Marathi Culture and Festivals

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Vijay Tendulkar ....

 He provided his guidance to students studying "playwright writing" in US universities. For over five decades Tendulkar had been a highly influential dramatist and theatre personality inMahārāshtra.

It was a measure of Mr. Tendulkar’s gifts that he achieved worldwide fame despite writing in Marathi, the language of his home state, Maharashtra, in west central India. Most of his plays were translated into Hindi and English for national and international audiences.

Born in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, on Jan. 6, 1928, Mr. Tendulkar grew up among books; his father was a clerk and small-time publisher. As a child he was frequently taken to the theater and was fascinated by the men who enacted female roles and smoked backstage. That is when he was introduced to Western plays.

But he always read voraciously and wrote his first story when he was just 6. When 11, he wrote, directed and acted in his first play.

At 14, Mr. Tendulkar gave up studies to join the Indian independence movement led byMohandas K. Gandhi. His lack of formal education proved to be a blessing in disguise, as his experiments with socially controversial themes jolted the tradition-bound Marathi theater out of the past. His plays, which were sometimes banned, shocked some and delighted others.

When he moved to Bombay (now called Mumbai) in the mid-1950s to work as a journalist, he was shocked to witness the stark realities of urban and slum life, including violence and illicit sex, whose effects he later grippingly depicted in his works.

Though he was a fearless social critic all his life, Mr. Tendulkar’s plays were not necessarily polemical. They displayed piercing insights into human behavior and aimed to expose hypocrisy. When he was 22, his play “Grihastha” (“The Householder”) was heckled off the stage, leading to him to swear he would never write again. But he went on to turn out 28 full-length plays and 17 film scripts, as well as 7 collections of one-act plays, 6 collections of children’s plays, 4 volumes of short stories and 3 volumes of essays, as well as at least one novel.

In 1956, a particularly controversial play, “Shrimant,” helped establish his reputation. It is about an unmarried woman who decides to keep her unborn child while her father schemes to buy her a husband to save his own social standing.

His “Ghashiram Kotwal” (“Ghashiram the Constable”), a brilliant satire on political violence, is a musical combining Marathi folk performance styles and contemporary theatrical techniques. It is said to be one of the most-performed plays in the world, with more than 6,000 performances in India and abroad since 1972.

Many of his famous plays were staged in the United States, including “Ghashiram Kotwal” and “Sakharam Binder,” about a man who shelters abandoned wives but uses them for his own pleasure, which was banned in India after its premiere in 1974. The Indo-American Arts Council of New York presented a monthlong Tendulkar Festival in October 2004.

Mr. Tendulkar wrote award-winning film scripts for some of the great directors in Hindi cinema of the 1970s and ’80s, including “Nishaant” and “Manthan” for Shyam Benegal, and “Aakrosh,” “Ardh Satya” and “Aghaat” for Govind Nihalani.

Mr. Tendulkar was accused of obscenity and needless violence, crude exhibitionism of sexuality, anti-Brahminism, historical distortions and even plagiarism. He was burned in effigy in several Indian states after one of his political statements.

He is survived by his daughters Sushma and Tanuja. A few years ago, he lost another daughter, the television actress Priya Tendulkar; his son, Raja; and his wife, Nirmala, in quick succession. His daughter had played the leading role in one of the television series he wrote.