he Sutradhar in the play Ghasiram Kotwal has been used as much more than a conventional observer and reporter of facts. Vijay Tendulkar has used the Sutradhar as a theatrical device. Sometimes,the omniscient Sutradhar simply communicates facts to the audience. At other times, he blends into the play as he takes on various transient characters. He makes significant comments at all crucial occurances in the play and also plays an important role as he subtly suggests the incidents that are to follow, with his meaningful remarks ,songs and enchantments.
Vijay Tendulkar has given the Sutradhar the liberty to become a part of the story and detach himself wherever he wishes. In the beginning of Act One,the Sutradhar exhibits quick-wit when he notices a Brahman sneaking off the stage slyly. He suddenly stops him and engages him into a tricky conversation which leads to the Brahman admitting that he’s going to Bavannakhani to watch girls dancing and singing. When the Brahman says that he is going to the graveyard, Sutradhar says he wants to come along as he needs wood for his stove.
When the Brahman tries to evade the Sutradhar by saying there are genies in the graveyard,he cleverly retorts by saying he needs four genies to fill a bottle. This conversation adds comic relief to the tragedy. Another conversation with a Brahman further establishes the Sutradhar as a meddlesome , inquisitive, cunning yet good humoured character. Even though he is aware of the whereabouts of the Brahmans,he deliberately keeps attacking them with questions so they spill out the truth themselves.
The Sutradhar’s questions also establish that the Brahmans are supposed to follow a certain code of conduct , which they regularly violate. Also, these questions’ answers underline the fact that that Brahmans use as excuses, their religious obligations-such as going to the temple,or the cemetery or attending Kirtan to mask their own nefarious activities . Certain dialogues of Sutradhar,for instance “Night comes, Night comes. The gun of eleven booms… ” are inauspicious and sinister. These are essential in preparing the atmosphere for the unpleasant nocturnal practices that may begin with later in the ight. The Sutradhar appears as a prison-mate of Ghashiram when he is falsely accused of thievery, beaten up ruthlessly and thrown into prison. He comes across as a worldly fellow. He says “… The thief is a simple thief. The police are official thieves… ” . With his soliloquy, he exposes the unscrupulous,unfair authorities. Later,the Sutradhar puts on a Haridasa shawl,indicating that he has taken on the role of a Kirtankar,a special kind of religious story teller. He sings an Abhanga(a short, religious Maharashtrian verse). He skillfully changes this to a Lavani(a love song).
This sudden change is repeated by the Sutradhar to signify chaos. Ultimately, the Lavani remains, to highlight the storm of lust building up in Nana’s mind on seeing Gauri for the first time. In the beginning of Act Two the Sutradhar seems to be making people aware of the atrocities afflicted by Ghashiram, the Kotwal . He repeatedly says “Gauri dances,Nana dances,Ghashiram’s got his chances. ” “No whoring without a permit.. No cremation without a permit… ” These expose the hypocrisy of the newly discovered facet of Ghashiram.
The Sutradhar then changes over to portray a village man whose wife is about to give birth to their child. The hapless man is in search of a midwife in the middle of the night. This is when Ghashiram catches him-he hits him, slaps him,kicks him for being out of his house at a late hour without a permit. Ghashiram doesn’t even listen to the poor man’s reasons for the same. Sutradhar then makes a tall , valuable statement : “If you lay a hand on Ghashiram, Nana will smash you. If you don’t then Ghashiram will get you anyway… ” This shows the travesty of power, it shows how the lust for power leads to total abuse of it.
It’s a paradox for the common people of Poona as they have no other authority to reach out to. After that, when a Brahman is made to go through an ordeal , the Sutradhar seems to be witnessing it and explaining to the audience the events as , when and how they take place. Later in Act Two , he stops a Brahman from going off stage in a hurry. This time it is the truth about Nana’s seventh mariage that the Sutradhar feigns to enquire about . The urgency of the scene makes is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining conversation. The sutradhar then assumes the role of a singer and sings to the rhythm of a hand drum .
This Wedding Song for Nana is saddled with irony and mockery at the old Nana for marrying a young girl , who he has bought: “The Peshwa’s Chief Minister. Still young enough to marry ! His moustache’s turned gray. But not all his tteth are gone-” However, immediately after this, the Sutradhar suddenly assumes his next important role-That of a Pandit who chants wedding shlokas for Nana and his bride-to-be and binds the two into matrimony as everyone watches on. After Ghashiram has realised that his daughter is no more alive , the Sutradhar says : “Gauri went. Nana stays… “
This symbolises the death of the innocent and naive while the powerful always manage to self-perpetuate. Sutradhar also adopts the role of a key informer who joins the missing links together so as to keep the interset of the audience intact throughout Act Two. Later , in Act Two itself he takes on the role of an assistant to Nana-informs him about the anguished Brahmans approaching his mansion and demanding Ghashiram’s death for the cruelty towards the imprisoned Brahmans. Finally , in one of his most essential dialogues , the Sutradhar says: “And in the end came The End. This sentence reverberates with the various layers of meanings- with the fairly literal end of the Story of Ghashiram Kotwal, came the end of Ghashiram himself . That aside, came the end of anarchy in Poona. We see that the Sutradhar is central to the play. He has been used as an effective,innovative dramatic technique by Vijay Tendulkar to create Total Theater. One of the most challenging tasks at the hands of the Sutradhar is to bind the entire story together- with its scattered scenes, themes and a wide range of characters .
The Sutradhar of Ghashiram Kotwal has beautifully threaded the entire sequence of events , much to the enjoyment of the audience and at the same time , has done justice to the narrative as well. The Sutradhar also remains important in keeping the “Tamasha” style of the play intact- he leads the various songs and dance sequences. He actively changes his comments and style of talking to suggest impending doom or expected humour. Hence, the Role of Sutradhar in the play Ghashiram Kotwal is pivotal, his presence is one that deserves recognition and the amalgamation of all his characters is prodigious.