Vijay Dhondo Tendulkar was an eminent Marathi playwright, journalist, essayist and screen playwright. Though he abandoned formal education, the love of books festered in him by his father remained till the end. He had a rare ability to instruct himself, combined with a first hand knowledge of the world which went into the making of his plays.
Influenced in his formative years by Anant Kanekar‘s dialogue for Marathi films, Tendulkar‘s dramatic talents became evident in the fifties and sixties. In the first place was his mastery of the genre of one act plays as seen in Ratra (1957) Ajagar and Gandharva (1966) and Bhekad (1969). His intimate association with the experimental stage began with the plays he wrote for amateur groups like Rangayan, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Kendra and Avishkar. He started with Shrimant (1955) and went on with Madhlya Bhinti, Chimaniche Ghar Hote Menacha, Manus Navache Bet, Mee Jinkalo Mee Harlo, Kavlyachi Shala, Ashi Pakhare Yeti. These plays him attracted the attention of discerning theatre goers and soon won critical acclaim. Tendulkar dug deep into the interiors of middle class existence without a trace of condescension, creating ordinary, characters who spoke normal language and faced real problems.
After ‘Silence‘, the court is in session‘, he received national recognition in the form of ‘Kamladevi Chattopadhyaya Award and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award‘ for play writing.
The earlier plays were marked by a mood of sympathy almost bordering on sentiment for the middle class and their problems. The mood was now replaced by an awareness of the violent impulses behind a respectable façade and the overwhelming compulsions of sex the smug smiles of ineffectual middle class type were now shown as concealing an ugly silence. He unleashed characters like sakharam and ghashiram who were in a state of collision with accepted norms for their mode of expression Tendulkar forged a raw aggressive language and physically violent behavior. This behavior was evident in Gidhade (1971) which ran in to difficulties with the censors as also Sakharam Binder, first performed in 1972 and soon banned by the Stage Performances Scrutiny Board, Government of Maharashtra. A protracted legal battle ensued, resulting in the famous judgment of the Bombay high court, setting aside the whole chapter of rules related to the Board and vindicating theatrical freedom.
Ghashiram Kotwal (1972) with its brilliantly conceived plot and innovative use of folk music and dance, highlighted not merely the decadence of the last years of the peshwa rule, but also the operations of social forces which created a human monster who terrorizes them.
As was predicted this play roused the strong opposition of casteist and reactionary elements, and almost as late as 1980, an attempt was made to prevent Ghasiram kotwal from undertaking a tour of Europe for his keen insight into the nature of social tensions and his ability to translate his findings into an artistic and dramatic equivalent, Tendulkar was awarded the Jawarharlal Nehru Scholarship.
Tendulkar was the Vice President of the National School Drama from 1979 -1984. In 1984 the title of Padmabhushan was conferred upon him. Feld work and travel during 1974-75 instilled in Tendulkar a deep understanding of the way violence expresses itself in society and the working of the power structure in both rural and urban India. Out of this experience were born the screenplay Nishant by Shyam Benegal, Saamna and Sinhasan by Jabbar Patel, Aakrosh by Govind Nihalani and Aakriet by Amol Palekar almost all these flims won national and state awards and Tendulkar emerged as an eminent writer of screen plays.
Tendulkars grasp of the harsh realties in the Indian social fabric is also expressed in the more recent plays Pahije Jatiche, Baby Mitrachi Goshte, Kamala and Kanyadaan
Though he is not wedded to any party ideology Tendulkar has been lately associated actively with the Civil Liberties Movement. Besides, Tendulkar is also an excellent photographer and his collection ‘Chehare‘ is an eloquent comment on the personalities he has met
Tendulkar‘s concern with all forms of oppression, his strong visual sense and anticipation of the actor‘s movement on the stage coupled with the gift to use a style and device appropriate to the theme of the play made him the most important figure in India‘s theatre movement and a force to reckon with in the new wave of films.