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The Rediff Special/ Kumar Ketkar
'Tendulkar used violence as a metaphor'
May 20, 2008
Vijay Tendulkar, a doyen of India's theatre, passed away in Pune, Maharashtra's cultural capital, on Monday after a protracted illness. This is the first in a series of tribute to the legendary playwright.
As a theatre person, playwright and a director he was an extraordinary person. Though not being an artist by career or profession, he started to write to express his frustrations, his anger and his emotions overtly through theatre and that's why he became a theatre person.
It was not his dream to become a great writer or a theatre person. He was also an intense individual. He never straitjacketed himself into a specific ideology or any intellectual discipline or theory. In fact this can be interpreted as his weakness to grapple with ideological and intellectual issues. At the same time, that so-called weakness provided him with great strength in the sense that he was always very, very open-minded.
This enabled him to take on any issue, any system or any emotion in his stride. Importantly, in all this madness, he never lost his sense of proportion while writing; even so while he hyped the theme of violence. He did it deliberately because he thought that Indian society had a false notion it was tolerant and non-violent. Nevertheless, he believed that it was an extremely violent and brutal society in which we lived. And he successfully highlighted this inherent trait through his plays and dramas.
He used violence as a metaphor to showcase all kinds of injustice, all kinds of power games and the entire political skullduggery prevalent in contemporary India.
On charges that Tendulkar was fascinated with violence
That allegation can be interpreted like this. In fact I was in the forefront of leveling that allegation against him in a series of weekly articles. But that allegation had to be understood in the above context.
I always maintained that for Vijay Tendulkar violence did not mean merely physical violence or torture. It also meant interpersonal relationship between dominance and violence -- not only male dominance over females but also vice versa. Sometimes it is the powerful vs the weak, sometimes the weak acquires power out of that very same weakness as happens in Sakharam Binder. For him human relationships were power relationships. And power relationships are based on in-built violence.
Therefore, it is said, that he was fascinated and obsessed with the idea of violence. For him the definition of violence was far broader than the way we understand it or the society perceives it as physical violence.
As an activist
He was an activist in the sense that he participated in all kinds of protests and demonstrations against injustice done to various sections of Indian society. Be it the Narmada Bachao Andolan or the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights.
That was his hallmark. No other intellectual or artist in Maharashtra openly supported such movements and causes.
Is he relevant in 21st century India?
To a certain extent he is. Because, as he always maintained, we (the Indian society) have an in-built affinity to violence. The notion that we have perpetuated is we are a tolerant society. This idea is still valid particularly when we see the intolerance in our religion-caste-region divide.
Personal memories of Vijay Tendulkar
Many personal memories, actually. Basically he was always curious about what you were thinking, what you were writing. He used to always inquire as to what I was writing. He was always keen that young people should always write openly and not bother about the consequences. He always encouraged writers including me -- I am 30 years younger to him -- to write with honesty, passion and out of commitment to reality.
On many issues I used to differ from his views and we would argue the point at length -- he in a cool and composed manner and I with my voice raised to a high pitch. I found him to be a very patient listener, extraordinarily patient listener. I have not found that characteristic in many other famous people I know.
We last met six months back at Kishori Amonkar's concert.
Vijay Tendulkar as an Indian writer
I have written in The Indian Express today that Vijay Tendulkar as a writer has transcended regional boundaries.
Kumar Ketkar, editor of Loksatta, spoke to Prasanna Zore
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