His very first drama namely Raigadala jenvha jagyete i.e. 'When Raigad Awakens' in 1962, was a hit. A conscious departure from the conventional Marathi histories, it emphasized Shivaji and Sambhaji as father and son rather than king and heir. In the ensuing four decades Kanetkar wrote over forty plays, in which he tried his hand at a variety of themes and presentational modes. Prema tujha rang kasa? i.e. 'Love, What's Your Colour?' in 1961 was a romantic comedy. Matsyagandha in 1964 reinterpreted a Mahabharata legend, Lekure udandjali i.e. 'Too Many Brats' in 1966 attempted a Western-style musical without dance, Himalayachi sawali i.e. 'Shade of the Himalayas' in 1972 was a bio-drama based on Maharshi Karve's life. Beiman i.e. 'Disloyal' in 1973 centred round the conflict between two friends, as in Anouilh's Becket. Chumantar i.e. 'Abracadabra' in 1982 was a straightforward farce. Many had phenomenal runs. For instance, Ashruncbijhaliphule i.e. 'Tears Have Become Flowers' in 1966 was a melodrama that extends the father and son conflict to the guru-disciple relationship, continues to draw packed houses.
Kanetkar's popularity is attributed to his having a finger on the pulse of the middle class, which constitutes the mainstream audience. He shared its sensibility, which looks back with nostalgia to and pride in its creativity, its reformism, and its selfless service to society, all set within an overall romantic position. Although his plays were commercially successful, he was often accused by critics of pandering to middle-class moralities, and of symbolizing the 'hallucinations of the Marathi middle-class'.
Vasant Shankar Kanetkar also bagged a Filmfare Award for Best Story in 1966 for the film Aansoo Ban Gaye Phool, which was an adaptation of his immensely successful Marathi play Ashroonchi Zaali Phule. He was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest Indian civilian award, for his services to Marathi literature. He was elected president of the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan in 1988 as well. This legendary figure died in 2001.