.,1985
Five Plays (Various Translators), Bombay, Oxford University Press, 1992
The Last Days of Sardar Patel and The Mime Players: Two Screen Plays New Delhi, Permanent Black, 2001
Modern Indian Drama: An Anthology Sahitya Akademi, India, 2001
Mitrachi Goshta : A Friend’s Story: A Play in Three Acts Gowri Ramnarayan (Translator). New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2001
Kanyadan, Oxford University Press, India, 2002
Collected Plays in Translation New Delhi, 2003
The Cyclist and His Fifth Woman: Two Plays by Vijay Tendulkar Balwant Bhaneja (Translator), 2006 Oxford India
Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe (Silence! The Court Is in Session) (1972)
Simhasan (Throne) (1979)
Umbartha (The Threshold) (1981)
Sayna, 22 June 1897, Chimanrao
Aadhe Adhure, Lincoln Yanche Akherche Divas, Lobh Nasava Hee Vinanti, Tughlaqh, Vasnachakra
Nishant (End of Night) (1975)
Samana (Confrontation) (1975)
Manthan (Churning) (1976)
Gehrayee (The Depth) (1980)
Aakrosh (Cry of the Wounded) (1980)
Akriet (Unimaginable) (1981)
Ardh Satya (Half Truth) (1983)
Kamala (Kamala) (1984)
Yeh Hai Chakkad Bakkad Bumbe Bo (2003)
Eashwar Mime Co. (The Mime Players) (2005)
Prarthana, Imaan, Musafir, Aaghat
Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan (1978)