Vijay Tendulkar
Tendulkar in 2007
Vijay Dhondopant Tendulkar

(1928-01-06)6 January 1928
Died19 May 2008(2008-05-19) (aged 80)
Children3, including Priya Tendulkar
FamilyMangesh Tendulkar (Brother)
AwardsPadma Bhushan: 1984
Sangeet Nātak Akademi Fellowship: 1998
National Film Award for Best Screenplay: Manthan, 1977

Vijay Dhondopant Tendulkar (6 January 1928 – 19 May 2008) was a leading Indian playwright, movie and television writer, literary essayist, political journalist, and social commentator primarily in Marāthi. His Marathi plays established him as a writer of plays with contemporary, unconventional themes.[1] He is best known for his plays Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe (1967), Ghāshirām Kotwāl (1972), and Sakhārām Binder (1972). Many of Tendulkar's plays derived inspiration from real-life incidents or social upheavals, which provide clear light on harsh realities. He has provided guidance to students studying "play writing" in US universities. Tendulkar was a dramatist and theatre personality in Mahārāshtra for over five decades.

Early life

Vijay Dhondopant Tendulkar was born in a Gaud Saraswat Brahmin family[2] on 6 January 1928 in Girgaon, Mumbai, Maharashtra,[3] where his father held a clerical job and ran a small publishing business. The literary environment at home prompted young Vijay to take up writing. He wrote his first story at age six.

He grew up watching western plays and felt inspired to write plays himself. At age eleven, he wrote, directed, and acted in his first play.[4]

At age 14, he participated in the 1942 Indian freedom movement,[5] leaving his studies. The latter alienated him from his family and friends. Writing then became his outlet, though most of his early writings were of a personal nature, and not intended for publication. During this period, he participated in the activities of Nabajiban Sanghatana, a splinter communist group. He said that he liked sense of sacrifice and discipline of the communists.[6]


Early career

Tendulkar began his career writing for newspapers. He had already written a play, Āmcyāvar Koṇ Preṃ Karṇār? ( Who is going to love me?), and he wrote the play, Gṛhastha (गृहस्थ; The Householder), in his early 20s. The latter did not receive much recognition from the audience, and he vowed never to write again.[7]

Breaking the vow, in 1956 he wrote Śrīmant, which established him as a good writer. Śrīmant jolted the conservative audience of the times with its radical storyline, wherein an unmarried young woman decides to keep her unborn child while her rich father tries to "buy" her a husband in an attempt to save his social prestige.

Tendulkar's early struggle for survival and living for some time in tenements ("cāḷ/chawls") in Mumbai provided him first-hand experience about the life of urban lower middle class. He thus brought new authenticity to their depiction in Marathi theatre.[8] Tendulkar's writings rapidly changed the storyline of modern Marathi theatre in the 1950s and the 60s, with experimental presentations by theatre groups like Rangayan. Actors in these theatre groups like Shriram Lagoo, Mohan Agashe, and Sulabha Deshpande brought new authenticity and power to Tendulkar's stories while introducing new sensibilities in Marathi theatre.[9]

Tendulkar wrote the play Gidhāḍe (गिधाडे; The Vultures) in 1961, but it was not produced until 1970. The play was set in a morally collapsed family structure and explored the theme of violence. In his following creations, Tendulkar explored violence in its various forms: domestic, sexual, communal, and political. Thus, Gidhāḍe proved to be a turning point in Tendulkar's writings with regard to establishment of his own unique writing style.[10]

Based on a 1956 short story, Die Panne ("Traps") by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Tendulkar wrote the play, Śāntatā! Court Cālū Āhe (शांतता! कोर्ट चालू आहे; "Silence! The Court is in Session"). It was presented on the stage for the first time in 1967 and proved as one of his finest works. Satyadev Dubey presented it in movie form in 1971 with Tendulkar's collaboration as the screenplay writer.[11]

1970s and 1980s

In his 1972 play, Sakhārām Binder (Sakhārām, the Binder), Tendulkar dealt with the topic of domination of the male gender over the female. The main character, Sakhārām, is a man devoid of ethics and morality, and professes not to believe in "outdated" social codes and conventional marriage. He accordingly uses the society for his own pleasure. He regularly gives "shelter" to abandoned wives and uses them for his sexual gratification while remaining oblivious to the emotional and moral implications of his exploits. He justifies all his acts through claims of modern, unconventional thinking, and comes up with hollow arguments meant in fact to enslave women. Paradoxically, some of the women which Sakhārām had enslaved buy into his arguments and simultaneously badly want freedom from their enslavement.[12]

In 1972, Tendulkar wrote another, even much more acclaimed play, Ghāshirām Kotwāl ("Officer Ghāshirām"), which dealt with political violence. The play is a political satire created as a musical drama set in 18th century Pune. It combined traditional Marathi folk music and drama with contemporary theatre techniques, creating a new paradigm for Marathi theatre. The play demonstrates Tendulkar's deep study of group psychology,[13] and it brought him a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship (1974–75) for a project titled, "An Enquiry into the Pattern of Growing Violence in Society and Its Relevance to Contemporary Theatre". With over 6,000 performances thus far in its original and translated versions, Ghāshirām Kotwāl remains one of the longest-running plays in the history of Indian theatre.

Tendulkar wrote screenplays for the movies Nishānt (1974), Ākrosh (The Cry) (1980), and Ardh Satya (The Half-Truth) (1984) which established him as an important "Chronicler of Violence" of the present.[14] He has written eleven movies in Hindi and eight movies in Marathi. The latter include Sāmanā ("Confrontation") (1975), Simhāasan ("Throne") (1979), and Umbartha ("The Threshold") (1981). The last one is a groundbreaking feature film on women's activism in India. It was directed by Jabbar Patel and stars Smitā Pātil and Girish Karnād.

1990s to 2008

In 1991, Tendulkar wrote a metaphorical play, Safar,[15] and in 2001 he wrote the play, The Masseur. He next wrote two novels — Kādambari: Ek and Kādambari: Don — about sexual fantasies of an ageing man. In 2004, he wrote a single-act play, His Fifth Woman — his first play in the English language — as a sequel to his earlier exploration of the plight of women in Sakhārām Binder. This play was first performed at the Vijay Tendulkar Festival in New York in October 2004.[16]

In the 1990s, Tendulkar wrote an acclaimed TV series, SwayamSiddha, in which his daughter Priyā Tendulkar, noted Television actress of 'Rajani' fame,[17] performed in the lead role. His last screenplay was for Eashwar Mime Co. (2005), an adaptation of Dibyendu Palit's story, Mukhabhinoy, and directed by theatre director, Shyamanand Jalan and with Ashish Vidyarthi and Pawan Malhotra as leads.[18]


He was the brother of acclaimed cartoonist and humourist Mangesh Tendulkar.


Vijay Tendulkar in late 2007 on a visit to Princeton, New Jersey, USA

Tendulkar died in Pune on 19 May 2008,[19] battling the effects of the rare autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis.[20]

Tendulkar's son Raja and wife Nirmala had died in 2001; his daughter Priya Tendulkar died the next year (2002) of a heart attack following a long battle with breast cancer.

Comment on Post-Godhra communal carnage

Following the post-Godhra communal carnage in Gujarat[21] in 2002, Tendulkar reacted by saying that "If I had a pistol, I would shoot [Gujarat Chief Minister] Narendra Modi". This reaction of Tendulkar had evoked mixed reactions, local Modi supporters burning his effigies while others lauding his remark.

Later, when he was asked if it was not strange that he, who was known as a strong voice against death penalty, had a death wish for Modi, Tendulkar had said that "it was spontaneous anger, which I never see as a solution for anything. Anger doesn't solve problems."


In his writing career spanning more than five decades, Tendulkar has written 27 full-length plays and 25 one-act plays. Several of his plays have proven to be Marathi theatre classics.[22] His plays have been translated and performed in many Indian languages.[23]

By providing insight into major social events and political upheavals during his adult life, Tendulkar became one of the strongest radical political voices in Maharashtra in recent times. While contemporary writers were cautiously exploring the limits of social realism, he jumped into the cauldron of political radicalism and courageously exposed political hegemony of the powerful and the hypocrisies in the Indian social mindset. His powerful expression of human angst has resulted in his simultaneously receiving wide public acclaim and high censure from the orthodox and the political bigwigs.[24]

Many of Tendulkar's plays derived inspiration from real-life incidents or social upheavals. Thus, the rise of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra in the 1970s was reflected in Tendulkar's Ghāshirām Kotwāl.[23] The true story of a journalist who purchased of a woman from the rural sex industry to reveal police and political involvement in this trade, only to abandon the woman once he had no further need for her, is detailed in Tendulkar's Kamalā.[25][26] The play was later made into a film Kamla (film). The real-life story of an actress whose acting career got ruined after her same-sex affair became public knowledge inspired Tendulkar to write Mitrāchi Goshta.[27]

Tendulkar has translated nine novels, two biographies, and five plays by other authors into Marathi.

Besides the foregoing, Tendulkar's oeuvre includes a biography; two novels; five anthologies of short stories; 16 plays for children, including Bāle Miltāt (1960) and Pātlāchyā Poriche Lagin (1965); and five volumes of literary essays and social criticism, including Ratrani (1971), Kowali Unhe (1971), and Phuge Sobānche (1974). All in all, Tendulkar's writings have contributed to a significant transformation of the modern literary landscape in Marathi and other Indian languages.

In 2005, a documentary titled Tendulkar Āni Himsā: Kāl Āni Āj ("Tendulkar and Violence: Then and Now") with English subtitles[28] (produced by California Arts Association - CalAA -[29] directed by Atul Pethe) was released. In 2007, a short film about Tendulkar, Ankahin, (director Santosh Ayachit) was released.[30]


Tendulkar won Maharashtra State government awards in 1969 and 1972; and Mahārāshtra Gaurav Puraskār in 1999.[3] He was honoured with the Sangeet Nātak Akademi Award in 1970, and again in 1998 with the Academy's highest award for "lifetime contribution", the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship ("Ratna Sadasya").[31] In 1984, he received the Padma Bhushan award from the Government of India for his literary accomplishments.[32]

In 1977, Tendulkar won the National Film Award for Best Screenplay for his screenplay of Shyām Benegal's movie, Manthan (1976). He has written screenplays for many significant art movies, such as Nishānt, Ākrosh, Ardh Satya and Aghaat.

A comprehensive list of awards is given below:



Short story anthologies




Tendulkar's works available in English




See also


  1. ^ "Legacy of Vijay Tendulkar". India Today. 24 May 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  2. ^ Bhimrao, R.S., 2015. Reconstructing Dramatics Dramaturgy in Contemporary Experimental Plays of Vijay Tendulkar Satish Alekar and Mahesh Elkunchwar
  3. ^ a b "Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar dies". IBN Live. Archived from the original on 27 December 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  4. ^ Vijay Tendulkar profile at indiaclub
  5. ^ The Frontline Archived 20 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Dec. 2005
  6. ^ "Vijay Tendulkar: Indian theatre's only complete philosopher". India Today. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  7. ^ The Hindu[usurped], 2 February 2003
  8. ^ The Tribune, 3 October 2004
  9. ^ Shanta Gokhale, Theatre critic and writer
  10. ^ Violence 'Gidhade' and beyond
  11. ^ Shāntatā! Court Chālu Aahe at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  13. ^ Lokvani, 07/30/2003
  14. ^ Ashis Nandy on Violence in Vijay Tendulkar's works[usurped]
  15. ^ An Introduction to 'The Cyclist', 2001
  16. ^ Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), Vijay Tendulkar Festival, New York City, October 2004
  17. ^ Priya Tendulkar
  18. ^ "Special screening of Jalan's film". The Times of India. 24 September 2010. Archived from the original on 8 March 2012.
  19. ^ "Playwright Vijay Tendulkar passes away". 19 May 2008. Retrieved 19 May 2008.
  20. ^ "Vijay Tendulkar, voice of social stage, is dead". The Telegraph. 20 May 2008. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2008.
  21. ^ 2002 Gujarat violence
  22. ^ Profile at Oxford University Press
  23. ^ a b The Indian Express, 20 October 1999 Archived 1 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Vijay Tendulkar speaks to NDTV
  25. ^ Kamala story 1981
  26. ^ Kamala at salaamtheatre
  27. ^ A study of the play and book, Mitrachi Goshta: A Friend's Story
  28. ^ The Times of India, Jan 2007
  29. ^ California Arts Association (CalAA)
  30. ^ The Hindu, 20 January 2007
  31. ^ Sangeet Natak Akademi Award Archived 23 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ "Padma Awards Directory (1954-2013)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. 1984: 16: Shri Vijay Dhondopant Tendulkar
  33. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  34. ^ The Little Magazine – Salam and New Writing Awards

Further reading

Filmfare Award for Best Story