One of the finest dramatists in Marathi Literature was Vijay Tendulkar (7 January 1928 - 19 May 2008). With his plays translated and staged in other regional languages, he had gained world wide recognition. He started writing plays in the 1950s but these remained within the experimental and theater groups. Here, the term "experimental theater" can be interpreted as a synonym for "modern" and "Western." Both Tendulkar and other younger playwrights wanted to give theater "a new form" and experiment with all aspects of it, including content, acting, decor, and audience communication. In his early one-act plays, he used the techniques common in contemporary European and American theater. Most of this plays deal with the social life in the post-colonial era. This was an age when human beings were exploited, women were probably the worst sufferers and the social order was a victim of communal violence and political unrest. The works of Vijay Tendulkar poignantly portrays the human sufferings and they also reflect the author`s compassion and respect for the human beings.
Early Work of Vijay Tendulkar
Tendulkar`s works can be divided into two periods, 1953-68 and 1968-80, for convenience of analysis. The plays included in the first period are `Shrimant`, `Manus Nawache Bet`, `Ashi Pakhare Yeti`, `Saree Ga Saree`, `Mi Jinkalo`, `Mi Haralo`, `Shantata`, `Court Chalu Ahe`, and `Madhalya Bhinti`. The plays written during the first period focus on the lives and concerns of lower-middle-class characters. These include financial strains, problem of unemployment, inadequate income of those with jobs, problems of housing and high rent, marriage and oppression of women and so on. The stark realism of his work is further highlighted by his use of humor and satire, with telling effect. He had an uncanny ability to develop a complete image of the characters with relative ease through few but sound details. His `Shrimant`(1955) deals with the familiar theme of the conflict between the rich and the poor in a capitalist society. It also explores the predicament of a lower-middle-class family with the problem of premarital pregnancy. Both Shrimant and the subsequent `Gharate Amuche Chhan `deal with the corrupt, money-driven, and selfish lives of the rich who are morally lacking. Many of his early plays are fairly conventional in dramatic form and style, but in his later ones he has experimented with both, though not in an artificial manner. In `Shantata` and `Court Chalu Ahe`, he had interwoven the rehearsal of a play and a real life story to produce intense dramatic encounters where reality and fiction become difficult to separate.
Later Works of Vijay Tendulkar
The plays in the second period break away from the setting of the middle class and delve deep into the socio-political and historical realm. `Gidhade` (1971), `Sakharam Binder` (1972), `Ghashiram Kotwal` (1973), `Bhalyakaka` (1974), `Bhau Murarrao` (1975), and `Bebi` (1975) are some of the plays written during this period. They are felt to be better conceived than those written in the first period. Ghashiram Kotwal, his most popular play, was published in 1973 but it was performed in December 1972. This play, a dance and musical display on one level, is a bitter commentary on the hypocrisy of the dominant castes and classes in society, on another level. Its characters are historical figures, and it is set in the Peshwa period but it is not a historical play. It is a fictional account of the social circumstances that can create characters like Ghashiram. The theme of the play, the dishonesty of the orthodox Brahmins of Pune
and impoverished Ghashiram`s willingness to offer his daughter to the demands of lecherous Nana Phadanavis, created a storm of social protest in Pune. Tendulkar`s play makes use of chorus as well as kirtan, a folk music form used primarily to narrate religio-mythical stories, with incisive effect.
Tendulkar shows a remarkable perception of both the beauty and nobility of the world as well as the ugly and ignoble side of it. His literary expression is realistic, soft and poignant. There is little doubt that Tendulkar`s work has taken Marathi theatre away from the clich‚d and contrived work of earlier generations.
Achievements of Vijay Tendulkar
Tendulkar was felicitated with many awards and honours including the Maharashtra State Government Reward (1956,1969 and 1972), Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1971), the Filmfare Award
(1980 and 1983), Padma Bhushan (1984), Saraswati Samman (1993), the Kalidas Samman (1999), the Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar (1999), the Jansthan Award (1999). He was also awarded the Katha Chudamani Award in 2001. Tendulkar has also received numerous other awards by niche organisations like the Little Magazine, which bestowed on him the SALAM award in 2006.
Tendulkar died in Pune on 19 May 2008, succumbing to the effects of myasthenia gravis. He continues to be revered as one of the finest exponents of Marathi and even Indian literature.