A human wall as a singing and dancing chorus along with being the actors of the play was something rarely introduced in plays. But Vijay Tendulkar does so; and tides against the current almost like always. Ghashiram Kotwal, a Marathi play by playwright Vijay Tendulkar was made long back in 1972. It was first staged in Pune and after being banned by the Progressive Dramatic Association, was re-staged by its actors through the Theatre Academy, in the year 1974.
Ghashiram Savaldas is a Brahmin from Kannauj and comes to Pune with his wife and daughter to make a living. But he is looked down upon by the Brahmins of Pune and is accused of a theft. He is tried in spite of not having committed the crime. Ghashiram gives up after his failed attempts at conveying innocence. This triggers his anger at the Brahmins and their attitude. The idea of revenge takes birth here. Ghashiram decides to teach the city and its inhabitants a bitter lesson by taking charge of things.
The deputy of the Peshwas (who are themselves the deputy of the King), Nana Phadnavis, is in-charge of the city and is himself a womanizer, playing out Tendulkar’s idea of irony. He falls for Ghashiram’s daughter and develops an insatiable lust for the girl’s youth and body. Ghashiram makes use of this opportunity to gain power. Nana makes him the kotwal (a police chief-like position) of Pune. The city is under the kotwal’s control. He tightens the strings of all the Brahmins in the city by imposing extremely draconian rules and restrictions on the citizens; soaking in the sadistic pleasure of taking revenge, while Nana was busy enjoying his daughter’s youth.
The play revolves around this theme, breaking into music and dance at short intervals and the Sutradhar (narrator) narrating the story along with being a part of it, keeping the audience in sync with the story. The characters of the Brahmins and other side actors are played by the very people who are a part of the human wall and the dance-music sequences. They have the perfect timing and brilliant acting skills to pull the audience into an era that has long gone past.
Tendulkar’s Ghashiram could easily be related to the present day politicians, villains and a number of such other ironical figures in power and the ones aspiring to be in power. The play therefore does not seem to become an antic; it just gets a renewed meaning every time it is enacted or screened. One tends to relate it to the present day scenario in his/her perception. This is how Tendulkar likes to play with his audience’s minds and he does it in an unpredictable fashion every other time.