The Radical Conservative
Sudhanva Deshpande
COLLECTED PLAYS OF MAHESH ELKUNCHWAR by Samik Bandyopadhyay Oxford University Press, 2010, 336 pp., 695
March 2010, volume 34, No 3

While the rest of the country moans about the lack of new playwrights, the one state that seems to happily buck the trend is Maharashtra. The Marathi language seems to have a special affinity with playwrights. At any given time, there are at least
four or five talented playwrights producing new plays. Currently, for instance, playwrights like Makarand Sathe, Sandesh Kulkarni and Sachin Kundalkar, among others, are household names in Marathi theatre circles. It is therefore no surprise that Oxford University Press brings to us the collected plays in translation of two major Marathi playwrights simultaneously: Satish Alekar and Mahesh Elkunchwar. Earlier, the collected plays in translation of Vijay Tendulkar, was also published by the same press. All three volumes come with superb introductions by the theatre historian and scholar Samik Bandyopadhyay, along with a wealth of other material: interviews with the playwrights, their own essays or talks, and photographs. For those interested in the history of modern Indian drama, these are invaluable volumes.

Tendulkar, Alekar and Elkunchwar, along with Govind Deshpande, in a sense defined the trajectory of post-Independence Marathi theatre. Tendulkar was the senior-most, and the most prolific. He wrote the most number of plays, both full-length and short, in addition to film scripts, short stories and even novels. In the 1990s, he even wrote a daily column for a Marathi newspaper for an year. His plays are possibly the best known outside Maharashtra: Silence, the Court is in Session, Sakharam Binder, Vultures, and Ghashiram Kotwal are all translated into multiple Indian languages (including English), and are considered classics of the modern Indian stage. 

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