One at a time…

As Prithvi celebrates Vijay Tendulkar day, the writer says he can delve into one form of writing at a given time. So he’s stopped penning scripts


Photographer: Nilesh Wairkar

Vijay Tendulkar

Vijay Tendulkar, once the enfant terrible of theatre has recently had two festivals dedicated to him. While one was held by Amol Palekar inPune during the last week of October, the other, an entire day of the Prithvi Festival, happened yesterday (November 6). However, since his last full length play, The Cylist in 1992, he hasn’t written since for stage or screen.
I haven’t taken any pledge to not write plays,” says Tendulkar,
“It’s just that a play doesn’t come to me.” He explains further: “I have written two novels and am on my third right now. Novels, play scripts and film scripts each have a distinct form. Some people can move to and fro between these forms. I can’t. When one form interests me, the others fade into the background.”
True this. Even as the playwright penned film scripts, playwriting took a backseat. And now his agile mind is as he puts it: “wrestling with the form of the
novel”. Like his first novel, which doesn’t have a specific name. It’s called Kadambari Ek. “I’m bad at giving poetic titles to what I write,” he says, “What kind of names are
Sakharam Binder or Ghashiram Kotwal?” Yet he’s evolved method to callousness: “Giving a piece of literature a defining name limits the readers and viewers’ expectations of it. I’d rather have the audience or reader come in with an open mind and absorb my work as it is.”
He’s acerbic about films too: “Perhaps it’s occurred the least with me, but film is the medium where a writer’s work is the most distorted. It’s a director’s medium.” He also feels filmmakers today mostly churn out re-hashed versions of foreign DVDs. “But I really liked Mr and Mrs Iyer,” he says, “both script and film.”

And now we come to Tendulkar’s helplessness – that he has claimed to feel in  today’s turbulent times for our country.
“I feel helpless because I feel a poor writer like Vijay Tendulkar has no voice,” he reiterates, “An Amitabh Bachchan or Aishwarya Rai does.” And yet the poor writer created many a stir via his fiery column in a Marathi daily during the riots following the Babri Masjid demolition. When Godhra happened, he went on record and said that if he could, he would shoot Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. And then where would a playwright’s ‘voice’ reside, but in his plays? Sakharam Binder? Ghashiram Kotwal? Shantata Adaalat Chalu Aahe? “The only reason those plays became famous was because they were controversial,” he believes, “A controversy
easily mars the essence of the play and leads to many a misinterpretation.”
So, is this helplessness the reason Vijay Tendulkar does not write? “Topics for plays still strike me nowadays,” he says, “But the play does not come to me as it used to. But I have not discontinued writing plays.”
Tendulkar’s latest play, his first in English – His Fifth Woman, is a prologue to Sakharam Binder, written 20 years after it. “That’s a short play, not like my long ones. I had to write something for the festival in the United States in English so..,” he clarifies. But why Sakharam Binder? “Sakharam as a character came back to me,” he sighs, “I have treated this play very differently
from Sakharam Binder, written when I was very young.”
Here’s to many more Mr. Tendulkar, that come back… or introduce themselves.

Films: Aakrosh 1980 Ardh Satya 1983 Saamna 1975 Nishant 1975 Manthan 1976
Plays: Shantata Court Chalu Ahe! 1967 Ghashiram Kotwal 1972 Sakharam Binder 1972 Kamala 1981 Kanyadaan 1983

A version of this article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India:


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