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Strictly Over 18

Adult content has made its foray into Marathi theatre,primarily being used as an instrument for activism

Written by Rushil Dutta | Published: October 3, 2013 2:54 am

They deal with adult material on the stage that has traditionally been a source of family entertainment. So,when subjects such as sexuality are touched upon in Marathi theatre — whether for comical or dramatic ends — it is well-received only by a fraction of the audience. The more orthodox lot often gets put off by the content,quick to take offence.

“Loknatya (folk theatre) is an age-old tradition,is known for witty social commentary,” says Ashok Patole,whose comedy act Ek Chavat Sandhyakal will complete 200 shows on October 26. Patole adds,“They (the writers of loknatya) were basically social critics and touched every subject,unclouded by morality.”

Writer-director Patole was toying with various concepts in his mind for a prospective act when,one day,he walked into a party and observed how “non-veg” jokes were becoming very popular. It was a Eureka moment for Patole,who presented the idea to veteran Marathi theatre person Ajit Kelkar. The duo struck a chord and put together Ek Chavat Sandhyakal.

Patole was also enamoured by the impact stand-up comedy — which os quite popular in the West — could have on the audience here. “I always wanted to dabble with stand-up comedy but it is also a genre which the censor board hasn’t allowed the artistes to explore,by placing too many constraints on ‘bold’ language,” says Patole.

He says that when Ek Chavat Sandhyakal was first scripted,it was also written in a “bold” language. “The content was explicit and attracted an all-male audience,” says Patole,adding,“Then,Pune Municipal Corporation put a ban on the play. So we decided to tweak the content and tone down the language. Now,the adult jokes are merely suggestive,” he adds.

Despite having a mature audience,Patole believes the censor board prevents the growth of his genre. “For plays with content like ours,getting approval by the board is not easy. The process might take up to six months,” says Patole,who is impressed by how the audience has matured but is vexed by “hypocrites in the society who enjoy watching explicit visuals in films but condemn bold language on stage.”

Theatre director Nitin Kumar,on the other hand,takes a diametrically opposite approach to mature content. His play Tya Chaar Yonicha Goshti is a serious drama and borders on raising awareness. “My play is based on four women — a working woman,an IT professional,a maid and a lesbian — and revolves around their unfulfilled sexual desires,” says Kumar.

He says that he was inspired to write the play as a mouthpiece for women who are subjugated by conservatism and taboo,and thus cannot express their sexual dissatisfaction. “The working woman,for example,complains about her husband,who — caught up in work — pays little attention to her at the end of the day,” says Kumar,who believes that the average male has much to learn about sexuality.

“Men often walk up to me after a production and tell me how oblivious they had been to their wives’ sexual needs,stemming largely from their lack of understanding of female sexuality,” says Kumar.

His play has been running successfully,with one scheduled on October 6 at Pandit Bhimsen Joshi Theatre and another at Bal Gandharva Rangmanch on October 8. “The audience still largely comprises of men. I plan on staging the play to an all-female audience,because women may feel discomforted by the presence of men while a subject like sexuality is being discussed,” says Kumar.

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