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Ghashiram Kotwal :Marathi folk art
May 03, 2006 05:40 PM 13574 Views
(Updated May 03, 2006 05:40 PM)


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Having immensely enjoyed this Marathi musical drama nearly two decades ago,I was keen to watch it once again. The opportunity presented itself a few days ago when it was re-staged by the Rangkarmi theatre group.

Written by the late Vijay Tendulkar in the seventies and directed by Dr Jabbar Patel,this play irked many an ire and was even banned for a while.

The setting is the eighteenth century and the story is based on Ghashiram Sawardas who is the main protagnist (and not Nanasaheb Phadnavis). Ghashiram trades his daughter Lalita Gauri to Nana Phadnavis in exchange for the position of Kotwal (police chief) of Pune.

Nana Phadnavis is caricatured as a lecherous old fogie who chases teenage girls.

The Brahmins of Pune are portrayed as drunken debauchees who make discreet nocturnal visits to dancing girls.

Sadly, women are portrayed as pawns in the hands of men.

It is actually a political satire on our times.

The entire play is a musical show casing all the Marathi folk art forms –

‘abhang’,’ kirtan’, ‘powada’, ‘lejhim’, and of course the ‘lavani’.

There is even a ‘qawwali’ in the latest version of this drama!

Bhaskar Chandavarkar’s musical score is a sheer treat.

Vijay Tendulkar has penned subtle and not-so-subtle nuances in each and every line, causing one to smile throughout and laugh heartily ever so often. A classic example is “Pundalik Vardaan ‘Gauri’ Vithal” – where the word “Hari” has been replaced by Gauri,an obvious reference to Lalita Gauri !

The star of this show in those days undoubtedly was Dr Mohan Agashe,whose portrayal of Nana Phadnavis is unrivalled. Presently this drama is staged on a modest scale with a smaller cast.Unfortunately the present actors are not even a patch on their predecessors who performed when this drama was in its heyday.All except one.The lead singer’s voice lent itself very well to every note. I must apologise for being unable to catch his name when the credits were announced.

An enjoyable experience for theatre lovers provided one has a good grasp of Marathi and Maharashtrian culture.

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Ghashiram Kotwal