We all already know that Marathi theatre is a treasure trove of artistic and talented gems. Over the course of time, there have been plenty of marvelous plays that are not just unique, but also way ahead of their time and unafraid of talking about what the society is otherwise afraid of. To appreciate the beauty of Marathi theatre and to help you get some inspiration, we’ve dug through the archives and found some of the best ever Marathi plays!
Ghashiram Kotwal is perhaps Vijay Tendulkar’s most memorable play even to this day. It’s a historical play, but its story and concept hold a timelessness although it was written in 1972 – 42 years ago! The drama is based on Nana Phadnavis, a prominent Peshwa minister during the 1700s. Its sheer brilliance can be seen through its bold and sharp political satire in the guise of history, while also seamlessly infusing elements of the Tamasha form of folk theatre. This hard-hitting and thought-provoking play has traveled across the world to countries such as US, Canada, Russia, East Germany, Hungary and many other European countries.
One rarely gets to see a play as enjoyable and memorable as Varhad Nighalay Londonla. First and most amazingly played by Laxman Deshpande until his death in 2009, this is a one act play where Laxman plays 52 different characters! The play is a comedy about how a village family comes to accept a British woman as their daughter in law. The play made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for maximum characters played by an actor in a single theatre performance. Laxman acted in this play more than 2000 times!
Vishnu Waman Shirwadkar (Kusumagraj) is a celebrated literary gem in Marathi culture. Before it was made into a movie starring Nana Patekar, it was Dr. Shriram Lagu who played this intense role on the stage for many years. Natasamrat is the story of a veteran stage actor who has retired from acting but cannot let go of his past glories from the stage. It is an emotionally intense play filled with powerpacked performances.
Written by Babasaheb Purandare, Jaanta Raja is a play about the journey of how Shivaji became Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The play tells a magnificent story in an equally magnificent way – with a cast of 200 artistes, real horses, elephants and camels walking the stage on a 72 ft. x 40 feet stage! Think the visual splendor of 300 or Lord of the Rings on a stage – and Jaanta Raja is what you get!
Surya Pahilela Manus
Written by Makrand Sathe, this play uses Socrates’s thoughts and philosophies in the fabric of modern day thought, society and politics. The play rose to fame not only for its great story and a stellar performance by Shreeram Lagoo, but also for its innovation and experimentation with new themes and styles.
Khara Sangaycha Tar is an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s short story/play titled ‘The Witness for the Prosecution’. Written by Uday Narkar, this is a courtroom thriller drama starring talent powerhouses such as Supriya Pilgaonkar and Vikram Gokhale. The play revolves around a murder trial of a man arrested for the murder of a rich widow. There’s only one alibi that can save him – his wife. But will she? A gripping story made even better by incredible performances, this is an experience you’re sure to enjoy.
Sakharam Binder is yet another one of Vijay Tendulkar’s masterpieces. It was written in 1972, but was banned in India in 1974. This is the story of Sakharam Binder who thinks he is above the law. It brings to light the hypocrisy of misogyny. The play a deep psychological journey into a story that’s disturbing, hard-hitting and funny, all at the same time. It has been adapted into various languages like Hindi, Bengali and English, as well as staged at the Tendulkar Festival in New York in 2004.
To Mee Navech is a play written by Acharya Atre and one of the first few Marathi plays to make use of the Revolving Stage. This is the story of a conman Lakhoba Lokhande (based on Madhav Kazi, an active criminal during the late 1950s). It was written in 1962 and since then many actors have played the role of Lakhoba, but the most loved one is that played by Prabhakar Panshikar. The play is full of sarcastic dialogues and satirical reflections that can be pondered upon even today. It is also one of the few plays where one man plays five completely different roles, and has crossed over 3000 shows over 52 years since its inception.
Batatyachi Chaal is a play based on P.L. Deshpande’s story by the same name. It revolves around the lower middle class inhabitants of a tenement called Batatyachi Chaal in a locality in Mumbai. The play is basically a glimpse and a journey into the hurdles that this class of people face on a daily basis, that is hilarious and poignant at the same time. The very fact that it’s by perhaps the most loved author of Marathi literature makes it a play to cherish!
Sahi re Sahi
Written by Kedar Shinde, Sahi re Sahi is yet another play to be considered as one of the most successful Marathi plays ever. Industrialist Madan (played by Bharat Jadhav) is accidentally killed by his second wife and her lover. What follows is a hilarious case of imposters brought in by his relatives, each one trying to stake their claim on his wealth. Bharat Jadhav plays four different characters in the play. Sahi re Sahi has been on a successful run since its inception in 2002.
Ga Ma Bha Na is based on Milind Bokil’s novel ‘Shala’. Ga Ma Bha Na is about four school going kids and their explorations of love and finding their way in life. It was first staged as a one-act play by the students of Ruia College, Mumbai, but after winning many awards and accolades, it was restaged as a professional Marathi play present by KajalKiran Production. There are so many more Marathi plays that are worthy of mention and are remarkable in their own right! Which is your favourite play that inspired you, moved you or just stayed with you forever?