Tendulkar’s hero or anti-hero comes on again to hammer out issues of morality and marriage


Om Katare's Sakharam

When Sakharam Binder emerged from Tendulkar’s informed imagination a couple of decades ago, he shocked a society unaware that merely 20-odd years later ‘boldness’ in art and media will be passé. Unlike Gidhade, however, Sakharam did not mean to shock, it meant to speak. What about, is still open to investigation.
Those who did not go on a rampage to ban the play for its ‘anti-social’ and ‘immoral’ outlook, were quick to praise it for its central character who challenged middle-class morality and its central institution – marriage. The rebel hero became mythical in his immortality over the years, as the play was performed countlessly in many different languages.But, he was somewhat simplified and restricted by his familiarity.
Is he really a frank-speaking hero who
knows his mind? Does he really care so little about what society thinks? Why then does he justify his stand by saying he simply does openly what others enjoy secretly? Makrand Deshpande, who recently wrote and directed Sakharam Ki Khoj Mein Hawaldar, has been fascinated by our hero too. He feels that Sakharam is a fallen man in the end. His ego reveals that beneath his rebellious bravado there was little but basic instinct. “Everyone would like to lead, but only some can,” Deshpande says.
In killing his latest lover girl, Champa for her ‘infidelity’, does Sakharam fall prey to the morality he critiques? Or simply reveal that the foundation of moral codes runs deep up unto the core of human psychology and instinct?
Or is Champa the real hero of this play? His female alter-ego displays more compassion and strength of conviction. Her rebellion rings truer. She dies for challenging his ‘masculine ego’ – for revealing his frailties to himself. She is a rare Tendulkar heroine as she goes all the way with her rebellion, not coming around in the end after exposing male hypocrisy and domination.

Marriage is also a centre point of religious orthodoxy. Is that the real target
here? Sakharam is a Brahmin and Lakshmi, his wife-like partner, a staunch Hindu. They commit a murder most foul, unable to stomach Champa’s freedom of spirit. Lakshmi is almost a right-wing crowd pleaser in her meek modesty, piety to her husband, her prejudice against “musalmans”, her moralising, and her devotion to her idols. But perhaps she is only using her religious beliefs as an excuse to secure her interests.
Tendulkar never judged his characters. He did not justify them, thereby leaving room for interpretation. Direc
tors are still eager to do their own version of Sakharam. Om Katare who is reviving his production, feels it is an excellent creative exercise for an actor and director. Jaimini Pathak, who directed a reading of His Fifth Woman – a prelude to Sakharam Binder, found himself discovering layers to the relationship between characters that he had not previously considered. However, the innumerable ‘versions’ hardly ever attempt a truly fresh interpretation of the play. It is not easy to sum up who Sakharam really is. The only certainty is that he is among a lot of other things, a victim of his own dramatic potential.
Sakharam Binder directed by Om Katare plays at the Nehru Festival today, 7.30 pm.


This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India:


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