9 October 1939|
Mahesh Elkunchwar (Born 9 October 1939) is an Indian playwright, screenplay writer with more than 20 plays to his name, in addition to his theoretical writings, critical works, and his active work in India's Parallel Cinema as actor and screenwriter. Today along with Vijay Tendulkar, he is credited as one of the most influential and progressive playwrights not just in Marathi theatre, but also in Indian theatre. In 2014, he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, the highest honour in performing arts in India.
Early life and education
Born to a feudal family in Parwa village in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, at the age of four he had to leave his parents and leave a city where he grew up a lonely child and hardly interested in studies, and raised outside of Indian urban centres. As films and theatre were taboo in his family, he saw his first play when he moved to Nagpur for his matriculation. Here he studied at Morris College, and went on to do M.A. in English from Nagpur University. While still college came the turning point in his life, when one day he went to watch a film and unable to get movie ticket, he ended up watching a play. That play was a veteran theatre director Vijaya Mehta's production of Vijay Tendulkar's Mee jinkalo mee Haralo (I Won, I Lost) in 1965. Deeply influenced by the play, he went to watch play again the following day and decided to write plays. He devoted the next year to reading plays of all kind.
He taught English literature at Dharampeth Arts, Commerce College, Nagpur and M. P. Deo Memorial Science College, Nagpur, until retiring as its Head in 1999.He was a guest professor of screen play-writing at the Film and Television Institute, Pune in 2000-2001.He taught as a visiting professor at the National school of Drama, New Delhi for a number of years.
Elkunchwar has experimented with many forms of dramatic expression, ranging from the realistic to symbolic, expressionist to absurd theatre with theme ranging from creativity to life, sterility to death and has influenced modern Indian theatre for more than three decades. Elkunchwar emerged onto the national theatre scene with the publication of his one-act play Sultan in 1967 in noted literary magazine Satyakatha. This play was immediately noticed by Vijaya Mehta; she went on to direct four of his early plays, including Holi and Sultan in 1969 and 1970 for Rangayan. A number of commercial hits followed such as Holi (1969), Raktapushpa (1971), Party (1972), Virasat (1982), and Atamkatha (1987).
Considered a successor to Vijay Tendulkar, Elkunchwar's plays are written in Marathi, the Indian language that is spoken by approximately 90 million people. The plays have been subsequently translated into multiple Indian and Western languages (including English, French and German).
In 1984, his play Holi was made into the film Holi by Ketan Mehta, for which he wrote the screenplay. In the same year, Govind Nihalani directed a film, Party, based on his eponymous play. Sonata (2017), a film starring Aparna Sen, Shabana Azmi and Lilette Dubey was based on Elkunchwar's eponymous play.
A lesser known fact about him is as Mahesh Elkunchwar, the essaysist. His collection of essays 'Maunraag' has broken new grounds in this genre and was considered the book of the decade in 2012. An uncanny blend of autobiographical and meditative, His essay show his erudition and a vivid imagination.
Plays by Mahesh Elkunchwar
- Rudravarsha (The Savage Year), 1966
- Sultan (one act), 1967
- Zumbar (one act), 1967
- Eka Mhatarachya Khoon (An Old Man's Murder, one act), 1968
- Kaifiyat (one act), 1967
- Ek Osad Gaon (one act), 1969
- Yatanaghar (The Chamber of Anguish), 1970
- Garbo, 1970
- Vasanakand (The Episode of Lust), 1972
- Magna talyakathi
- Party, 1976
- Wada Chirebandi (Old Stone Mansion), 1985
- Pratibimb (Reflection), 1987
- Atmakatha (Autobiography), 1988
- Magna Talyakathi (The Pond), 1991
- Yuganta (The End of an Age)
- Wasanani Jeernani (Tattered Clothes), 1995
- Dharmaputra (Godson), 1998
- Sonata, 2000
- Eka Natacha Mrityu (An Actor's Death), 2005
- Maunraag : collection of essays, Mouj Prakashan
- Paschimprabha : collection of essays, Chakshu prakashan
- Baatcheet : Interviews, Rajhans Prakashan
- Saptak : lectures, Rajhans prakashan
- Tribandh : Three essays, Mouj Prakashan
- Vinashavela ( translation ) Mouj Prakashan
Awards & recognition
Elkunchwar's plays have gained national and international critical attention, and his growing body of work has become part of India's post-colonial theatrical canon. Some Important Honours, Awards :
- Sangeet Natak Academi Award – 1989
- Nandikar-1989[clarification needed]
- Maharashtra Gaurav –1990
- Maharashtra Foundation for ‘Yugant” –1997
- Sahitya Akademi Award for his Trilogy Yugant
- Saraswati Samman -2002[clarification needed]
- Janasthan 2011
- Brittingham Visiting Scholar, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA in 2005
- Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship2013
- Kalidas Samman 2014-2015
Works in translations :
- Mahesh Elkunchwar; Shanta Gokhale & Manjula Padmanabhan (translation) (2004). City plays (Playscript). Seagull Books. ISBN 8170462304.
Collected Plays of Mahesh Elkunchwar Volume I: Oxford University Press 2008
Collected Plays of Mahesh Elkunchwar Volume II : Oxford University Press 2011
- "Fringe takes centre stage: The importance of being Mahesh Elkunchwar and Satish Alekar in Marathi theatre". Mint. 6 February 2009. Retrieved March 2012. Check date values in:
- "I'm writer by default, says Elkunchwar". The Times of India. 13 February 2010.
- "Urban folk theatre is artistic kleptomania". The Tribune. 18 October 1998.