10 Extraordinary Playwrights Who Shaped Marathi Theatre

Posted on 28 April, 2016 by Team Wishberry

The-most-noteworthy-Indian-playwrights (1) It’s rather unfortunate that Marathi culture caught up with medieval fine arts and painting rather late, compared to other regions. However, what it lacked in these areas, it more than made up for with its contributions to theatre. Marathi theatre took form as early as 1843 and has only gotten better since then. Marathi plays from its earliest days, continue to hold value even today. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the most influential playwrights who helped making Marathi theatre the awesome space it is today!

Jaywant Dalvi:

One of the most prominent playwrights of contemporary Marathi theatre, Jaywant Dalvi’s plays offer an incisive social commentary that continues to stay relevant and hit the right chords even today. He has dealt with this in almost every subject in his plays – Purush (a woman’s victory over chauvinism), Nati Goti (a lower middle class family’s struggle to adapt their lives around their mentally disabled son), Sandhya Chhaya (the plight of elderly people in modern day society), Sooryasta (about a disillusioned freedom fighter), Barrister (conflict between the traditional and contemporary segments of Marathi Brahmin society) and many others.  

Vinayak Janardhan Keertane

Vinayak Janardhan Keertane wrote the first ever Marathi original historical play. The play was called Thorle Madhavrao Peshwe and was written in 1857. It was the first play to deviate from mythological themes and rely purely on history. His play was an interesting mix of the Sanskrit style of drama as well as Shakespearean drama.

Vijay Tendulkar

Vijay Tendulkar can perhaps be called as Indian theatre’s most influential playwright. Most of his Marathi plays have been translated and staged in various other Indian languages. Tendulkar is one of the key players responsible for bringing forth the New Wave of Indian theatre. His early plays dealt with the impact of colonialism on social life post independence, political unrest and exploitation. His later plays brought to light human sufferings, treatment of women and how humans as viewed under set social constructs. His most memorable plays are Manus Navache Bet, Shrimant, Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe, and the controversial, Ghashiram Kotwal.

Mahesh Elkunchwar

Mahesh Elkunchwar has written more than 20 plays – each one memorable in its own right. One could say that Mahesh Elkunchwar’s foray into drama could be credited to Vijay Tendulkar, whose play was the first one ever Elkunchwar had ever seen. In fact, he’s often looked up to as Vijay Tendulkar’s successor. He has experimented with myriad forms of theatre from expressionist to absurdist to symbolic. His works have spanned across 3 decades and have had a deep impact on contemporary Marathi theatre. Some of notable plays include Holi, Raktapushpa and Party among many others. His plays have been translated into English, French and German, and some have even been adapted into films! He also showed the world his brilliance as an essayist when he wrote Maunraag – a collection of essays which went on to become the book of the decade in 2012.

Prabhodhankar Thackeray

He’s a noted playwright, social activist, author and politician. Prabhodhankar Thackeray was one of the key pioneers of the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement – a key movement for the linguistic state of Maharashtra. He has written plays such as Khara Brahman, Sangeet Vidhinishedh, Taklele Por and Sangeet Seetashuddhi. His works highlight his social reformist views and revolutionary opinions.  

S.N Navare

Popularly known as ‘Shanna’, S.N. Navare continues to be one of the most respected writers, playwrights and novelists. He has won many awards, including the G.D. Madgulkar Award for his contribution to Marathi literature. S.N. Navare along with playwrights such as Suresh Khare, and V.V. Shirwadkar, has been credited with opening up Marathi theatre to commercial drama.

Satish Alekar

Satish Alekar is often credited to have brought a new wave of freshness to Marathi theatre thanks to his impressive one-act plays like Bhajan, Jhulta, Pool and Walan. Most of Alekar’s plays dealt with the absurd realities of his life as a middle-class citizen in Pune. Additionally, he has also shed light on the issues of the youth, conflicts between two generations, the after-effects of the Sangeet-Natak tradition among others.

G.P. Deshpande

G.P. Deshpande won the Maharashtra State Award for his collective works in 1977 and in 1996 he won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for playwrighting. Promotion of progressive values in contemporary society, as well as politically vocal stories marks most of his plays. His most notable plays include Udhwastha Dharmashala, Andhar Yatra, Satyashodhak, Antim Divas and Raastey.

Datta Bhagat

Datta Bhagat is one of the leaders of the Dalit theatre movement in Marathi arts and literature. His most crucial and notable play is Aavart, which beautifully fuses traditional forms of theatre such as dindi and tamasha with the narrative and underlying theme of Dalit consciousness. His other remarkable plays include Wata-Palwata, Ashmak and Khelia. Through his works, he brought about a keen insight and understanding into the lives and trails of the lower castes in Maharashtra, into Marathi theatre.

Ram Ganesh Gadkari

Ram Ganesh Gadkari’s plays are known for being rich in grandeur, spontaneity, humour and absurd occurrences. His works have been deeply influenced by Shripad Krishna Kolhatkar who was a pioneer in literary humour and criticism. Gadkari is considered to be perhaps the best and highest contributors to Marathi drama. His plays Ekach Pyala, Prem Sanyas, Bhava Bandhan are a testimony of that. We could go on and on what with playwrights such as Anil Barve, P.L. Deshpande., Premanand Gajvi, Sanjay Pawar, Vasant Kanetkar and many more. Whether you need inspiration or need to revel in the marvelously rich history of Marathi theatre, you can always start with these playwrights!  

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