Sunday, 18 May 2008

Vijay Tendulkar and Media

Playwright Vijay Tendulkar who died in Pune yesterday (Monday, May 19) was once a journalist. He exploited the other media, mainly film and television, for his creative writing.

Yet, he abhorred the journalists so much that he had told his family and friends to inform the media about his death only after cremation.

However, there was no question about not informing the mediapersons when he breathed his last. Pune journalists had remained vigilant round the clock after he was admitted to a hospital here on April 10. The 80-year old frail author and social commentator was under treatment for myasthenia gravis

Few now remember about Tendulkar's contribution to Marathi journalism even though he worked in Mumbai's newspapers and other periodicals for a considerable length of time.

He was not a crusader journalist championing a cause or getting involved in the contemporary movements of the left or the right. He worked as a sub-editor, not as a reporter who is known in the field outside. He was a sub-editor in Acharya Atre's Marathi daily Maratha and later, in Loksatta belonging to the Express group. He had worked earlier in magazines Navayug, Vasudha and Deepavali. He left the profession some time after 1970-71 when he decided to devote himself full-time to the theatre.

He was a prolific writer. He wrote 35 plays, several one-act plays, two novels, two anthologies of short stories, scripts for 14 Marathi and Hindi films, translations of three Hindi plays in Marathi and had penned regular columns in two newspapers.

Later in his life, he was interviewed on the stage and on television channels. He delivered lecturers. In short, he continued to have a dialogue with the people through the media, yet rarely did he speak about his job as a journalist.

He once told me that he did not get involved in the office routine beyond his assigned duty as a sub-editor. He would not discuss about hits-and-misses in the issue of the day and would leave the office immediately after his duty was over.

'I am there to earn and support my family,' he had said matter-of-factly when asked about his social responsibility as a journalist.

Tendulkar's plays such as Gidhade (Vultures), Sakharam Binder and Ghashiram Kotwal, proved to be path-breaking for Marathi theatre in the early 1970s. Conservative professional theatre companies and a section of Marathi journalists had launched a bitter offensive against him whenever his new play was staged. The soft-spoken mild mannered had stood by whatever he had written, without angry retorts for he believed in freedom expression.

For his creative writings, he drew heavily from the real life incidents; several he had encountered as a middle class individual and many others from the stories published in the media. Kamala was one such play inspired from an Indian Express story about a young woman sold in a village in North India.

Of late, he was planning to write a play on Zahira Shaikh who had lost all the members of her family in the post-Godhra violence. He was intrigued by her testimony that she changed every time she appeared in the court. He took the trouble to visit the Mazgaon court in Mumbai where the Best Bakery massacre case was being heard about 18 months ago. As he came out of the court, he told his friends that he had found out a character for a play after a long time.

That plan did not materialise. His near and dear ones hope that his latest writing on Indian History with socio-cultural perspective was complete, at least nearly complete. He had taken up study of this subject on a two year Bhabha fellowship and was determined to complete by December this year, notwithstanding his age and failing health. He continued to read books for reference and write on his laptop even when he was brought to the hospital in October last. He did not allow anyone to read what he had stored in the hard disc of the laptop till he died.

Tendulkar was among the very writers in Marathi who made friends with the computer and Internet. Until recently, he responded to the scores of e-mails he used to receive.

Post-script: Wikipedia has an excellent profile on Vijay Tendulkar. It shouldn't be a surprise to the users of this collaborative online encyclopaedia. But it did surprise me to notice that the Wikipedia had updated the profile when I accessed the site within just four hours after his death yesterday. This morning, I noticed that at least one newspaper had almost copy-pasted the profile as a large chunk of the front-page obit story.

Please read

First published: regional media May 20, 2008

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