Comment: Tribute to Jayant Pawar

Neeta Kolkatkar

Jayant Pawar, renowned Marathi journalist and playwright passed away on August 29. Pawar showed the mirror of the problems of middle-class, Bahujan people to the society. His plays were based on issues which reflected the struggle and survival of workers, bahujan and the middle class.

His play, KAY DANGER VAARA SUTLAY was on the disappearance and killing of Ramesh Kini, one middle class man who stood up against the muscle power of a politician. He refused to be bullied into leaving his tenancy in the building owned by Raj Thackeray, the MNS chief. This was the kind of courage Pawar wielded in his writing. Pawar had written this play which fetched him the best playwright award in Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Natya Parishad competition. This play was later produced commercially.

Pawar used to write a regular weekly column 'Natya Parikshan' (theatre review) in Maharashtra Times, in which he reviewed new plays. This column was widely read by theatre lovers. Pawar would write in a balanced way not to cause loss to the playwright, director and producer and would write a tip, which decided the fate of the play. Leading Marathi theatre producers too would wait for this column in anticipation because it either ensured booking of tickets or the fate of that play. Theatre lovers would line up after reading his tip.

In 2012, Pawar's PHOENIXCHYA RAKHETUN UTHLA MOR (A Peacock Rises from the Ashes of Phoenix) on the longest mill workers' strike in Mumbai (1982), fetched him the Sahitya Akademi award. 2014, Pawar was made the president of the 15th Konkan Marathi Sahitya Parishad Sahitya Sammelan.

ADHANTAR, a popular play, was on the mill workers, who have now been pushed out of the horizon of this very city which they helped to become a successful financial capital of our country. This play was adapted to City of Gold, Lalbaug Parel by director, Mahesh Manjrekar. The mill workers of Mumbai gave the film a huge thumbs up for bringing to the screen the basic issue of their existence. Manjrekar too reminded Mumbaikars of the founders of this dear city, reminding citizens to not forget one's history. especially as one progresses ahead.

In fact, in August 2019, Pawar wrote an open letter to Marathi theatre community asking them to speak up. Two incidents that occurred back to back in Mumbai and Pune left him distressed, which he said would come to haunt the theatre community. Between August 9 and 11, a theatre group, Jan Natya Manch (Janam), from New Delhi, was to perform a play, TATHAGAT in street play format in Mumbai. The first show was at Ambedkar Bhavan, when police made the first few inquiries and nobody looked deeper into it. Later, on August 11, TATHAGAT was to be staged in a small auditorium, Harkat, at Andheri. Again the police came and this time they photographed the stage, they questioned the manager of the studio, the head of Janam, and worse still, the Versova police questioned the audience that had come to watch the play. They even stormed inside and stood close to the stage as the performance was underway.

The second incident occurred in Pune on August 14, when the theatre group Qissa Kothi was to stage ROMEO RAVIDAS AUR JULIET DEVI. The troupe stage their show at the Lalit Kala Kendra in Pune University and five of them left for Hotel Kamini in Chinchwad. Post-midnight the police barged into their hotel rooms and questioned who among them was Yash Khan. They questioned the other members and also two women asking about their relationship with him. If this humiliation was not enough, they searched the rooms and belongings, even though the police had no search warrants. These two incidents had shaken the members of both the troupes, but unfortunately, they found no mention in any of the mainstream newspapers till Pawar wrote this letter asking why the Marathi theatre community had chosen to remain silent.

Actually this message is for the entire society, why citizens choose to remain silent when the authorities target any one community. Pawar's plays and writings always gave audiences something to ponder and now with him passing, there is one less person holding the mirror to our society.

Neeta Kolkatkar is a Mumbai-based independent journalist and theatre aficionado.

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