Marathi Theater vis-à-vis American Theater | October 2014 | Translation Journal

October 2014 Issue

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Marathi Theater vis-à-vis American Theater

Vijay Tendulkar 1928-2008

Vijay Tendulkar

Before the rise of Marathi Theater during the colonial period, there prevailed among the Marathi-speaking community such folk forms as Tamasha, Lalit, Bharud, Gondhal, Povada, and Kalsutri Bahulya (Gokhale in Lal, 2009: 81). The encounter with modernity led to the need of transformation on the one hand and to the need of reviving the great past on the other. This process developed different conflicts such as tradition vs. modernity, the conservative vs. the reformist, political freedom first vs. social reform first, religion vs. science and technology, agro-economy vs. industrial economy, capitalism vs. socialism, democracy vs. fascism, etc. (Sathe, 2011: 23). Marathi Theater made an attempt to grapple with this complex reality.

With Bhave’s play Sitaswayamvar (1843), there began the trend of mythological plays with such characteristics as ticketed performances on the stage using the proscenium arch, absence of written script, sparse speeches, a lot of scope to actors for improvisation, the sutradhar introducing each character after its entry on the stage followed by his narration of the action using songs, the repartee between the sutradhara and the vidushaka, battle scenes full of war cries, fireworks, and action, etc. With Mahatma Phule’s Trutiya Ratna (1855), there emerged one more remarkable tradition of social plays. Although it was a perfect modern play in the real sense of the term, Phule’s play was neither published nor staged during the next hundred years. It was published for the first time in Purogami Satyashodhak in 1979 and was first performed in 1989 by Rustom Achalkhamb. With Annasaheb Kirloskar’s Shankuntal (1880), we see yet another tradition of translating/adapting Sanskrit plays. It was a complete play with a written script, dialogues, and modern structure. It was performed on the stage using the proscenium arch by charging tickets, but this play had neither a social plot nor immediate social relevance. The fourth tradition that began around 1856 was that of Farce. Farces had written scripts, dialogues, modern structure, entry by tickets, performance on the stage with the proscenium arch, etc. They used to be very short and were meant for performing during the interval of the mythological plays and said to be designed for low culture. They were full of improbability, exaggeration, rustic actions, humor full of rugged qualities with sexual undercurrents.

Marathi drama of this early period owed to the Indian dramatic heritage (the Sanskrit plays of Kalidasa, Sudraka, Bhasa, Bhavabhuti and others) and Shakespearean drama as well. Sanskrit drama laid to the production of Sangeetnataks which used mythological stories for their plots; they brought in such classical conventions as the sutradhar, the nati, her introductory song, etc. Soon these conventions became stilted through overuse. The western influence, however, laid to the introduction of historical personages and events of the recent past.

The influence of Shakespearean drama was so pervasive that when the Marathi playwrights began to translate Sanskrit drama and write a few original plays, they incorporated a number of elements from the Shakespearean theater in their works. Kirloskar’s Soubhadra, Deval’s Sharada and Sanshayakallol, Khadilkar’s Savai Madhavraocha Mrutyu, Gadkari’s Ekach Pyala and Rajsanyas—all reflect a serious understanding of the Shakespearean theater. However, with the advent of ‘talking’ films in the 1930s, the musical theater collapsed because the film industry started dishing out the made-to-order entertainment on a scale much larger than the theater could afford and at cheaper rates.

Many intellectuals got acquainted with Realism in the western theater through their reading of Shaw, Ibsen, Gordon Craig and others around 1925. After Gadkari, the influence of Shakespearean drama had been reduced to the level of bold characterization and shallow sentimentalism. The establishment of Natyamanvantar Company around this time was the result of the belief that only the new type of drama written by Shaw and Ibsen would revive the theater that had otherwise been lapsed into the stereotypical representation. The influence of Realism brought out a substantial change in language, stagecraft, characterization, and structure of Marathi Theater. It was this kind of influence that made our playwrights learn, not from only Shakespeare, but also from Ibsen and his contemporaries. Whereas Kolhatkar, Khadilkar, and Gadkari wrote under the influence of Shakespeare, Atre, Varerkar and Rangnekar were primarily influenced by Ibsen and Shaw. As the Marathi audience preferred the residual features of the old Musical Theater, the Centenary Festival in 1943, by reviving the old theater, succeeded in developing the taste for drama and theater among the audience. It was this taste which was mainly responsible for the emergence of the Experimental Theater of Maharashtra. Such renowned playwrights as P.L. Deshpande, Vijay Tendulkar, Vasant Kanetkar, Purushottam Darvekar, Ratnakar Matakari, S.N. Navare, C.T. Khanolkar, Satish Alekar, Mahesh Elkunchwar, Sadanad Rege, Atchyut Waze, Vrindavan Dandavate, and G.P. Deshpande made a substantial contribution to this parallel theater.

After Gadkari, Marathi Theater was on the decline. The rise of Natyamanvantar gradually introduced it to Ibsen’s realism. This further paved the way for importing new trends in content and form, not only from Ibsen, but also from other playwrights. V.B. Deshpande, eminent Marathi critic, mentions some of these playwrights whose plays have been translated/adapted into Marathi. He writes:

Among the Western playwrights whose plays have been translated into Marathi during this period may be included Maeterlinck, Gogol, Luigi Pirandello, Eugene Ionesco, Ugo Betti, Frederico Lorca, Jean Anouilh, Carol Moore, Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, J.P. Sartre and Albert Camus (in Banhatti and Joglekar, 1998: 149).

Deshpande fails to include American playwrights in this list. Marathi Theater encountered American Theater during this vibrant post-independence period.

In 1958, Sadashiv Anant Shukla translated the play The Patriots (1943) by Sidney Kingsley (famous for his plays Men in White (1933), Dead End (1935), Detective Story (1949), and Night Life (1962)). Kingsley wrote this play about Jefferson and Hamilton’s struggle over the future of the US with his wife Madge Evans. The purpose behind the writing of The Patriots was to develop the nationalist attitude during the World War II. “The best plays of the period were those that reaffirmed faith in the democratic ideals for which America was fighting, such as Kingsley’s historical study of the Jefferson-Hamilton conflict in The Patriots” (Warnock, 1952: 14). The translator introduces a change right from the title. Janata Amar Ahe (Long Live the People) is his choice of the title. The Marathi title suggests that public is more important than any one individual in democracy. Jefferson, one of the major characters in the original play, believes that the power of the people is greater than that of the few. The Marathi title suggests that Jefferson, who believes in democracy, is more patriotic than Hamilton, his opponent in politics. Actually, the title of the ST The Patriots is plural and suggests that both Jefferson and Hamilton were equally patriotic; they differed merely in their ideologies. The choice of the Marathi title makes Jefferson more important than Hamilton. The Marathi title thus distorts the content of the original play.

Nana Abhyankar translated Pulitzer Prize winning Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1938) by Robert Sherwood as Andharatil Jyot (A Lamp in Darkness) in 1958. The second edition of the translation was published in 1961. This play on Abraham Lincoln’s life presents his early years and his preparation for his lifework. The translator finds Lincoln’s life in Illinois like a lamp in darkness and so he changes the original title and substitutes it with his interpretation of the theme of the play. The first scene of the play presents Lincoln loudly reciting John Keats’s poem “On Death” given to him by his teacher Graham to read in front of the class. Abhyankar retains the original English version in translation, but makes Lincoln interpret it to himself in Marathi thus serving the need of the Marathi reader to understand the content of the original poem by Keats.

Vijay Tendulkar, a renowned Marathi playwright, translated John Patrick’s Hasty Heart (1945) as Lobh Nasava Hi Vinanti in 1958. Patrick’s play deals with the simple theme, “Man is not made to live alone and that he needs to give and to receive love” (in MacNicholas 1981: 168). The translated version brought in the background of the military hospital and the life of the wounded soldiers for the first time in Marathi. Vijay Tendulkar made use of his playwright’s skill in naturalizing this work of art. He succeeded in his effort so much that Anant Kanekar, who enjoyed the show of this play staged by the Rangayan, made it a point to include the play in the list of the Mainstream Marathi Plays (Kanekar, 1971: 184). This detail shows that Tendulkar’s translated play won recognition and claimed equal importance with his other original plays.

Gopal Gangadhar Limaye translated The Great Sebastians (1956) by Russell Crouse written in collaboration with Howard Lindsay as Kabulijabab in 1959. The play deals with the hardships suffered by one couple in Prague (Czechoslovakia) due to the Communist regime there. The objective was to expose the ruthlessness of the Communist regime. Of course, the translation was commissioned by the United States Information Service to develop anti-communist feelings in India. The purpose of translation was to create the anti-communist propaganda. The original title was changed to naturalize the play and introduce it as one of the Marathi plays.

“Translations from modern playwrights continue to appear from time to time, but they do not always negotiate the transfer of atmospheres with success. . . This field . . . is still fairly barren and, perhaps, a larger impact of modern European and American plays would help to inject new blood into the Marathi body dramatic”, wrote Nadkarni in 1961 (75). As if to do so, Sadanand Rege translated Henry Zeiger’s Five Days as Paach Diwas. This play was first performed by Rangayan at Bhulabhai Memorial Institute, Mumbai in 1962. The script of the play was then published in the 1983 Diwali issue of Abhiruchi. The play was finally made available in the book form by Popular Prakashan, Mumbai in 1991.

Vijay Tendulkar translated The Last Days of Lincoln (1959) by Mark Van Doren as Lincoln Yanche Akherche Diwas in 1964. Tendulkar’s translation of Doren’s play testifies to his respect for the great humanitarian in his use of the Marathi form of address that denotes respect and accolade. By translating the play, Tendulkar made an attempt to introduce Lincoln’s martyrdom and his universal message for peace among the Marathi folk. The play seems to have been chosen for translation because of the target readers’ interest in knowing about President Abraham Lincoln.

Aatmaram Bhende translated Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (1938) as Sa Ramya Nagari in 1964. Wilder’s play is exceptionally innovative in that the play requires no curtain, spotlights, or revolving stage; it has no unity of action, unity of time, or unity of place. It makes a very skillful use of a sutradhara (manager–director) who performs one or two roles in between, too. The play interacts with the audience and allows the viewers to participate in the action of the play. The playwright has made all these experiments, however, to deal with the common life of Grocer’s Corner. Aatmaram Bhende, in his introduction written to the translation, writes about his choice of translation:

He [Wilder] got answers to the three questions about the theater in the play Our Town. These three questions were as follows: 1. What is a genuine National Theater and what kind of plays should be written to develop it? 2. How should today’s audience be convinced that Modern Technique means less complexity—more ease—less paraphernalia? and 3. Will today’s Marathi Theater be benefitted if the best western plays will be brought to the Marathi Theater without changing them but in the translated form in order to avoid the criticism of the translated plays as ‘a western child wearing Indian clothes’? Although human passions are common anywhere across the world, such concomitant things as clothes, ideas and actions, practices etc are also very important. If it is not possible to nativize the translated plays, is it possible to enjoy that play by its mere translation? As least there will be no injustice to the original playwrights. From this point of view, is it not necessary to translate at least the classics?

Our Town is a play reflecting American life; while reading the play, we always feel that the feelings expressed in it are common to anybody in this world. I strongly believe that such plays are essential to develop the National Theater.

This play does not make much of props. It makes maximum use of mime. The audience takes an indirect part in the play with the help of his intelligence because of the consistent use of reason and imagination in the Modern Technique. And so this play is an example of how the Modern Technique makes an appeal to the imagination of the audience.

This is my favorite play. I read it many years ago after the suggestion made by Madhav Manohar. I thought that it would exert its influence if it would be made available to the Marathi reader and audience in translation (Bhende 1964: my translation).

In comparison with Tendulkar who later translated Tennessee Williams for his complex theme of sex and violence, Bhende chose Wilder’s play for its simple theme of the common routine American life. His popular choice shows that the majority Marathi readers continued to approve of simplicity rather than complexity.

Besides Our Town, Atmaram Bhende chose The Matchmaker (1954) by Wilder for translation. His Ithe Lagne Julavali Jatat is a translation of this play. Bhende chose Wilder’s comedy for translation as he had already directed many farces such as Zhopi Gelela Jaga Zala (1958), and Dinoochya Sasubai Radhabai (1960) for Marathi Theater. It is very interesting to note that Wilder adapted Nestroy’s original play for the American stage but Bhende went in for translation rather than for adaptation. He has succeeded in translating the play because the original play places more emphasis on humor resulting from human nature and human situation than from the author’s play with words (Mulay, 1981: 238).

Vasant Kamat translated Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie (1944) as Kanchechi Khelani in 1965. Kamat retains formal expressions such as ‘Baisaheb’ for ‘Ma’am’, but as his translated script seems to have been produced for staging, he does not provide footnotes to many culture-specific details for the readers. And indeed this script was used for performance for some time. The only drawback of the Marathi script is that it does not contain Marathi translation of Williams’ detailed directions about the staging of the play. The Marathi reader thus missed the valuable source of Williams’ use of the specific dramatic technique inescapably linked with the production of his original play. Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni calls Kamat’s Kanchechi Khelani ‘creditable but not necessarily credible’ version (Nadkarni, 1961: 75).

Vijay Tendulkar translated Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) as Vasanachakra in 1966. Vijay Tendulkar’s translation at once testified to his interest in American literature and his affinity to Tennessee Williams. Tendulkar spent one entire year for translating the play without choosing the easy option of adaptation. He chose a rather difficult practice of faithful translation. Tendulkar’s aesthetic interest in translating the entire play that placed a demand not only on his time and energy but also shifted his literary focus from creating new literature defines his extraordinary interest in Tennessee Williams that consciously and unconsciously percolated in his works. His artistic feat is definitely not imitative but accommodative which enhanced his artistic mastery and opened up new avenues for creation in Marathi. It was in 1966 that Tendulkar translated the play when he had already penned Grihastha, Shrimant, Manus Navache Bet, Madhlya Bhinti, Chimnicha Ghar Hota Menache, Kavlayanchi Shala preceded by Mi Jinkalo, Mi Harlo and Sari ga Sari. All these plays written during the first phase of Tendulkar’s writing, prior to Shantata! Court Chalu Ahe, were plays that centered on family and marriage as institutions of social significance. Obviously Williams’ theme fascinated the writer who was dealing with similar material. Though violence had not become the complete thematic pattern then, Tendulkar’s plays dealt with the conflict between individuals, internal conflict or dilemma and primarily the discrepancy between illusion and reality that was the root cause of all the sufferings. These thematic concerns found a perfect embodiment in Williams whose private and literary sphere intertwined to figure an imaginative enterprise that cast a dominating impact on American drama (Patil 2010: 134).

The theme of arrival and departure was already at the core of Tendulkar’s plays Shrimant, Kavlyanchi Shala, Chimnicha Ghar which reveal that arrival of an outsider can instigate significant changes in the lifestyle of the hosts. These changes further modify or clash with the prevalent values and norms of the family. Such conflicts form the nucleus of The Streetcar Named Desire, the peculiar situation in which Blanche enters the Kowalski’s family and the later acceleration of events is highly dramatic and absorbing. Probably the arrival of Blanche during the pregnancy of Stella, though unplanned and unpremeditated, is quite a common situation in the Indian milieu, where sisters often visit the household of the married siblings to help them in the hour of need. Stanley’s bestiality is a product of the working class background to which he belongs. This background also bespeaks of the familiarity of situation found in the bourgeois families in India. Williams’ play is entirely balanced on the characters that form a triangular relationship with each other where Mitch provides a minor breakthrough in the sequence of action. Tendulkar’s enthrallment for this play seems to be quite natural for his plays to project strong and influential characters who exercise superb control over the action. Another noteworthy effect of Williams’ play seems to be its theme, and its relevance to the Indian culture and Tendulkar as a translator has deftly taken liberty to incorporate certain essentially Marathi words that convey the local cultural flavor -Yamraj, masanvat, dabola, and stotrapathan etc. that enhance the dramatic effect for the Marathi readers and confirm his literary sensibility as an indigenous writer. While Tendulkar retains the similarity in names, situation and setting, certain colloquial terms that add specific Marathi cultural tinge are employed. The play also sabotages the relations of host and guest. Stanley, the host exploits Blanche on getting the opportunity. This theme carried extraordinary implication in the Indian context where ‘Atithi Devo Bhav’ (Guests are Gods) is the aphorism and protection of the guest, hospitality are most notable virtues. The play completely shattered the image of the host and questioned man-woman relationships. Stella’s calculated indifference to the facts in order to save her marriage is quite appealing to the Indian mindset where blood relations are secondary to matrimony. Several such factors made the translation relevant to the Indian context and supported Tendulkar’s efforts to avail the Marathi audience of a masterpiece that awakened the world to the brutality of men and vulnerability of women as a universal phenomenon (Ibid: 134-135).

To do justice to the greatness of Williams’ dramaturgy, Tendulkar has made use of diverse varieties of Marathi: a code-mixing of Hindi and Marathi for the sailors, rural Marathi dialect for the speech of a black woman, coarse slang for the dialogues of Stanley, Pablo and Steve and gentle poetic Marathi for Stella and Blanche. In spite of Tendulkar’s attempt to introduce minimum changes in Williams’ play, he cannot but resist his creative power. His creative sensibility forces him, for example, to change the title ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ into ‘The Wheel of Desire’. He loses the original powerful concrete image of a streetcar because America of Williams’ times used streetcars for vehicular traffic. As the Marathi people do not know the mechanism and function of a streetcar, Tendulkar substitutes the culture-specific image of a streetcar by a universal symbol of a wheel. Williams presents a very bold, open and frank picture of man’s desire, greed, selfishness and degradation in the play. Credit to introduce the first play on the theme of sex and violence in Marathi goes to Tendulkar. It is this activity of translating this type of a play that seems to have inspired Tendulkar to compose his later Marathi plays such as Shantata Court Chalu Aahe, Gidhade, Sakharam Binder, Ghasiram Kotwal etc. on the same theme.

Savita Padki translated Eugene O’Neill’s Ah! Wilderness (1933) as Panthastha in 1965. The play is O’Neill’s pleasant New England folk comedy, very different from his usual tragic concerns. The source text makes allusions to different songs sung by Arthur and Mildred to remove the stress of the Miller couple. Mere references to these songs in Marathi translation fail to make any appeal to the Marathi reader as he does not know the original songs at all (Mulay, 1981: 258). Panthastha belongs to the tradition of comedy set in by Vasant Kanetkar’s Prema Tuzha Ranga Kasa. If compared, O’Neill’s play is much more interesting than Kanetkar’s in terms of effect and depth (Ibid: 258). Rather than her translation Panthastha, Padki’s own Badha, which deals with the predicament of a sensitive young woman frustrated in love, shows much skill in both characterization and development of situations (Nadkarni, 1961: 74).

Sadanand Rege translated Eugene O’Neill’s Emperor Jones (1920), a play widely acclaimed for its innovative use of symbolic expressionism, as Badshaha in 1965. About this play, Doris V. Falk writes:

Jones’s hopeless flight through the forest is not from the natives at all, but from himself—the fundamental self from which his blind pride and its self-image have so long separated him, and which, inevitably, comes into its own.... The progress of Jones is progress in self-understanding; it is stripping off of the masks of self, layer by layer, just as bit by bit his “emperor’s” uniform is ripped from his back, until at the end he must confront his destiny—himself—in nakedness (67).

Rege’s interpretation of the play differs from this one. The blurb on his translated book reads:

O’Neill wrote this play in 1920 and the same year it was first performed in America.

O’Neill made use of the modern technique of symbolism in this play. He made an attempt to present basic impulses behind human actions by making use of the theory of the ‘collective unconscious’ proposed by Jung. Although this play may appear like a very long monologue, it presents the mind of a Negro overwhelmed by unknown fear. O’Neill makes an appeal to the sensibility of the audience by making use of a very different technique. He reveals subtle feelings which can hardly be expressed by mere words.

Besides, it parodies modern white civilization. O’Neill skillfully presents a very insightful picture of the white man’s talent, his efficiency, his opportunism, his indifference to all others, his self-interest, etc.

Emperor Jones is not a man running after mad dreams. He has been haunted by a ghostlike unknown shocking fear, born in his mind. He has inherited complexes developed due to the experiences of his savage predecessors. He has become crazy by being trapped in a whirlpool of mental perversion resulted from these complexes. O’Neill wishes to suggest that human life is a culmination of all previous experiences, not only of his own, but also of the entire human race. This play gave new horizons to the American theater. Will these horizons be seen on Marathi Theater after this Marathi translation? (Rege 1965: my translation)

Rather than making use of some Maharashtrian dialects equivalent to the dialects used by O’Neill, Rege makes a very effective use of standard Marathi to express the sense of pity reflected in the original play (Mulay, 1981: 255). The play was never performed on the Marathi stage. Nevertheless, the play introduced O’Neill’s technique of expressionism in Marathi. The text of the play has been accompanied by V.M. Paranjape’s article “Amerikecha Shreshta Natakkar Eugene O’Neill” (American Greatest Playwright Eugene O’Neill). It also includes the list of O’Neill’s plays along with a list of some reference books on O’Neill.

Sadanand Rege also translated O’Neill’s The Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century, as Jyanche Hote Praktan Shapit (Those who suffered from Accursed Fate) in 1965. In a letter to Robert Sisk, O’Neill clarifies:

It is founded—in the outline plot—on the old story of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Electra, Orestes on which the Greek dramatist wrote trilogy. I modernize this story to a psychological drama of human relationships, using no Gods or heroes and interpret it with many variations and improvisations of my own (in Bogard and Bryer 1988: 368).

The play adapts the Greek theme of man’s helplessness preserving the dominant emotions of fear, horror, and a brooding sense of a malignant fate. Like the ST, the TT contains a trilogy: ‘Grihagaman’, ‘Shikar’, and ‘Badha’. Like his earlier Badshaha, this TT also succeeds in evoking the original effect to a great extent. However, the change of the title in translation causes a loss of reference to the myth of Electra from Greek mythology. About the original title “Mourning Becomes Electra,” O’Neill states: “It befits—it becomes Electra to mourn,” (quoted in Sheaffer 1973: 338) and “Mourning (black) is becoming to her—it is the only colour that becomes her destiny” (Ibid). It clearly suggests the suffering of Lavinia, the modern Electra, who is left alone to suffer in a state of loneliness after the death of all the major characters. The changed Marathi title, on the contrary, emphasizes the accursed condition of all the characters in the play. Like Badshaha this TT was also not selected for performance by any company.

Shirish Pai’s Sonyachi Khan is an adaptation of The Heiress (1946) by Ruth and Augustus Goetz. It was published under the aegis of the USIS in 1967. Atre Theaters Pvt. Ltd. produced the first performance of the adaptation at Ravindra Natya Mandir on 1st August 1967. The text carries a preface written by Shirish Pai.

Vishram Bedekar adapted Send Me No Flowers (1964) by Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore under the title Vaaje Paul Aapule (The Sound of Our Footstep) in 1967. The original play, a comedy, is about George who, assuming that he is to die soon, tries to find a new husband for his wife Judy so he’ll know she won’t be alone once he’s gone. Judy, however, mistakes her husband’s plans for an attempt to cover up an extramarital affair and throws him out of the house. This ‘beautiful farce situation’ made an appeal to the otherwise serious artist like Vishram Bedekar. In his introduction written to this adaptation, Bedekar tells us about the reason for producing an adaptation, his experience of adaptation and his dilemma about calling his effort art or craft. For him, the work of adapting somebody else’s play is secondary. He writes, “I sought refuge in the foreign language/in adaptation because I felt like trying some plays, because it is difficult to satisfy the terrible hunger for the novel ideas as the original work of art requires a lot of time and labor” (71). He wonders whether his attempt should be called an art or craft as he has taken help of his wife Maltibai and the other actors while composing the Marathi version of the play. That way, Marathi suffers from lack of great comedies. The mainstream Marathi drama includes such serious plays as Keechak Vadh, Ekach Pyala, Natasamrat, Ghashiram Kotwal, Sakharam Binder, etc. Of course there are farces, but they give too much importance to exaggeration, gaudiness and superficiality. Vaaje Paul Aapule successfully filled the gap and provided moments of laughter from beginning to end. The play achieves perfection because of the presence of only six characters, their attractive portraitures, unity of time and unity of place, and ease in the dialogues (Mulay 1981: 278). Vaaje Paul Aapule, owing to its perfect adaptation, became extremely popular on the Marathi stage. It won recognition from both the audience and the Government.

S.G. Malshe translated Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude (1928) as Sukh Pahata in 1969. O’Neill’s play is a nine-act tragedy of frustrated desires, conducting psychological analysis of motives by means of the stream-of-consciousness method. About its source, O’Neill writes:

...the story of girl whose aviator fiancée was shot down just before the Armistice.... The girl had gone to pieces from the shock. She had married not because she loved the man, but because she wanted to have a child. She hoped through motherhood to win back a measure of contentment from life (in Gelb 1962: 629).

The play presents life as ‘a strange interlude between unknown sinister past and the unexplored and unknown future’ through the characters of Prof. Leeds, Nina Leeds, Charles Marsden, Dr. Edmund Ned Darrell, Sam Evans, Mrs. Evans and Gordon. As the Marathi equivalent expression for ‘Strange Interlude’ ‘Vilakshan Vishkambhale’ would have been high sounding and less attractive, Malshe introduces an appropriate change in the title of the TT. His choice ‘Sukh Pahata’ alludes to Sant Tukaram’s famous lines ‘Sukh Pahata Javapadhe, dukha parvataevade’ which literally means ‘happiness is small like a grain of barley while sorrow is big like a mountain’. Malshe’s choice makes a subtle comment on the theme of the play. For Nina in O’Neill’s Strange Interlude, the time spent between her initial good relationship with her father and her final relationship with her father-like figure Marsden is a ‘strange interlude’, an unsatisfactory attempt to seek happiness in relationships with different men. Malshe then makes a very apt change in the title of the play. However, as Veena Mulay has proved with concrete evidence, he fails to interpret the dialogues of the original play and so commits a number of mistakes in his translation. Although the translator wrote a separate article on O’Neill’s Strange Interlude in his collection of articles on modern drama titled Neerksheer (1975) drawing attention of the Marathi reader to the different characteristics of the play, his translation failed to attract the attention of the reader. There is no wonder then that this translation had never been chosen for the stage performance by any group or company.

Rajaram Humane translated The Marriage-Go-Round (1958) by Leslie Stevens and published it under the title Preeti Pari Tujavarti (My Love Only for You) for the USIS in 1971. The Marriage-Go-Round was inspired by a suggestion that dancer Isadora Duncan supposedly made to playwright G.B. Shaw: the two of them should have a child because, “with your mind and my body, think what a person it would be”. The play, a sex comedy, was a Broadway theater success. Indian National Theater presented the first performance of Humane’s translation at Shivaji Mandir, Mumbai on 19th March 1970.

Asha Bhende produced an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons (1947) under the title Putra Manavacha (Son of Man) in 1971. The play is about a manufacturer Joe Keller who supplies defective airplane parts for the P-40s and who thus causes the death of his son along with other passengers during the war. Bhende produces a compromise between translation and adaptation. She has changed the names of the characters and places; but retained equivalence at the level of the dialogues. Bhende’s rendering was chosen for staging by Indian National Theater and this institution performed the first show of this play at Ravindra Natya Mandir, Mumbai on 16th November 1969. When this play was published two years later in 1971, the book made no mention of Arthur Miller or his play All My Sons at all. This is a shocking case in Marathi literary polysystem of the translator refusing to acknowledge his/her debt to the source writer. To hide her plagiarism, she went to the extent, not only of changing the title, hiding the identity of the original playwright and changing the names of the characters and place, but also omitting lots of details that may reveal the true source of the play. Omissions of directions and details create a sense of uncertainty in the development of the action of the play. The title of the play All My Sons alludes to Joe Keller’s final acknowledgement of his moral responsibility for the death of a number of P-40s pilots. “Through this play, Miller has tried to underscore the importance of any human action on grounds of personal responsibility and morality” (Maheshwari 2005: 145). Just as P.L. Deshpande inappropriately imposed a portion of a Marathi line ‘Eka Koliyane’ on his translation of Hemingway’s title Old Man and the Sea, Bhende made an inappropriate choice of a portion of a line ‘Putra Manavacha’ from G.D. Madgulkar’s famous line in his Geetaramayana—‘paradhin aahe jagati putra manavacha, dosh na kunacha’ (‘The son of man depends upon others in this world; nobody is responsible for his lot’). The choice of the title is wrong because the phrase ‘Putra Manavacha’ (‘son of man’) is not directly or indirectly related to the context of the play. In Bhende, thus, we have a very curious case of the translator’s plagiarism leading to an utter failure in terms of both content and form.

Majority of Marathi translations of American plays had been done under the aegis of the USIS during 1958 to 1971. The USIS was founded to introduce Indians to the life, culture, and history of America. It selected certain texts and made the arrangement of their translations in different languages through a few agents appointed for the task. Majority of American plays as well as novels translated during the USIS period had been produced under the PL-8O scheme of countering the propaganda of the then USSR.
A careful look at the selection of the plays made for translation shows that Sa Ramya Nagari introduced the American way of life; Andharatil Jyot and Lincoln Yanche Akherche Diwas introduced a great figure like Abraham Lincoln from American history; Janata Amar Aahe presented the cause of democracy, while Kabulijabab directly attacked communism. This does not mean that all translations were made explicitly with the motive of the power struggle. Some plays like those of Williams and O’Neill served the purpose of providing better literary models in the target polysystem.

In spite of translations of some important plays from the American tradition, Marathi literary polysystem failed to adequately respond to such typical American types of drama as African-American drama, drama of class conflict and poetic drama. Such black plays as The Green Pictures or In Abraham’s Bosom remained unknown to the Marathi audience. Similarly, drama of class conflict, for example written by Odet did not reach Marathi Theater. Again, poetic drama developed by T.S. Eliot, Maxwell Anderson and others found no response either from the translator or from the reader.

Nevertheless, Marathi translations of the American plays enriched Marathi literary polysystem in several ways. Firstly, translating increased the familiarity with American Theater. Secondly, it brought in the variety of content and the diversity of forms in the target culture. Thirdly, for a long time, Marathi drama and theater had been confined to the portrayal of the domestic and sentimental problems of life. The experiences presented on the stage used to be very stereotypical. The focus only on the domestic problems had limited the scope merely to the drawing room drama. Marathi translations of American plays showed that the setting can be extended to any place such as the battlefield, the frontier, the prison, etc. Thus, different adaptations threw open a new gallery of several possibilities of the expression of experience and of different forms and techniques. The translator-playwrights began to exhibit their ability to present powerful and meaningful drama of human emotions and frailties in a comprehensive manner. Fourthly, it was discovered that Marathi audience prefers adaptations or free renderings to faithful translations. Therefore, adaptations were mostly chosen for performances and faithful translations, for silent reading. Fifthly and lastly, only a small number of dramatists took efforts to introduce a very limited number of American plays to the Marathi audience.


Abhyankar Nana. Andharatil Jyot (Abe Lincoln in Illinois by Robert Emmet Sherwood). Mumbai: USIS, 1962.
Bedekar, Vishram. Vaaje Paul Aaple (Send Me No Flowers by Norman Barash and Moore Carroll). Pune: Sadhana Prakashan, 1967.
Bhende, Aasha. Putra Manvacha (All My Sons by Arthur Miller). Mumbai: Parchure Prakashan Mandir, 1971.
Bhende, Aatmaram. Ithe Lagne Julavili Jatat (The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder). Mumbai: Parchure Prakashan Mandir, 1964.
------------------------. Sa Ramya Nagari (Our Town by Thornton Wilder). Mumbai: Parchure Prakashan Mandir, 1964.
Bogard, Travis and Jackson R. Bryer. (eds). Selected Letters of Eugene O’Neill. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1988.
Deshpande, V. B. ‘Drama’ in Rajendra Banhatti and G.N. Joglekar (eds) A History of Modern Marathi Literature, Pune: Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad, 1998.
Falk, Doris V. Eugene O’Neill and the Tragic Tension: An Interpretative Study of the Plays. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1958.
Gelb, Arthur and Barbara Gelb. O’Neill. New York: Harper, 1962.
Humane, Rajaram. Priti Pari Tujavarti (The Marriage Go Round). Mumbai: Parchure Prakashan Mandir, 1971.
Kamat, Vasant Vaikunt. Kachechi Khelani (The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams). Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1965.
Kanekar, Anant. ‘Natyamanvantar ani Rangabhoomi’ in Marathi Rangbhoomi, Marathi Natak: Ghatna Ani Parampara (Marathi Theater, Marathi Drama: Constitution and Tradition). Mumbai, 1971.
Lal, Ananda. Theaters of India: A Concise Companion. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Limaye, Gopal Gangadhar. Kabulijabab (The Great Sabastians by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse). Pune: Kalpana Prakashan, 1959.
MacNicholas, John. (ed.). Dictionary of Literary Biography: Twentieth Century American Dramatists. Det.: Gale Research Co. Book Tower, 1981.
Maheshwari, Vinod Kumar. ‘Spirit of Affirmation in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and All my Sons’ in Meenakshi Raman (ed.) Critical Perspectives in American Literature. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2005.
Malshe. S. G. Sukh Pahata (Strange Interlude by Eugene O’Neill). Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1969.
Mule, Veena. Marathitil Anuwadit American Sahitya. Unpublished Ph. D. thesis submitted to Nagpur University, Nagpur in 1981.
Nadkarni, Dnyaneshwar. ‘The Recent Years (1955-1960)’ in The Marathi Theater (1843-1960), Mumbai: Popular Book Depot, 1961.
Padki, Sarita. Panthastha (Ah, Wilderness by Eugene O’Neill). Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1965.
Pai, Shrish. Sonyachi Khan (Heiress by Rooth Goeles and Augustus Goeles). Mumbai: Parchure Prakashan Mandir, 1967.
Patil, Deepali. Vijay Tendulkar and Tennessee Williams: A Study in Literary Interface. Unpublished thesis submitted to Shivaji University, Kolhapur in 2010.
Rege, Sadanand. Badshah (The Emperor Jones by Eugene O’Neill). Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1965.
--------------------. Jyanche Hote Praktan Shapit (Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O’Neill). Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1965.
--------------------. Paach Divas (Five Days by Henri Zaiger). Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1991.
Sathe, Makarand. Marathi Rangabhoomichya Tees Ratri: Ek Samajik-Rajkiya Itihas. Vol. I. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 2011.
Sheaffer, Louis. O’Neill: Son and Artist. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1973.
Shukla, Sadashiv Anant. Janata Amar Aahe (The Patriots by Sidney Kingsley and Madge Evans). Mumbai: Parchure Prakashan Mandir, 1958.
Tendulkar, Vijay. Lobh Nasava Hi Vinanti (Hasty Heart by John Patrick). Mumbai: Parchure Prakashan Mandir, 1958/1972.
--------------------. Lincoln Yanche Akheche Divas (Last Days of Lincoln by Mark Van Doren). Mumbai: Majestic Book Stall Book Stall, 1964.
---------------------. Vaasanachakra (A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams). Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, 1966.
Warnock, Robert, Marc Connelly, George S. Kaufman, Sidney C. Howard, S N. Behrman, Eugene O'Neill, Maxwell Anderson, Clifford Odets, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller. Representative Modern Plays, American. Chicago: Scott, Foresman, 1952.

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About Dr. Sunil Sawant

Sunil Sawant

Sunil Sawant works as an Associate Professor in the Department of English of Kisan Veer Mahavidyalaya, Wai, Dist. Satara, Maharashtra, India. He has solely edited the book titled Translation Studies: Theories and Applications (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2013). He has also translated three books from Marathi into English: Rajarshi Shahu Chhatrapati: Life and Work (Mumbai: Maharashtra Legislature Secretariat, 2009), Winds of the Sahyadri (Pune: Macmillan, 2008) and Footprints of Culture (Pune: Macmillan, 2006). His other publications include: “From the Colonial to the Anti-Colonial: Marathi Reception of American Literature” in Translation Journal (New York, 2012) “American Novels in Marathi Translation: The Dynamics of Appropriation during the British Period” in Socio-Cultural Approaches to Translation: Indian and European Perspectives (New Delhi: Excel India Publishers, 2010), “Revolutionary Struggle as a Counterpoint to Colonial Domination: Marathi Translations of Upton Sinclair and John Steinbeck” in Translation Journal (New York, 2009), "A Comprehensive Model of Translation Criticism" and "Nineteenth Century Marathi Literary Polysystem"in Studies in Translation (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2008), “The Tradition of the American Popular Novel in Marathi” (New Delhi: Macmillan, 2006), and “The Problematics of Getting Across Modern Marathi Literature into Non-Indian Languages” in Translation Today (Mysore, 2005). He has presented Research Papers in the International Conferences held in Pune (2005), Melbourne (2009), Hyderabad (2010), New Delhi (2010), Manchester (2011) and New Delhi (2012). He has successfully completed his Major Research Project entitled “American Literature in Marathi Translation: A Study in Literary Reception” with the financial assistance from University Grants Commission, New Delhi (India). Another Major Research Project undertaken by him with the UGC financial assistance is entitled “The Experimental Theatre of Maharashtra: A Study in Translation, History and Culture”.

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