G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Saturday, January 07, 2012

What if 'Ghashiram Kotwal', a Political Satire, became Funnier Instead of Darker...

Today Jan 7 2012 is 84th Birth Anniversary of Vijay Tendulkar (विजय तेंडुलकर).

Anton Chekhov:
“You must write shorter, to make it as short as possible.”

Sadanand Rege on the quality of dialogues written by Vijay Tendulkar:

"...म्हणजे एक पात्र जे बोलते आणि दुसरे जे बोलते...त्याच्या मध्ये शेकडो वाक्ये जी येतात ती वाक्ये ते लिहीत नाहीत. इतर नाटककार एक वाक्याकडून दुसर्या वाक्याकडे शंभर वाक्यांची शिडी घेऊन जातात..."

("...means what one character says and another character says...the hundreds of sentences that come in between, he doesn't write them. Other playwrights go from one sentence to another with a ladder of hundred sentences...")

['अशर गंधर्व 'सदानंद रेगे ', प्र. श्री. नेरुरकर ('Akshar Gandharva' by P S Nerurkar), 1987]

Samuel Beckett:
“I went to Godot last night for the first time in a long time. Well played, but how I dislike that play now. Full house every night, it’s a disease”.

Vaclav Havel:
"Recall the gigantic Nazi congresses, torchlight processions, the inflammatory speeches by Hitler and Goebbels, and the cult of German mythology. We could hardly find a more monstrous abuse of politics’ theatrical aspect. And today – even in Europe – rulers use theatrical tools to arouse the kind of blind nationalism that leads to war, ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, and genocide.
So where is the boundary between legitimate respect for national identity and symbols, and the devilish music of pied pipers, dark magicians, and mesmerizers? Where do passionate speeches end and demagogy begin? How can we recognize the point beyond which expression of the need for collective experience and integrating rituals becomes evil manipulation and an assault on human freedom?
Here is where we see the huge difference between theatre as art and the theatrical dimension of politics. A mad theatrical performance by a group of fanatics is part of cultural pluralism, and, as such, helps to expand the realm of freedom without posing a threat to anyone. A mad performance by a fanatical politician can plunge millions into endless calamity."

Carl Hiaasen:
Everybody my age worries about that. But the hardest thing for me, for anybody who writes satire or any kind of contemporary fiction, is to invent a scenario that doesn't eventually come true. Almost everything you write now, no matter how outrageous, comes true, and if you're writing satire you don't want to be behind the curve but ahead of it.

Daniel Henninger:
“With fakery everywhere—some of it amusing, some of it not funny—people's ability to know where things fall on the spectrum between fact and falsity becomes so compromised that they retreat into a shell of cynicism about everything…The antidote of choice for many of us in a suspect world is irony and satire. The Onion, Jon Stewart or "Saturday Night Live" end up closer to the truth than the original material…”


Vijay Tendulkar's 'Ghashiram Kotwal' (घाशीराम कोतवाल) was first staged almost 40 years ago.

As I have said earlier, in 1980's, I watched it thrice. Once at NCPA, Mumbai (एन सी पी ए, मुंबई ) and twice at Kalidas Kalamandir, Nashik (कालिदास कलामंदिर , नाशिक) .

Although I love the play and its performance- largely because of music director Bhaskar Chandavarkar (भास्कर चंदावरकर) and choreographer Krishnadev Mulgund (कृष्णदेव मुळगुंद )- I wish Tendulkar went further teasing his targets.

The play is funny only in parts. When I look at the booklet containing the play's 'scenewise synopsis', running into thirty-nine subheads, I see that less than half are funny.


picture courtesy: Theatre Academy, Pune

I read Vasudevshastri Khare's (वासुदेवशास्त्री खरे) rather sympathetic biography of Nana Fadnavis, "nana phadanvees yanche charitra" (नाना फडनवीस यांचे चरित्र), first published July 1892, after I had seen the play and I realised Nana in real life was not that omniscient and hardly in control - often scared- many times in the last decade of 18th century, the period portrayed in the play.

I find Khare's book in many places funnier than Tendulkar's. I wonder if Tendulkar knew the lacuna of his work and hence always gushed about the master of the art of satire: Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे). (Go back to the quote of Sadanand Rege at the top of this post...Ladder...Did Sarwate's ladder make a thousand sentences to vanish compared to his hundred?.)

If parts of Khare's book are dramatised, I am sure, it would even trump something as classy as 'Raag Darbari'.

I wish 'Ghashiram' became riotously funny.

Here is an example of how funny a satire can get:


Caption: 'les biens viennent tous ensemble' ('all good things come along together')

Artist: Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin (1721-86)



courtesy: Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust)

Colin Jones and Emily Richardson have written an essay
'Madame de Pompadour: The Other Cheek' for 'History Today' Volume: 61 Issue: 11 2011:

"...A woman dressed in a cardinal’s robes is squatting on the back of a chair, positioning her exposed behind so that she can defecate into the gaping mouth of a sleeping cleric. A dove hovers close by, bearing a winged cardinal’s hat.

This obscene 18th-century image (shown above) displays a kind of French humour – crude, anti-clerical – that forms part of a long, Rabelaisian tradition. Yet what makes it both astonishingly bold and also highly unusual in its substance and context is that it represents Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour (1721-64), Louis XV’s mistress, and her political client, the Abbé (soon to be Cardinal) Bernis.

The caption reads ‘les biens viennent tous ensemble’ – ‘all good things come along together’. Text and image evoke the moment in December 1758 when Bernis received his promotion to the rank of cardinal, which was intended to give him eminent authority within the royal council. Yet at the same moment that the good news came through from Rome, the king dismissed Bernis and sent him into exile – allegedly under Machiavellian instruction from Bernis’ hitherto patron, Pompadour herself. There is no disputing where power lies in this picture: the arse of Madame de Pompadour..."

"...The Pompadour drawings surprise on several levels. Such fierce visual political satire was, first of all, extremely unusual in France before 1789, when the Revolution opened the floodgates. The Ancien Régime lacked the vibrant, rumbustious tradition of political satire that England – with its Hogarth, Gillray, Rowlandson and the rest – enjoyed at much the same time. It is true that many writings sought to ‘desacralize’ the monarchy by highlighting the sexual high jinks and failings of the royal body. During the final years of the Ancien Régime a pornographic visual and textual genre would develop that mocked Louis XVI for his alleged impotence and Marie-Antoinette for her supposed sexual voraciousness. But this was exceptional and much less widely diffused before 1789 than historians sometimes maintain..."

"...Pompadour had turned her toilette ritual into a mechanism of power and Charles-Germain displayed in a number of other drawings his deep disapproval of her claims to play a political role..."