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Ghasiram Kotwal: Seeking the wrong fronts



Rundown: Ghasiram Savaldas comes to the brahmin city of Pune in search of fortune and steps in as an assistant to Gulabi, the courtesan, whom all brahmins and other powerful men visit. Finding the right moment, he flatters and boot licks Nana Saheb; an old but powerful minister who is morally corrupt and highly lecherous. Ghasiram comes across humiliations, first at the hands of Gulabi and than at the hands of Kotwals. As a result, he swears to wreak havoc over entire city as revenge, and barters his daughter Gauri to Nana Saheb as a price for Kotwali(policing). His draconian policies make him a bare threat to Pune, whose people demand his execution as justice in the end. Nana Saheb murders Gauri and calls for his execution.

Incitements: ‘Ghasiram Kotwal’, a marathi political satire written by Vijay Tendulkar against rise of Shiv Sena back in 1972. The characters and the time addressed goes back to the later half of 18th century during the court of Peshwas in Pune. The play stages a gruesome tale about a father bartering his daughter to a corrupt but powerful minister to take kotwali in his hands. The play is about power game, its gruesome moves, its illusive ladder and the absurdity of the losses involved.

‘Power that promises world,
Is but a Lavani luring fools.
It takes neither jewels nor pearls
But all that which makes a Man.’


From Ghasiram Savaldas to Ghasiram Kotwal is a journey away from the modest lands with bare necessities, towards the fine carpets of power and its promises. Scholars, when approaching Ghasiram Salvadas, emphasize his newness, his gullibility, and eventually end up reasoning the humiliations he went through to be the cause of his terrible demise. The degenerate brahmins are taken to be logical outcome of the very obvious lies and hypocrisies that are howled at night under bosom of Gulabi. The central deal and plot is a triangle where Devil wins. Gauri becomes bait in every sense while Ghasi and Nana Sahib remain mere two ends of the deal. But is that all? The repertory of NSD surely answers it the other way. How? Well, by staging it and bringing the plot and characters alive to contemporary audience. The production defamiliarises the readerly mind and indulges it in the liveliness of stage with its associative concerns for our present world.


Is Nana Sahib just a corrupt minister, who prowls on the corruptive tendencies of a normal man, or is he staging more than that? Are Gauri and her murderers just filling the requirements of the gruesome plot with themes confined within the social-culture and geographical premises within which the play was written, or do we behold a play that echoes way beyond Pune and India itself? The ‘power game’ between Nana Sahib and Ghasiram, the absurdities of such ambitions and losses are found in various political murders that have consumed nation’s political history and present. The democides across nations, and the political murders within and outside India are reminders of global existence of such characters and barters.

Denouement: Considering the richness of themes involved and stinging display of power game staged, Ghasiram Kotwal is surely a play of impact. I must say it is a ‘must see’ production which reminds us of the corruptive tendencies that any man may develop if power sought is absolute, hegemonic and revengeful.


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