Indian Folk Tradition, Power, Sex and Violence in Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghashiram Kotwal

Ratnakar D. Bhelkar


The play is not against any caste but about power politics and decandent society. Nana holds power and helps to create Ghashiram Kotwal. Ghashiram Kotwal concerns with the last phase of Peshwas, and criticizes socio-political system of the time and relates to contemporary context of creating – political demon, in the light of Indian folk tradition, power, sex and violence. The play, Ghashiram Kotwal, deploys tamasha, a folk theatre form, developed in Maharashtra in the 16th Century, and satirizes, mocks at contemporary society, in the garb of historical and mythological stories. Tendulkar uses the Dashavatara, a traditional semi-classical form to investigate  a contemporary political problem – the emergence of demon in public. The sutradhar and the chorus are the traditional theatrical elements but in the play, they are not characters as Nana and Ghashiram are. They are theatrical devices, fluid, changing with the need of the plot. The Chorus in the play is in the form of ‘Human Wall. The potential of Indian folk theatre is kinetised in Ghashiram Kotwal to reveal reversal of values, and besides it, it also has the effect of alienation that Brecht aimed at in his epic theatre. Power politics operates on two levels, for fulfillment of erotic drive, and in activation of violence as the tool to rule. Ghashiram daughter, Gauri and Nana’s power and his erotic drive are interlinked, and they provide momentum to plot. Nana utilizes his power to enjoy sex with girls of his favour while Ghashiram uses his daughter to avail power. Sex is the here mere lust, and in power politics moral values dwindle. Violence is an effective mode of displaying power and taking revenge for Ghashiram. Ghashiram is political Bhasmasura created by political leaders for their convenience. The play raises the status of historical play by delineating the issues in power politics and dwindling of moral values. The play is about the decadence of the class in power, crossing time and place. Sex here is to quench lust, and doesn’t function for reproductive purpose. After attaining the power, Ghashiram creates violence and as a counterfeit, mob humiliates him and becomes violent. Violence has melodramatic facet and it also associates with reversal of order. When the constrain of values in culture is sidelined, a beast in man emerges and causes violence, with aggressiveness.


folk tradition, power, sex, violence

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