Maharashtra is one of the few states in our country that enjoys a rich tradition in theatre and Shri Vasant Kanetkar has made significant contribution to theatre awareness in the people of Maharashtra. Kanetkar's career as a dramatist spans over four decades. He has to his credit more than forty plays and is at present busily engaged in adding to his ouvvre with several plays on the anvil.
Born in 1920 at Rahimutpur, Satara district, Sri Vasant Kanetkar was educated in Pune and Sangli. His father was the famous S. K. Kanetkar popularly known as Kavi Girish, scholar poet and founder member of the Ravi Kiran Mandal that devoted itself to serving the cause of the poetic muse. Sri Vasant Kanekar's career presents a striking parallel to that of his illustrious father. Soon after his M.A. which he obtained at Sangli in 1948, he joined as a lecturer in Nashik. In 1950, he became a life member of Gokhale Education Society with which he was associated till 1972.
Sri Kanketkar was fortunate to have been guided initially in the literary endeavours of his youth by the famous Marathi novelist V.V.Khandekar to whom he was related and by the well-known educationist and literature V.K. Gokak who had taught him at Sangli. While the former taught him to savour the classics, the latter gave him a through insight into Shakespearean drama. In 1950 Kanetkar published his first major work, Ghar, an experimental novel combining the stream of consciousness technique and free verse, which registered notable success. This was followed by two more novels.
It was almost by accident Sri Kanetkar turned to playwriting. Vedyache Ghar Unhat (1957) staged by progressive Dramatic Association created a theatre history of sorts - it won the state award for its author besides several other prizes and brought several important theatre personalities into the limelight. The play was hailed by one and all as a bold experiment in psychological drama.
Kanetkar reached the pinnacle of success with his forth play Raigadala Jenvha Jaag Yete in which he depicted the Marathi heroes Shivaji and Shambhaji in real life perspectives. Sri Kanetkar received the sangeet Natak Akademi Award for this play. It revealed Kanetkar to be a master craftsman with the fine sense of controlled dramatic tension.
Sri Kanetkar has handled a wide variety of themes, from middle class morality to tragedies based on Shakespearean themes. In Prema Tuza Rang Kasa? and Lekure Udanda Zali, he handled social themes in a humorous style perfectly enjoyable even to the hard to please critics. With his finely honed skill in dramatising, he has contributed to keep Marathi commercial theatre alive and vibrant.
In attempting to access Sri Kanetkar's contribution to Marathi drama one is confronted with a basic question. Is art acceptable only if it passes the severe scrutiny of the cerebral critic or is it the audience that certifies a work, by the level of enthusiasm it displays? A good craftsman will always attempt a judicious blending of both elements, as has been done by Kanetkar and the people of Maharashtra have unequivocally expressed their choice of playwright, play after play. The cerebral critic is of course not pleased; as one of them puts it, "Sri Kanetkar's theatre is a happy blend between the Kitsch and the cultural hallucinations of Maharashtra middle class. He is an unabashed defender of the dying values of the middle class, its culture, its perception of history." Here it will be relevant to quote Kanetkar himself on the subject. Kanetkar says: "I am averse to undue emphasis on Novelty or catchy technical acrobatics or psychoanalytical pedantry to impress my audience. I would rather have my audience.I would rather have my audience reacting to the substance. Experiment for the sake of experiment is the last thing that should happen to the field of art. Drama essentially is and should remain an expression of a powerful artistic experience."
For Kanetkar meaningful theatre has necessarily to be rooted in the soil and should be relevant to its own sense of aesthetic fulfillment rather than conscious cerebral iconoclasm or even nihilism. Blind borrowing from alien cultures cannot lead to audience empathy and hence such works remain distanced from us. To paraphrase, from the Marathi autobiography of Sri Kanetkar, "Unfortunately, the experimental theatre is falling into a format consisting of Narration, drill and chorus. Absurd theatre could be something new for the westerners but it is very much rooted to Indian philosophical tradition.
The essence of Gita, the foundation of Vedanta and our concept of Mithyavad is nothing but absurdity. Instead of aping the western theatre our experimental theatre should stem from our own tradition, and only then the movement will gain some impetus. I can give you another example of this - why could not Shakespearean tragedy establish itself here, mainly because tragedy is inextricably connected with grandeur. Indian concept of grandeur itself is different. For us the person who is totally self - effacing becomes great. I mean people like Mahatma Gandhi, Savarkar and such others. Now the one who has achieved that kind of self-effacement what tragedy can you make out of the ennoblement? Duke of Windsor forsook his throne for his throne for his wife while Rama in his supreme duty towards the state inflicted separation on himself and his wife. When you have such polarity and difference of views how is emulation of west possible and acceptable?" Kanetkar has also written the screen plays for three films namely Aansu Ban Gaya Phool, Iye Marathichiye Nagari and Jal Bin Machhali Nritya Bin Bijali. The first one won the Film Fare Award for the best film - story in 1971.
Sri Kanetkar is highly popular in translation in Indian languages. Most of his plays are translated in other Indian languages and staged notably in Hindi, Gujarati and Kannada. Abhinaya Jyoti, a theatre ovement of varanasi started a festival of plays in 1985 by presenting five plays of Kanetkar rendered in five different Indian languages and staged by five different regional groups, that was a rare honour. He was honoured by the Kannada Kala Kendra of Bombay too.
Sri Kanetkar has also received all the honours that should go to litterateur of his eminence. Five of his plays received the Maharashtra state awards for the best play of the year. He has been the president of the Natya Sammelan in 1971 and the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan in 1986.
A Select Bibliography
Full Length Plays
|VEDYACHE GHAR UNHAAT
Bombay : Popular Book Depot,1957
95 p. 18.5 cm.
|TUZA TU WADHAVI RAJA
Bombay : Popular prakashan, 1969
89 p. 21.5 cm.
Bombay : Popular book depot,1958 Bombay;
107 p. 18.5 cm.
|MALA KAHI SANGAYACHAYA
Bombay : Popular prakashan, 1970
106 p. 18.5 cm.
Bombay : Popular prakashan,1971
68 p. 21.5c.
|PREMA TUZA RANG KASA?
Popular prakashan, 1961,1962
Bombay : Popular prakashan,1973,1978
|RAIGADALA JENWHA JAAG YETE
Bombay : Popular prakashan, 1962
109 p. 21.5 cm.
Bombay : Popular Prakashan,1986
73 p. 21.5 cm.
PUNE : Nilkanth prakashan,1974
Bombay : Parchure prakashan mandir,1975
Bombay: Popular Prakashan,
1965 128p. 18.5 cm
|LEKURE UDANDA ZALI
Bombay : Popular prakashan,1966
Bombay : Popular prakashan,1976
Pune : Nilkantha prakashan,1976
|ITHE OSHALALA MRITYU
Bombay : Popular prakashan,1969
100p. 21.5 cm.
|MANSALA Dankha maticha
Pune : Nilkantha prakashan,1977
89 p. 21.5cm.
|GHARAT PHULALA PARIJAT
Bombay: Popular prakashan,1969
105 p.18.5 cm.
|EK ROOP-ANEK RANG
Bombay : Popular prakashan,1978
Bombay : Parchure prakashan mandir,1978
90 p. 21.5cm
Bombay : Parchure prakashan mandir,1984
|GAATH AAHE MAZYASHI
Bombay : Parchure prakashan mandir 1980
102 p.21.5 cm.
Pune : Indrayani Sahitya,1986
73p. 21.5 cm.
Bombay : Popular prakashan,1981
49 p.21.5 cm.
Bombay : Parchure mandir,1986
96 p. 21.5cm
|PANKHANA ODH PAWALANCHI
PUNE : Pontinental prakashan,1981
73 p. 18.5 cm.
|JETHE GAWATAS BHALE FUTATAT
Bombay: Parchure prakashan madir,
1987 89p. 21.5cm.
BOMBAY : Parchure prakashan mandir, 1982
49p 21.5 cm.
Bombay : Parchure prakashan mandir,1989
91 p. 21.5cm.
|PREMACHYA GAWA JAWE
Bombay : Parchure prakashan mandir,1983
90 p. 21.5 cm.
Bombay : Parchure prakashan mandir,1989
82 p. 21.5cm.
|RANG UMALTYA MANACHE
Bombay : Parchure prakashan mandir,
1990 90p. 21.5cm.
One Act Plays
Bombay : Popular prakashan,1967
1006P 18.5 CM.
|MADRASHINE KELA MARATHI
BHRATAR Bombay : Popular prakashan,
1969 47p. 18.5 cm
|GAD GELA PAN SINHA JAGA ZALA
Bombay : Popular prakashan,
1975 31p. 18.5cm.
Bombay : Popular prakashan, 1977
31P. 18.5 CM
|ANANDIBAI ANIBANI PUKA Ratat
Bombay : Popular prakashan mandir,
1932 97p. 21.5cm.
Pune : Indrayani sahitya,1986
Bombay : Manorama prakashan, 1953,1983
Bombay : Popular prakashan,1956
Bombay : Manorama prakashan,1983,
|Tethe Chal Rani
Bombay : Manorama prakashan,1984
108p. 18.5 cm.
Pune : Nilkanth prakashan,1971
|He Hrudaya Kase Aaiche
Bombay : Ashwamwdh prakashan,
1983 161p. 21.5cm.
Ashwamedh prakashan,1983 164p. 21.5cm.