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Vijay Tendulkar (Marathi:विजय तेंडुलकर) (7 January 1928 – 19 May 2008) was a leading Indian playwright, movie and television writer, literary essayist, political journalist, and social commentator primarily in Marāthi. 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 provides clear light on harsh realities. He provided his guidance to students studying “Playwright writing” in US universities. For over five decades, Tendulkar had been a highly influential dramatist and theater personality in Mahārāshtra.

Early life

Vijay Dhondopant Tendulkar was born on 7 January 1928 in a Bhalavalikar Saraswat brahmin family in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, 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.

 At age 14, he participated in the 1942 Indian freedom movement , 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. 

Early career

Tendulkar began his career writing for newspapers. He had already written a play, “Āmchyāvar Kon Prem Karnār” (Who will Love us?), and he wrote the play, “Gruhastha” (The Householder), in his early 20s. The latter did not receive much recognition from the audience, and he vowed never to write again . Breaking the vow, in 1956 he wrote “‘Shrimant”, which established him as a good writer. “Shrimant” 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 (“chāwls”) 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 theater. Tendulkar’s writings rapidly changed the storyline of modern Marathi theater in the 1950s and the 60s, with experimental presentations by theater groups like “Rangāyan”. Actors in these theater groups like Shreerām Lāgoo, Mohan Agāshe, and Sulabhā Deshpānde brought new authenticity and power to Tendulkar’s stories while introducing new sensibilities in Marathi theater. 

Tendulkar wrote the play, “Gidhāde” (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, “Gidhāde” proved to be a turning point in Tendulkar’s writings with regard to establishment of his own unique writing style. 

Based on a 1956 short story, “Die Panne” (“Traps”) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Tendulkar wrote the play, “Shāntatā! Court Chālu Aahe” (“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.

 1970s and ’80s

In his 1972 play, Sakhārām Binder (Sakhārām, the Binder), Tendulkar dealt with the topic of domination of the male gender over the female gender. 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 also badly want freedom from their enslavement. 

In 1972, Tendulkar wrote another, even much more acclaimed play, Ghāshirām Kotwāl (“Ghāshirām, the Constable”), 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 theater techniques, creating a new paradigm for Marathi theater. The play demonstrates Tendulkar’s deep study of group psychology , 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 six thousand performances thus far in its original and translated versions, “Ghāshirām Kotwāl” remains one of the longest-running plays in the history of Indian theater. 

Tendulkar wrote screenplays for the movies Nishānt (1974), Ākrosh (The Cry) (1980), and Ardh Satya (The Half-Truth) (1984), established him as an important “Chronicler of Violence” of the present times[10]. He has written eleven movies in Hindi and eight movies in Marathi. The latter include Sāmanā (“Confrontation”) (1975), Simhāasan (“Throne”) (1979), and Umbarthā (“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 and beyond

In 1991, Tendulkar wrote a metaphorical play, “Safar”, and in 2001 he wrote the play, “The Masseur”. He wrote, next, two novels, “Kādambari: Ek” and “Kādambari: Don”, about sexual fantasies of an aging 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.

 In the 1990s, Tendulkar wrote an acclaimed TV series, “SwayamSiddha”, in which his daughter, Priyā Tendulkar, performed in the lead role. 


Tendulkar died in Pune on 19 May 2008, battling the effects of myasthenia gravis. Tendulkar’s son Raja and wife Nirmala had died earlier in 2001, his daughter Priya having died the next year (2002) of cancer. 

An anecdote

Following the post-Godhra communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002, Tendulkar had reacted by saying that “If I had a pistol, I would shoot Narendra Modi” (for encouraging the carnage by Hindus against Muslims). 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.”

13 Responses

  1. Gautam ParabMay 19th, 2010

    Mr. Tendulkar & Marathi Theater are two similar names. When you talk about Marathi theater minus Mr. Tendulkar, I believe you are talking non-sense. Phenonmenon & Karizma through nip of a pen have always been key points of Mr. Tendulkar’s literature.
    Wheater it has been ‘Sakharam’ or Ghāshirām Kotwāl, you simply get stunned by magic of Mr. Tendulkar. He was not only one of the greatest writers of all times but an inspiration to all youths in terms of solidarity, versatility & freedom of expression.
    I really appriciate the whole hearted efforts put in devloping this website as a tribute to God of Marathi dramatics. Nitesh & his team has really cherrished the sweet memories of Mr. Tendulkar through sites. I duly congratulate entire devlopment team & request them to keep this site updated with more of his photos & other precious information.

    Best Regards,

    Gautam Parab – (Producer- Zero Degree Productions)

  2. SUNIL DANGEJune 24th, 2010

    he is a baap writer in marathi theater

  3. Ten is a phenomena not only in Marathi but also in the International theatre arena.Variety and novelty are his hallmarks. He revolutionized the Post independent Indian theatre and the minds of the spectators.Any action to remember the great artist and his plays will prove to be a tribute to the master who was not honoured up to his merits by his nation. This is a very remarkable attempt to honour Tendulkar.

  4. Shukla ChatterjeeDecember 13th, 2010

    Remembering Vijay Tendulkar: The Great Legend of Indian Theatre.
    By Shukla Chatterjee
    PhD Scholar,
    English Department,
    Visva Bharati.

    For the past six decades, not only in India but throughout the world, Vijay Tendulkar had been a leading contemporary Indian playwright, screen and television writer, literary essayist, political journalist and social commentator. But for me, he was first a great man and a jewel of the Nation with whom I had a chance to interact.

    It was first the reading of his plays for my PhD work that seeded a desire in me to meet and speak to the great writer. Often wondering whether this great writer would find time from his busy schedule for me, I approached him first to seek permission to work with his plays and then to meet him and have an interview.

    Memories of that day are still fresh in my mind. It was in January 2006. I had called him up in his cell phone to fix an appointment with a throbbing heart and fear that he would straight away refuse my proposal. But the soft voice on the other side of the phone really surprised me. As he amicably permitted me to work with his plays, he also added, “I am an old man, Shukla. I won’t be able to come to Kolkata to give an interview.” Such was the humble nature of the angry man of modern Indian Theatre.

    The day to meet him was finally fixed and I, with my father, made arrangements to move to Mumbai. It was the 27th of May, 2006. At 5.30 in the evening, we were greeted with smiles by the playwright and his youngest daughter Tanuja Mohite at his Hilton Tower flat in Mumbai. He was waiting for us in his daily attire, rocking in his favourite arm chair in his small room that seemed to be his study as well as living room. Simplicity was the key feature I noticed in his appearance. Perhaps, he had sensed from my appearance that I was tensed and feeling shaky to freely converse with him. So with a light tone it was he who began saying, “Ask, what you have to ask?” and the conversation started. Amidst all the serious talk about his plays and Indian Theatre, he made our interaction entertaining with his humorous anecdotes and comments. After about two and a half hours of fruitful discussion, we left his apartment with his valuable words. This day will never come back but will for ever remain as a fond and cherishable memory in my life.

    A successful interview was not the only part I returned with from Mumbai. He had introduced me to Ramu Ramnathan, Editor PT Notes, Prithvi Theatre and had also remained in contact with me via phone and e mail till his health permitted. I had often disturbed him with silly questions but he was always accessible with his precise answers, best wishes and short signature “Ten.” I remember calling him last on his birthday, 6th January, this year. That was the last time I heard his voice. He sounded even softer and meek on the other side. This was probably for his declining health. From the deepest core of my heart, I adore him for his hospitality and helping guidelines.

    Who said Vijay Tendulkar was an angry man who dared to comment openly that he felt like shooting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi if he had a pistol in his hand? After meeting this great personality, the impression I have gathered about him is just the opposite. He was the most kind-hearted, simple and down to earth person I have ever met. His political comments and daring words depict his boldness and true to his self nature. He spoke whatever he saw, felt and realized. It is this part of his personality that makes him a truly charismatic man.

    Tendulkar with his rich body of work had been a pioneer of the modern Indian theatre. With his bold depiction of socially controversial themes, he had brought a revolution with the experimental theatre movement in Marathi/Indian theatre. Often, for his daring and impudent depiction of violence he became a victim of criticism and controversy. But quite contrary to his plays, he had always been a mild, soft-spoken and quiet man in his life. His measured words speak out his open mind in true sense. With his death, India has lost another great soul. But he will remain amidst all theatre lovers as a legend. His rich work, his words, his creations and his actions will for ever “smell sweet and blossom” amongst us. May his soul rest in peace.

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  8. javaid ahmad, department of English, AMU AligarhJune 22nd, 2011

    thank you miss Shukla Chatterjee for this great information about Tendulkar’s tender personality. i am also working on Vijay Tendulkar for my Phd. i read somewhere on the net the the quoted lines about you:

    “Shukla Chatterjee, Asst Professor, Dr. B.C. Roy College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences, Bidhannagar, Durgapur. She is also a research scholar at the Department of English, Visva-Bharati. In May, 2006, she took an interview of the playwright, Vijay Tendulkar, which is published in Indian Literature the Sahitya Akademi Journal.”

    i would be grateful to you if i get the above mentioned interview.
    you as well as anybody who has valuable information about Vijay Tendulkar and wants to share it with me can contact me. my mail id is :

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