Book Review – Ghashiram Kotwal

Vijay Dhondo Tendulkar was an eminent Marathi playwright, screenplay writer and a journalist. He began writing in the fifties but his signature style began to develop clearly with his association with the experimental theatre movement which was a beginning of modernism in Marathi literature. His plays like ‘Maanus Navache Bet’,’Shantata court chalu ahe’ and ‘Kavlyanchi Shala’ gained him fame. But the play that brought him the much awaited accolades was Ghashiram Kotwal. Ghashiram Kotwal a play by Tendulkar showcased the corruption in the society during the Peshwa régime. His character of Ghashiram is a depiction of the working class in Pune and how the Brahmin supremacy prevalent then lead to the oppression of the lower classes. Tendulkar has subtly shown what power does to men and how they become inhuman and greedy just to achieve that.

The play then made into a book has a historic context. The idea that most strikes the audience is Tendulkar’s ethical concern which is quite prominent throughout the book-from his understanding of relationships to effectively dealing with the social evils of those times that keeps us involved in the characters is their simplicity and realistic perception on the part of the writer. All the characters seem so much like the people we see or meet or have met sometime. Also Tendulkar is not a writer who is struck with the Bharatmata Syndrome and explains the bitter reality of the Indian society without sugarcoating anything.

The story begins with Ghashiram a Kanauji Brahmin coming to the city of Pune to try his luck and gain some money from the then rich city. His first appearance is in Bavankhanni a red light area in Pune where he is dancing as a foil to Gulabi a lavani dancer. Beginnning as gulabi’s servant he graduates to becoming the servant of Nana Phadavnis the antagonist who is the chancellor of the Peshwa. Initially, Ghashiram is portrayed as an obedient servant to Nana but as time goes by due to the ill treatment he gets from Nana and the Brahmins in Pune he becomes power hungry. To the extent of sacrificing his teen daughter Lalitagouri to the old Nana only to get the respectable post of the Kotwal.

Ghashiram who is oppressed initially now becomes the oppressor as power evokes a sense of dominance in him.Tendulkar smartly portrays the social evils in the society during the Peshwa rule. Prostitution, corruption, the power structure and the ignorance on the part of people is quite evident from an incidence when the entire Pune Brahmins visit Bavankhanni while their wives stay home waiting for the husbands. What is different is Tendulkar’s style of explaining the story effectively through the Sutradhar or the narrator and the various characters and their changing relationships. What happens to Ghashiram in the end comes as a total shock to the readers.

All in all Ghashiram Kotwal is a timeless piece of writing. The issues that are primarily dealt with in the book still remain the same even after so many years. Women still continue to be the ruled ones and the caste conflict has now become the class conflict where the rich dominate the poor and the cycle continues. It highlights the harsh reality that even when times change human nature remains the same. Greed and lust for money were, are and will always exist in human nature…

Ankita Bhatkhande

Image Source: []