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Saint Sakharam and the Talkative Cyclist


By Vijay Tendulkar
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 80, Rs. 175.00


Vijay Tendulkar is very special to Indian theatre. For one, he is not afraid of being accessible. His language, his themes and his craftsmanship do not scare theatre people away. I like this quality in him. Vijay Tendulkar always knew that it was essential for his plays to survive as popular theatre texts, in order that he emerge as a major Indian playwright. Today Tendulkar’s literary merit is well established, even beyond the boundaries of Marathi drama.   Badal Sircar also had these qualities. His early comedies for example were delightful theatre texts. But he became sceptical. He started doubting the need for a gilt edged proscenium frame: the famous lie. He gave up writing fictional plays altogether and took to writing agitational plays. In the process, Badal Sircar became an ascetic, like his mentor Jerzy Grotowski. No. this is not to belittle the achievements of Badal Sircar. Where he lost out as a playwright, he gained enormously in stature, as a theatre person. I think he has influenced more theatre persons in India than most others.   Personally I like the gilt edged theatre though. I also like the lie. A lie is after all the basis on which to build a play. Without it you get stuck in reality; like in Hollywood cinema these days or like the excessively angry political theatre of the seventies. Is Tendulkar political? Not in the Badal Sircarian sense. Tendulkar is playful. He will not allow anything, including his political commitment to come in the way of his playfulness. Beyond that there is concern. He is troubled by the social reality round him; the meanness and violence. If I have to look for a personality that is the opposite of Tendulkar’s, it is Rabindranath Tagore of course. Tagore believed in his ‘egotistical sublime’. He was grand, his themes were grand. He wrote poetic plays, had a long beard, wore even longer robes and rubbed shoulders with world leaders. Tendulkar is so different. He is happy to be in the company of his decadent, drunken, proletariat, book-binder character Sakharam. It is Sakharam, Shukatwe, Ghasiram Sawaldas and the like, who have made Tendulkar famous. Sakharam has surfaced yet again in one more play of Tendulkar. It is called His Fifth Woman and it is one of the two plays included in this collection. Sakharam is like the detective in a popular crime fiction, who appears ...

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