Ghashiram Kotwal

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Ghashiram Kotwal
Ghashiram Kotwal play (1).JPG
घाशीराम कोतवाल
Directed by Jabbar Patel
Written by Vijay Tendulkar

Ghashiram Kotwal is a Marathi play written by playwright Vijay Tendulkar in 1972 as a response to the rise of a local political party, Shiv Sena, in Maharashtra.[1][2] The play is a political satire, written as historical drama. It is based on the life of Nana Phadnavis (1741–1800), one of the prominent ministers in the court of the Peshwa of Pune and Ghashiram Kotwal, the police chief of the city. Its theme is how men in power give rise to ideologies to serve their purposes, and later destroy them when they become useless. It was first performed on 16 December 1972, by the Progressive Drama Association in Pune. Jabbar Patel's production of the play in 1973 is considered a classic in Modern Indian Theatre.[3]

Ghasiram Kotwal play at Bharat Bhavan Bhopal


The first show of this play was done on 16 December 1972 at Bharat Natya Mandir in Pune. The play saw a huge controversy and success in the following years. It made the trip to Europe in the year 1980. Later in the year 1986, the group also done plays in US and Canada. They also travelled to Russia, East Germany, Hungary etc.[4]


The play begins with an invocation to lord Ganesha. Then the Brahmins of Pune introduce themselves and we can see the morally corrupt state of affairs in Pune. Nana Phadnavis who is the Diwan (Chief Secretary) of Pune is also corrupt and visits the lavani dancer. Ghashiram is working with the lavani dancer. Ghashiram being a Brahmin goes to collect alms at the Peshwa's festival the next day. However he is ill-treated there and is charged with pick-pocketing and imprisoned for the offence. He then decides to take revenge. So the play continues on to reach the next part of this play.

Ghashiram barters his own daughter to get the post of Kotwal (police chief) of Pune from Nana. Having got the post he begins to enforce strict rules in the city. He starts asking for permits for everything and starts throwing people in jail for the smallest offences. In the mean time, Ghashiram's daughter is impregnated by Nana, and dies during childbirth. The situation goes out of hand when a few people in the jail die from suffocation. The Brahmins then complain to the Peshwa. The Peshwa summons Nana who orders Ghashiram to be killed in the most inhumane way possible.


The play is notable for the use of the "Tamasha" form in Marathi folk theatre. Singing and dancing are used here to good effect. "Abhangas" (devotional songs) are mixed with "Lavnis" (love songs).

Original cast and crew[edit]



Like many of Tendulkar's plays, this play created a lot of controversy because it offended the Chitpavan Brahmin community and that it showed the statesman Nana Phadnavis in a bad light. Hence it was temporarily banned in the state.[6]

The play was based on historical facts.[7] Ghashiram was a North Indian Brahmin, a resident of Aurangabad, who was appointed as the Police prefect of Poona on 8 February 1777 and continued to hold officer till his death which took place on 31 August 1791 under violent circumstances. He had earned Nana’s confidence by his faithful service during the critical times that followed the Peshwa Narayan Rao’s murder. He enjoyed the full trust of Nana Phadnavis and his administration was notoriously worse than that of his predecessors. He was the man who had been appointed to watch the movements and plans of Raghunath Rao and his family and he reported to Nana whatever suited his purpose. He had under him a large body of unscrupulous spies, everyone possessing ample means of harassing people in consequence of which the word Ghashiram has become a permanent synonym for oppression and tyranny. The rule of Ghashiram was cruel and tyrannical. He used to procure women for Nana’s lustful cravings.

Film adaptation[edit]

The play was adapted into a Marathi film, 'Ghashiram Kotwal' (1976), which was the debut film of actor Om Puri. Main characters were played by Prakash Belawadi and Mohan Agashe. Film's screenplay was written by Vijay Tendulkar, himself. This film was directed by K. Hariharan and Mani Kaul in cooperation with 16 graduates of the FTII.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ghashiram Kotwal, Vijay Tendulkar, Sangam Books, 1984. ISBN 81-7046-210-X.
  • Collected Plays in Translation: Kamala, Silence! the Court Is in Session, Sakharam Binder, the Vultures, Encounter in Umbugland, Ghashiram Kotwal, a Friend's Story, Kanyadaan. New Delhi, 2003, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-566209-1.
  • Vijay Tendulkar's Ghashiram Kotwal: a Reader's Companion. M. Sarat Babu, Asia Book Club, 2003. ISBN 81-7851-008-1.
  • Vijay Tendulkar's Ghashiram Kotwal: Critical Perspectives. Vinod Bala Sharma and M. Sarat Babu. 2005, Prestige Books, New Delhi. ISBN 81-7851-002-2.
  • P.Dhanavel, "Subversion of Values in Tendulkar's Ghashiram Kotwal," Voice, Vol.3, No.3, (June 2005),pp. 84–92.


External links[edit]