In India, Bollywood and Hindi theater have traditionally been prioritized over regional cinema and theater. Another theory offers that this is due to the widespread use of Hindi as a working language in India.
Nevertheless Marathi Theater has always been unafraid to tackle controversial topics in society, politics, and culture. The following anthology features several iconic and essential Marathi plays that have remained popular for decades.
List of Old Marathi Natak
1. Ti Phulraani
Adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s celebrated play Pygmalion, Ti Phulraani (or “The Flower Queen”) is a popular title amongst fans of both plays.
In the initial play, the professor takes up the challenge posed by the girl who sells flowers so that she might pass herself off as royalty by learning the proper language and manners. In this retelling, a Marathi language teacher tries to help a flower-selling lady become more cultured so that she can more easily enter the upper classes.
The late Bhakti Barve-Inamdar, who played the flower vendor, brought honor to the character. Her scathing speeches in this play remain remembered and entertaining decades after their initial performance. Anyone of any age can enjoy this play.
2. Lekure Udand Jhali
Plays in the Sangeet natak type were among the earliest to be performed in Marathi theater, combining musical performance with cultural expression. This is likely why musicalized plays appeared like the next obvious step after the sangeet natak.
It is a musical that delves into the mindset of adopting and the plight of a childless couple.
It is assumed that a wealthy couple will adopt a sibling or cousin as a quick and easy way to fill their family. This then becomes the starting point for the couple’s disagreement over whose family side should be prioritized. The sarcastic remark “Lekure Udand Jhaali,” which translates to “too many kids,” is intended to mock the couple’s predicament of being “spoilt for choice” over the matter of adoption.
The play’s strongest element is the way it deals with the sensitive topic of infertility and makes the audience question whether or not riches is necessary for excellent parenting. The play’s continued relevance to modern audiences might be attributed to the delicate nature of the subject matter being handled with humor rather than ridicule.
3. All the Best
A contemporary take on the difficulties faced by the romantically inclined who are physically impaired.
There are Gujarati and Hindi adaptations of this play, as well as a Bollywood film based on it. The play takes a comedic look at the complications that develop when three friends, one deaf, one mute, and one blind, all fall in affection for the same girl.
The cleverness comes from the three guys’ elaborate schemes to win over the girl’s affections. This play takes a humorous look at the difficulties people with disabilities face in today’s society, where it’s nearly hard to find work or a suitable spouse, let alone true love.
4. Me Nathuram Godsey Bolte
The play was controversial because it justified killing Gandhiji after his division decision. There were 13 performances of the play in Maharashtra & Kerala before it was banned. Despite the Supreme Court’s favorable verdict, the play has been met with resistance from the currently dominant political party.
The play also debunks the government’s attempt to portray Gandhi as a devoted Hindu supporter and, hence, the “Father of the Nation” by claiming that his final words were “Hey Ram.”
5. To Mi Navech
The legendary playwright P.K. Atre based his play To Mi Navhech on the actual court case involving a criminal named Madhav Kazi who operated between 1955 and 1960. The culprit was accused of using marriage as a means to steal money from well-off single women.
The Marathi play was adapted into the Tamil film Naan Avan Illai, which bears some similarities to the successful Bollywood film Ladies v/s Ricky Behl.
6. Katyar Kaljat Ghusali
More than a thousand performances of the Marathi musical drama (sangeet natak) Katyar Kaljat Ghusali were produced shortly after its initial release in 1967. Purushottam Darvhekar penned the drama. In this tale, rival gharanas classical music square off against one another.
The play featured stunning classical music from today’s most prominent composers and performers. These compositions will live on forever in the annals of Hindustani classical music. Good music combined with a tense scenario makes for an engaging theatrical experience.
7. Kusum Manohar Lele
Kusum The story of Manohar Lele is inspired by the real-life tragedy of a woman called Sujata who changed her identity to Kusum after being tricked into marrying a man named Manohar Lele. Manohar abandoned Sujata shortly after she gave birth and kidnapped their child, driving her nuts in the process.
The first wife’s name was also Kusum, thus the strategy is rock solid. The meticulous and callous nature of the planning established this event as a premeditated crime and atrocity.
The drama uses the controversial topic of surrogacy to examine the plight of women particularly the ways in which they are used by males. One woman had her child taken away from her, and the other woman was shunned by society since she didn’t have any children. A subsequent play, Keshav Manohar Lele, told the story of the boy as an adult.
8. Sakharam Bhinder
It is a drama written by Marathi writer Vijay Tendulkar and originally staged in 1972 under the direction of Kamlakar Sarang. In the 1970s, it was outlawed in India for challenging accepted values.
The protagonist, Sakharam Binder, is arrogant enough to believe that as long he clearly makes his intentions clear, he may do whatever he wants regardless of the consequences. Bookbinder Sakharam is known for taking in and taking use of other men’s cast-off wives, who might have been homeless, destitute, or murdered.
There is various other old Marathi nataks that are still ruling the heart of millions of viewers like Natasamrat, when it comes to Marathi Theater, Natsamrat is always a sellout. For almost 50 years, this drama has dominated the Marathi theater scene. The narrative in Natsamrat was deemed worthy of the Sahitya Akademi Award.
Other Marathi shows include Savita Damodar Paranjpe which is a thriller based on psychology, and Janata Raja, a play based on Shivaji Maharaj.