Biography of Vijay Tendulkar

Vijay Tendulkar was one of India’s most influential and renowned playwrights of the 20th century, particularly in the Marathi language.

Tendulkar was born on January 6th, 1928 into a Brahmin family in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. He left school at age fourteen because he was involved with Gandhi's anti-British Quit India movement. He read voraciously, attended numerous theater performances, and began writing for newspapers. In the early 1970s, he turned to cinema, writing screenplays in what became India’s new wave cinema movement.

Tendulkar said of his love of writing, “Give me a piece of paper, any paper and a pen and I shall write as naturally as the bird flies or a fish swims. For the last 50 years, I have been roadside restaurants and on the crowded local trains. I have written on the sick bed in the hospital in spite of the doctor's advice... It was a great relief. It was joy."

In the 1950s, Tendulkar moved to Bombay (Mumbai today) for his journalistic career and was strongly affected by the realities of urban slum life. He funneled this knowledge and concomitant compassion into his work, but his early play Grihastha was heckled off the stage. Though he swore he would not write again, this assertion did not stick.

In 1956, Shrimant brought him more positive attention, though its subject matter of an unmarried, single mother was controversial. Tendulkar came to further prominence with 1972’s Sakharam Binder and Ghashiram Kotwal, the latter a political satire and musical. Critic Shakti Bhakta explains, “Tendulkar’s writings rapidly changed the storyline of modern Marathi theatre in the 1950s and 60s, with experimental presentations by theatre groups like Rangayan.” Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Tendulkar wrote numerous screenplays for movies, such as Nishant (1974), Akrosh (1980), and Ardh Satya (1984). Overall, he wrote eleven movies in Hindi and eight in Marathi.

In the 1990s and 2000s, he returned to literature and theatre with the plays Safar (1991) and The Masseur (2001), and the novels Kadambari: Don and Kadambari: Ek. His first play in the English language was His Fifth Woman (2004).

Tendulkar was revered by much of India, but his acclaim was not universal. As his New York Times obituary stated, “Mr. Tendulkar was accused of obscenity and needless violence, crude exhibitionism of sexuality, anti-Brahminism, historical distortions and even plagiarism. He was burned in effigy in several Indian states after one of his political statements.”

Tendulkar was married to Nirmala and had four children, two of whom preceded him in death. He died on May 19th, 2008.

Study Guides on Works by Vijay Tendulkar