1967: Vijay Tendulkar breaks new ground with ‘Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe’

It is a play within a play centred around exposing chauvinism and societal hypocrisy.

Published : Aug 12, 2022 06:00 IST

Vijay Tendulkar.

Vijay Tendulkar. | Photo Credit: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

The staging of Vijay Tendulkar’s Marathi play Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe (Silence! The Court is in Session) in 1967 is regarded as a milestone in Indian theatre for its powerful social commentary. It is a play within a play centred around exposing chauvinism and societal hypocrisy. Its first production was directed by Arvind Deshpande, with Sulbha Deshpande playing the lead character Leela Benare. Tendulkar, a towering personality in Indian theatre and cinema, was a pioneer in giving voice to social issues through his plays. The ground-breaking Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe has been translated into many languages and performed widely. It remains extremely relevant whenever it is staged, even now. 

Also read: 1963: ‘Evam Indrajit’ by Badal Sircar staged

The play was inspired by a conversation Tendulkar heard on a train. He based the story on a mock trial on infanticide, which turns into a real trial of the woman protagonist who reveals to her colleagues that she is pregnant out of wedlock. Under the pretext of acting, her male colleagues begin a brutal character assassination dialogue and intimidate her to the point that she tries to flee from the room. When the tension and attack reach a climax, the players remove their costumes and say it was all an act. By that time, the woman is reduced to a complete wreck and the audience knows that it was not an act.

Also read: India at 75: Epochal moments from the 1960s

The film and theatre critic Deepa Gehlot writes: “Like so many of his plays, this was an indictment of social hypocrisy and the kind of moral policing that is prevalent even today. The play is as powerful today as it was then.” 

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