Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sign of madness.

Ujwal has been telling me that her mother used to say talking to oneself was a first sign of madness. If that were so, I wonder, what about all the Marathi playwrights of yore who used to make their characters talk to themselves or in asides to facilitate plot development? I'm sure this device is used by writers elsewhere even now. I remember in my childhood reading what used to be called natyachhata in Marathi, usually one-page monologues that unfolded a complete story, usually ironical and humouous. In other words, it was a sort of a capsule sitcom. Diwakar (Shankar Kashinath Garge), the pioneer of this dramatic genre, used to work as a clerk in Baroda. Later, he became the headmaster of the Depressed Class Mission's primary school in Pune and, afterwards, worked as a teacher in Pune's well-renowned Nutan Marathi School. http://tinyurl.com/6mo27t. One of his pieces was called Pant Meley, Rao Chadhley (When Pant died, Rao got promoted) told the story of a head clerk's death, the promotion of one of his subordinates to his post and the subsequent change in the latter's attitude and behaviour. In another little masterpiece, Wordsworthche Phulapakharu (Wordsworth's butterfly), the poet's fan waxes eloquent about the little creature's beauty but doesn't hesitate to promptly burn a bug he catches. In Eka Natache Atma Natya (An actor's soliloquy), the protagonist talks about the tragedy of an actor's existence and kills himself by swallowing poison. Similarly, Phatato Patang (A kite gets torn) is the dirge by a tattered kite of which the career ends when it is literally soaring at its zenith. Diwakar was a friend of the poets Keshavasut, Madhav Julian and Yeshwant. I remember studying their poems in school. He was also a member of the well-known poetry circle, Ravi Kiran Mandala. Apparently, Diwakar, a keen student of English poetry, found inspiration for his new genre from Browning's poems. Diwakar was a master of spoken everyday Marathi. There was nothing artificial or stilted about his language. Perhaps, Tukaram's abhanga "Words are the only jewels I possess, words are the only clothes I wear, words are the only food that sustains my life, words are the only wealth I distribute among people" aply describes Diwakar's contribution to literature. (I wrote about Tukaram's abhanga earlier here: http://tinyurl.com/663s3c.)