MUMBAI: Hounded often by the Shiv Sena during his lifetime, Vijay Tendulkar, one of India’s great modern playwrights, now faces an extra-legal ban in Madhya Pradesh posthumously. The annual IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) festival in MP’s Chattarpur town was recently cancelled by its organisers after the Bajrang Dal objected to the staging of his play “Jaat Hi Pucho Sadhu Ki”, saying it was “anti-Hindu and anti-Indian culture”.
Tendulkar’s “Jaat Hi…” is the Hindi version of his Marathi original, titled “Pahije Jatiche (Wanted: Of the same caste)”. The play is not about sadhus or religion but is a sardonic take on India’s education system and on casteism.
The Marathi play debuted in 1976, with Nana Patekar essaying one of the key characters, and has been performed in Marathi and Hindi over the decades.
Preeta Thakur of the Ank theatre group, who has done “400 to 500 shows” of “Jaat hi…” across India, said there was “nothing in the play to be offended about”. “It’s not about religion and not at all anti-Hindu, but Tendulkar beautifully highlights the helplessness of a man and a woman. In fact, the play is a laugh riot and a telling comment on society.” She said over decades, “five sets” of actors have done the play for Ank (whose team is different from the one doing it in Chattarpur).
Known for highlighting women’s issues in his plays like “Shantata Court Chalu Aahe”, in the play currently embroiled in controversy too, Tendulkar depicts the dilemmas of a woman bound by the fetters of tradition and hierarchies.
( With inputs by P Naveen in Bhopal)