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Marathi Literature: Sachin Ketkar

Warli painting of Maharashtra. Courtesy-

Marathi Literature in the Twenty-first: An Overview

The language of Marathi poetry underwent a significant makeover in the nineteen nineties under the pressures of massive cultural and social transformation caused by globalization, liberalization and privatization. The poetry of the nineties or 'navodatottar' poetry emerged on the resurgence of 'the new little magazine' movements which sought to inherit the legacy of the little magazine movements of the nineteen sixties and the seventies on the one hand, and to go beyond that legacy by reinventing the language of poetry. The new little magazines of the nineteen nineties like 'Shabavedh' (editor Ramesh Ingle Utradkar and D.G. Kale, Buldana), 'Abhidha' (editor Hemant Divate, Mumbai) (later renamed as Abhidhanantar), 'Saakshaat'(editor Ramesh Raut, Aurangabad) and 'Saushthav'( editor Shridhar Tilve, Mumbai) provided a platform for the entire generation of emergent voices like Saleel Wagh, Mangesh Narayanrao Kale, Sanjeev Khandekar, Manya Joshi, Hemant Divate, Praveen Bandekar, Shridhar Tilve, Nitin Kulkarni among many others. An essential feature of these little magazines is the regular attention given to an aspect of literary culture in the form of 'special issue'. 'Abhidha' brought out 'Chauthi Navta' (Fourth Modernism) Special Issue and 'Dilip Chitre Special Issue' in the mid-nineteen nineties. 'Shabdavedh' brought out a special issue of 'Post-nineties' Marathi poetry in 1999. 'Abhidhanantar' brought out a 21st Century Marathi poetry special issue in 2001 and again contemporary Marathi poetry special issue in 2005 and 2006. 'Navakshar Darshan' (editor Pravin Bandekar, Sawantwadi) brought out a special issue on the Marathi little magazine movements in 2009.

The little magazine movements of the nineteen nineties also gave space to new voices in literary criticism like Vishram Gupte, Shridhar Tilve, Praveen Bandekar, Saleel Wagh, Sachin Ketkar, Mahendra Bhavre and Nitin Rindhe. These new voices have contributed significantly to the development of recent Marathi poetry and poetry criticism. The diversity of social and cultural locations and the encounter with processes of globalization have shaped the poetics, politics and the praxis of the emergent poetry. The Dalit and feminist poets like Bhujang Meshram, Arun Kale, Malika Amarsheikh, Pradnya Pawar and Kavita Mahajan continued to write provocative poetry throughout this period. Though many of these poets continued to write in the little magazines, their collections appeared only in the first decade of the twenty-first century. An anthology of this new poetry in English translation appeared in 2005 as Live Update: An Anthology of Recent Marathi Poetry edited and translated by Sachin Ketkar. Contribution of literary magazines devoted to especially to translation like 'Kelyane Bhashantar' (Editor Anagha Bhatt, Pune) and 'Mai Mavashi' (editor, Neeraja, Mumbai) is noteworthy.

Numerous senior poets of earlier generation like Dilip Chitre, Arun Kolatkar, Namdeo Dhasal, Vilas Sarang and Vasant Abaji Dahake also brought out their significant collections in the first decades of this century. This decade also saw newer little magazines like 'Navakshar Darshan', 'Aivaji' (editor Ramesh Ingle Utradkar, Buldana), 'Khel' (editor Mangesh Narayanrao Kale, Pune), 'Atirikta' (editors D.G. Kale and Dinkar Manvar, Shegao) and 'Va' (editor Ignatius Dias, Vasai) emerge. The newly restarted issue of Abhidhanantar that appeared in October 2014 highlights Facebook and Poetry and provides platform to yet another crop of new voices like Ajeet Abhang, Onkar Kulkarni, Pranav Sakhdev, Satyapal Singh Rajput among many others. In many ways this newer voices continue the legacy of the poetry of nineteen- nineties and also seek to go beyond this legacy by exploring new dimensions of expression and experience.

Though a diversity of voices and social spaces characterize much of the fiction written after the nineteen-nineties and the first decade of the twenty first century, the encounter with globalization and the reinventing the very language of the cultural form that we find in poetry is largely lacking in the newer generation of fiction writers. The senior novelists and short story writers like Bhalchandra Nemade, Ranganath Pathare, Shyam Manohar and Vilas Sarang have continued contributing to this period. Shyam Manohar's Hey Ishwarrao..Hey Purushottamrao (1982) is one of the most significant works of the eighties and his Kal (1996) is considered an important novel of the nineties. His Khup Loka Aahet appeared in 2002. Ranganath Pathare who came into prominence with Namushkiche Swagat (1999) came out with Tivrakomal Dukkhache Prakaran (2000) and Prashnankit Vishesh (2008) in the first decade of the twenty first century. Vilas Sarang, an important name of the post-sixties generation published Rudra (2009) and Amaryaad Aahe Budha in 2011. Bhalchandra Nemade whose Kosala became a trendsetter in the nineteen sixties, published Hindu: Jagnyachi Samrudha Adgal in 2010.

Shanta Gokhale, Meghana Pethe and Kavita Mahajan are significant fiction writers of this period. Gokhale's Tya Varshee (2013) takes on the rise of fundamentalist forces in Mumbai heads on and raises questions about women's liberation, and environmental issues. Pethe's short story collections Hansa Akela and Aandhalyachya Gayi (2000) are important short story collections, while her novel Naticharami appeared in 2005. Her works are characterized by an urban and bold voice and usually deal with the predicament of the upper-caste upper caste woman in the city. Kavita Mahajan's Bruh deals with the questions of gender identity and the role of NGOs in contemporary times.

Nanda Khare's Anantaji Chi Bakhar (1990) is a parody of the hagiographical historical narratives which were popular in Marathi and uses the unreliable narration of its anti-hero Antaji. Dinanath Manohar's novel Manvantar (1999) juxtaposes the Mutiny of 1857 with the struggle of a local village against the forces of globalization. Ravindra Pandharinath's Khelghar also deals with social and cultural changes of the nineteen-nineties. Makarand Sathe and Anil Daamle's experimental novels explore the mysterious domains of the imagined and the real world. Damle's Gautamchi Gosta and Sathe's Achyut Aathavle Ani Saathvan (2003) are typical works in this postmodern tradition. Anand Vinayak Jategaokar's Aswastha Vartaman (2013) also explores the regions between fiction and non-fiction and uses the technique of 'unreliable' narrator. (Sapre 2007). Praveen Bandekar's Chalegat highlights the politics of the Konkan region in Maharashtra. Vishram Gupte's is an important novel dealing with the social and cultural transformations caused by globalization.

It is well known that Marathi has a vigorous tradition of theatre. The noted theatre critic and playwright Jayant Pawar (2005) notes the contribution of two important theatre workshops in the post-Tendulkar period of Marathi drama. He notes that Pandit Satyadev Dube's theatre workshop in the seventies played a critical role in launching the career of the three playwrights Mahesh Elkunchwar, Satish Alekar and G P Deshpande who dominated the Marathi theatre for almost three decades. The Theatre Akademi Workshop of 1986-87 in Pune launched almost a dozen of significant playwrights like Ajeet Dalvi, Datta Bhagat, Shaafat Khan, Premanand Gajvi, Prashant Dalvi, Jayant Pawar and Makarand Sathe among other writers not associated with the workshop like Sanjay Pawar, Chetan Daatar and Rajiv Naik. Though Jayant Pawar in his later article in 2012 laments the ebbing of the experimental parallel theatre in Marathi in the nineteen nineties.

This period is also significant because it saw the rise of Marathi Dalit theatre. Premanand Gajvi and Suresh Meshram went on to start Bodhi Theatre workshops for Marathi Dalit theatre later in 2003. Premand Gajvi's Kirvanta (1991) and Sanjay Pawar's Kon Mhanta Takka Dila (1990) are important Dalit plays of the nineteen nineties. Pawar's play uses the myth of Kacha and Devayani to interrogate the caste system in general and the Mandal commission developments in particular. Pradnya Pawar's play 'Dhadaant Khairalanji (2007) deals with the infamous Khairalanji massacre of Dalits.

In a sense, though the picture of Marathi literary scene in this very brief and not a very comprehensive overview looks exciting and energetic, there are serious concerns about its sustainability in the face of overriding forces of entertainment industry, media and new media, rampant communalism, casteism and commercialization which were launched by globalization.


Kurikotti, Trupti. 'Samkaleen Marathi Kadambari: Itihas Lekhanpadhati ani Adhi Kathan', Pune. Khel, June 2004
Pawar, Jayant. 'Marathi Rangabhoomi aani Nava Natak.' Mumbai. Khel. Jan-Mar. 2005
--------------- 'Navadottari Marathi Rangabhumicha Nava Natak', Buldana. Atirikta. May 2012
Sapre, Avinash. 'Marathi Kadambarichya Sandarbhaat, Parantu..', Pune. Khel, June 2004
------------------ '1980 Nantarchi Marathi Kadambari', Pune. Khel. Diwali, 2007


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