Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar's most famous play Sakharam Binder returns to the stage in English with a new cast and director
Back in 1972, when theatre director Kamlakar Sarang first staged Vijay Tendulkar’s play Sakharam Binder, it became a sour sight for the censors. Appalled and disgusted by the portrayal of the harsh realities within society, its sexual profanity and the acceptance of domestic abuse towards women in Maharashtrian society, Sakharam Binder was banned two years later.
Though, the ban was lifted soon, Sakharam Binder remains one of the most famous plays ever written by Tendulkar. Since then, it has been translated into many regional languages and has even been adapted by different theatre companies around theworld.
Sakharam Binder is now making a return to the stage in English under the direction of film director Yogesh Pagare, with a new cast featuring debutant Rajesh Nahar as Sakharam Binder, and television actresses Sharbani Mukherjee and Gulki Joshi as Laxmi and Champa respectively.
“The story of Sakharam Binder stands relevant 40 years later too, and that’s the magic of Tendulkar. He looked at the complexities of a live-in relationship at a time when it was a taboo even in metros like Mumbai,” says Pagare. But what makes the play even more important is that domestic violence exists and tolerated even today. “Maybe it’s less in metros like Mumbai as compared to smaller cities and villages, but it’s still prevalent. There are women — from educated backgrounds, who tolerate abusive boyfriends and husbands.”
The play’s lead character Sakharam Binder is an honest man who doesn’t lie or cheat. But he drinks, smokes, objectifies women, and abuses them, sexually and emotionally. He invites destitute women to live with him, in his house, Sakharam palace, and make them fulfill all the duties of a wife without marrying them. His first victim is Laxmi, who he casts away after some time. But everything turns around, when Champa comes into his life. She forces him to change his ideology, and Sakharam loses everything stuck between his old and new-found ideology.
Pagare says that Tendulkar’s Sakharam Binder gets as close to the society as possible. “In his vision, the world is not black or white, but grey. Everyone from Sakharam Binder to Laxmi or Champa have grey shades. The play shows how even the most honest man could be wrong with his beliefs,” he adds.
The play was originally written in Marathi, and Pagare and his team translated the play into English for the production. But Pagare believes that his adaptation is as original as it gets to a Tendulkar play, “Normally, when you translate a script from another language, you are always worried about losing the real essence and flavour, but here we didn’t have to worry about that. Tendulkar writes detailed explanation of everything in his plays. The best thing about his writing is his entire vision of the play is visible to the director,” he adds.