A BRIEF SURVEY OF MARATHI LITERATURE IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY - gatewaylitfest.com

| October 22, 2018 | Blog | No Comments
Gateway Litfest

The current write-up, sketchy and introductory in nature, provides a concise survey of the developments in Marathi literature in the twenty-first century. It looks at a range of essential literary forms like poetry, the novel, the short story, drama, travel writing as well as literary criticism. It makes no claim to be representative, objective or neutral, nor does it aim to be comprehensive. The context of post-liberalization and globalization is a key historical development that has played a decisive role in shaping the language, attitudes, styles and themes across the social and cultural spectrum from where the writers have emerged. There are continuities and striking discontinuities, not only in terms of attitudes, but also in terms of literary production, where veteran writers share the space with new emergent voices. Thus, the contemporary period is heterogeneous in terms of locations of the writers, their generations and their attitudes.

 

Though developments in other forms are remarkable, poetry stands out in terms of not only because of freshness, innovation and energy, but also due to passionate debates and controversies. The language of Marathi poetry underwent a significant makeover in the nineteen nineties under the pressures of massive cultural and social transformation caused by globalization, liberalization and privatization. The poetry of the nineteen nineties or ‘navodatottar’ poetry emerged on the resurgence of ‘the new little magazine’ movements which sought to inherit the legacy of the little magazine movements of the nineteen sixties and the seventies on the one hand, and to go beyond that legacy by reinventing the language of poetry. The new little magazines of the nineteen nineties like ‘Shabavedh’ (editor Ramesh Ingle Utradkar and D.G. Kale, Buldana), ‘Abhidha’ (editor Hemant Divate, Mumbai) (later renamed as Abhidhanantar), ‘Saakshaat’(editor Ramesh Raut, Aurangabad) and ‘Saushthav’( editor Shridhar Tilve, Mumbai) provided a platform for the entire generation of emergent voices like Saleel Wagh (b.1967), Mangesh Kale (b.1966), Sanjeev Khandekar (b.1958), Manya Joshi (b.1972), Hemant Divate (b.1967), Shridhar Tilve (b.1964), Sachin Ketkar (b.1972), among many others. Radical Dalit tribal and feminist poets like Bhujang Meshram (1959-2007), Arun Kale (1954-2008), Malika Amarsheikh (b.1957), Pradnya Pawar (b.1966) and Kavita Mahajan (1967-2018) continued to write provocative poetry throughout this period. Though many of these poets continued to write in the little magazines, their collections appeared only in the first decade of the twenty-first century.  An anthology of this new poetry in English translation appeared in 2005 as Live Update: An Anthology of Recent Marathi Poetry edited and translated by Sachin Ketkar. My translations of contemporary Marathi poetry and more information about other poets can be found online on the websites such as Kritya Online Poetry Journal Kritya.in , July 2017 issue, Poetry International Web.org, Poetry International, Rotterdam, 1 December 2005 issue, MuseIndia.com, Issue 3: July to Sep 2005 and  Sangamhouse.org, Jan 2017.

 

An essential feature of these little magazines is the regular attention given to an aspect of literary culture in the form of ‘special issue’. ‘Abhidha’ brought out ‘Chauthi Navta’ (Fourth Modernism) Special Issue and ‘Dilip Chitre Special Issue’ in the mid-nineteen nineties. ‘Shabdavedh’ brought out a special issue of ‘Post-nineties’ Marathi poetry in 1999. ‘Abhidhanantar’ brought out a 21st Century Marathi poetry special issue in 2001 and again contemporary Marathi poetry special issue in 2005 and 2006. ‘Navakshar Darshan’ (Editor Pravin Bandekar, Sawantwadi) brought out a special issue on the Marathi little magazine movements in 2009. The little magazine movements of the nineteen nineties also gave space to new voices in literary criticism like Vishram Gupte, Shridhar Tilve, Praveen Bandekar, Saleel Wagh, Sachin Ketkar, Eknath Pagar, D.G. Kale ,Mahendra Bhavre and Nitin Rindhe. These new voices have contributed significantly to the development of recent Marathi poetry and poetry criticism. Contribution of literary magazines devoted to especially to translation like ‘Kelyane Bhashantar’ (Editor Anagha Bhatt, Pune) and ‘Mai Mavashi’ (editor, Neeraja, Ganesh Vispute Mumbai) is noteworthy. A recent special issue of Padmagandha and Pen Congress (2018) provides writings from multiple major and minor languages from all over the world, in a bilingual format with English translation followed by Marathi.

 

The first decade of the twenty-first century, also saw newer little magazines like ‘Navakshar Darshan’, ‘Aivaji’ (editor Ramesh Ingle Utradkar, Buldana), ‘Khel’ (Editor Mangesh Narayanrao Kale, Pune), ‘Atirikta’ (editors D.G. Kale and Dinkar Manvar, Shegao) and ‘Va’ (editor Ignatius Dias, Vasai) emerge.  The new single issue of Abhidhanantar that appeared in October 2014 highlights Facebook and Poetry and provides platform to yet another crop of new voices like Ajeet Abhang, Onkar Kulkarni, Pranav Sakhdev, Ignatius Dias, Satyapal Singh Rajput among many others. In many ways this newer voices continue the legacy of the poetry of nineteen- nineties and also seek to go beyond this legacy by exploring new dimensions of expression and experience. Several senior poets of earlier generation like Dilip Chitre, Arun Kolatkar, Namdeo Dhasal, Vilas Sarang and Vasant Abaji Dahake also brought out their significant collections in the first decades of this century

 

The diversity of social and cultural locations and the encounter with processes of globalization have shaped the poetics, politics and the praxis of the emergent poetry. Critics have largely read this emergent poetry in the context of globalization and its discontents. Shreedhar Tilve’s collection of critical articles Teekaharan (1999) is a trenchant critique of Nemade’s nativism as an ideology, and attempts to build a philosophical base of the poetry of the nineties.   A useful anthology of critical articles Jagatikikaran, Samaj ani Marathi Sahitya (2012) edited by Ravindra Shobhane provides an overview of various debates, controversies and issues associated with Marathi literature and globalization. Prakash Deshpande Kejkar’s book Samkaleen Marathi Kavita: Ek Nirikshan (2013) provides an overview of various contemporary poets belonging to various schools. Vishram Gupte’s collection of critical articles on these emergent poets Nava Jag, Navi Kavita (2016) explores postmodern dimensions of the emergent poetry.

 

In my collection of Marathi critical articles Changlya Kavitevarchi Statutory Warning: Samkaleen Marathi Kavita, Jagatikikaran ani Bhashantar (2016), as well as my articles on the same topic in English, I have attempted to read the post-nineties poetry closely so as to uncover the multiple types of crises that form the overlapping contexts of contemporary Marathi poetry. Apart from the context of the ‘crisis of globalisation’, I have sought to theorize it in the context of the ‘poetic crisis’ resulting from what Harold Bloom has called ‘the anxiety of influence’ of preceding avant garde poets like Arun Kolatkar (1932-2004), Dilip Chitre (1938-2009) and Namdeo Dhasal (1949-2015), in addition to in the context of a ‘spiritual crisis’ which shows up as an indirect resonance of the millennial archetypes of apocalypse, and ‘the end of the world’, among many poets of this period. I have also attempted to read this poetry as a realisation of the dynamic, complex and heterogeneous cultural space or what Yuri Lotman terms ‘semiosphere’ to which it belongs and which is transformed by the irreversible processes of globalisation.  This emergent poetry may also be conceptualised as embodying what Bakhtin calls ‘the chronotope’ of the globalised world.

 

A similar diversity of voices and social spaces characterize much of the fiction written after the nineteen-nineties and the first decade of the twenty first century. The veteran novelists and short story writers like Bhalchandra Nemade, Ranganath Pathare, Shyam Manohar, H. M. Marathe and Vilas Sarang have continued contributing to this period. Shyam Manohar’s Hey Ishwarrao.Hey Purushottamrao (1982) is one of the most significant works of the eighties and his Kal (1996) is considered an important novel of the nineties. His Khup Loka Aahet appeared in 2002. Ranganath Pathare who came into prominence with Namushkiche Swagat (1999) came out with Tivrakomal Dukkhache Prakaran (2000) and Prashnankit Vishesh (2008) in the first decade of the twenty first century. H. M. Marathe’s later novels Market (1986) Software (1987) dealt with corporate politics in Mumbai well ahead of the time. His novel Kaliyug (1991) portrays the collapse of the trade union movement and labour politics in Mumbai. Bhalchandra Nemade whose Kosala became a trendsetter in the nineteen sixties, published his epic Hindu: Jagnyachi Samrudha Adgal in 2010.  Vilas Sarang, an important name of the post-sixties generation brought out his major short story collection Atank (1999) and went on to publish his novels like Rudra (2009) and Amaryaad Aahe Budha in 2011. Sarang’s very important books on criticism like Aksharancha Shrama Kela (2000) , Sarjanshod ani Lihita Lekhak (2007),  Manhole Madhla Manus (2008), and Vangmayeen Sanskruti va Samajik Vastav (2011) emerged in the twenty-first century. His criticism is marked by cosmopolitan and urban modernist sensibility that is willing to explore new ways of writing and thinking that is rare in Marathi.

 

Other senior academic writers and critics continued to produce significant criticism. For instance, renowned poet Vasant Abaji Dahake brought out Kavite Vishai (1999), Marathi Sahitya: Itihas ani Sanskruti (2005), Marathi Samikshechi Sadya Stithi (2011) and Drushyakala ani Sahitya (2013), a rare exploration of visual art and literature in Marathi. Gangadhar Patil’s Samiksha Mimansa (2011) is a collection of his theoretical writings over decades on topics as diverse as literary historiography, aesthetics, formalism, narratology, existentialism, archetypal criticism, semiotics, reader-response theory, structuralism and post-structuralism. Likewise Ravindra Kimbahune’s Kimbahuna (2010), Aniket Jaaware’s Kale Pandhre Asphut Lekh (2011) and P.N. Paranjape’s Bhashetun Bhashekade ani Bhashantarakade (2017) are important collections of wide-ranging critical articles written on various aspects of Marathi literature and culture over decades. Nivadak Marathi Samiksha edited by G. M. Pawar and H.D. Hatkananglekar (1999) is a collection of some of the most influential critical statements from late nineteenth century to the end of twentieth century.  Visavya Shatakatil Marathi Samiksha (2004) edited by Vilas Khole is an anthology of articles that surveys various trends and fields of Marathi literary criticism in the twentieth century. In the backdrop of growing violence against dissident writers and the murders of renowned intellectuals like Narendra Dabholkar, M.S. Kalburgi and Govind Pansare, an anthology of critical statements Lekhak-Kalavantacha Elgar: Asahishnutechya Virodhat (2016) edited by Sripad Bhalchandra Joshi protests and examines the decline in the freedom of expression in the country.

 

Shanta Gokhale, Meghana Pethe, Kavita Mahajan and Malika Amar Sheikh are major contemporary women fiction writers. Gokhale’s Tya Varshee (2013) takes on the rise of fundamentalist forces in Mumbai heads on and raises questions about women’s liberation, and environmental issues. Pethe’s short story collections Hansa Akela and Aandhalyachya Gayi (2000) are important short story collections, while her novel Naticharami appeared in 2005. Her works are characterized by an urban and bold voice, and usually deal with the predicament of the upper-caste upper caste woman in the city. Kavita Mahajan’s Bruh (2006) deals with the questions of gender identity and the role of NGOs in contemporary times. Malika Amar Sheikh who is an important poet who came into prominence with her autobiography Mala Udhvasta Hoichai (1984), has also written important short fiction like Zhadpanyachi Goshta (2013) and Ek Hota Undir (2006).An important new voice in Dalit feminist fiction is Shilpa Kamble and her Nilya Dolyanchi Mulgi (2014) is well received. Urmila Pawar’s critically acclaimed Aaidan (2003) is a Dalit feminist autobiography in the tradition of Baby Kamble’s Jeena Amucha (1986).

 

Nanda Khare’s novel Anantaji Chi Bakhar (1990) is a parody of the hagiographical historical narratives which were popular in Marathi and uses the unreliable narration of its anti-hero Antaji, a fictional character from the late eighteenth century. His recent novel Bhakhar Antakalachi (2010) depicts later life of Antaji. . Anand Vinayak Jategaokar’s novels like Aswastha Vartaman (2013), Dr. Mayank Arnav and Mee Mee Urpha Selfie (2015) explores the regions between fiction and non-fiction and uses the postmodern technique of ‘unreliable’ narrator. (Sapre 2007). His Srimant Gopikabainchi Bakhar , like Nanda Khare, uses the medieval historical form of bakhar for innovative contemporary purposes. Dinanath Manohar’s novel Manvantar (1999) juxtaposes the Mutiny of 1857 with the struggle of a local village against the forces of globalization. Ravindra Pandharinath’s Khelghar (2013) also deals with social and cultural changes of the nineteen-nineties. Makarand Sathe and Anil Daamle‘s experimental novels explore the mysterious domains of the imagined and the real world.  Damle’s Gautamchi Gosta and Sathe’s Achyut Aathavle Ani Saathvan (2003) are typical works in this postmodern tradition. Milind Bokil’s Maheshwar Nature Park (2017) is important collection of two contemporary novellas. Vishram Gupte’s Ishwar.com (2013) is an important novel dealing with the social and cultural transformations caused by globalization Damodar Prabhu’s Mantrachal urfa Vastushanti (2013) is an important innovation. These experimental novelists seem to continue the tradition of urban modernism found in Bhau Padhye, Dilip Chitre, Vilas Sarang, Shanta Gokhale, Gauri Deshpande and H. M. Marathe, albeit in a new globalized urban context.

 

Rajan Gavas’s Tankat (1989) and Ba, Balicha are considered important contemporary novels. Ramesh Ingle-Uttradkar’s Nishani Dava Angtha (2001) depicts the collapsed primary education system at the grassroots of Maharashtra. Praveen Dasharath Bandekar’s Chalegat (2011) and Ujwya Sondechya Bahulya (2016) highlight the politics of the Konkan region in Maharashtra. Dinkar Dabhade’s novels Bilamat (1994), Gayapat (2005) and Via Savargav Khurda (2016) explore social and political complexities of rural Maharashtra in contemporary times. These works engage with the crisis of non-urban non metropolitan society, mostly in a realistic mode and, in a sense, continue the tradition of rural writings in Marathi.  This diversity of social and cultural locations of the writers and their engagement with their own spaces in prose as well in poetry is remarkable. An important anthology of critical writings on contemporary novel is Gelya Ardhashatakatil Marathi Kadambari edited by Vilas Khole (2002).

 

Apart from novels, short fiction, in spite of wide-spread prejudice against the form owing to its quantitative explosion in the numerous Diwali issues that has raised questions about its quality, has been seriously and creatively explored by many writers. Satish Tambe’s Manhole madhe Mangol (2013) is a significant collection of short stories exploring the complex issues of the urban life in contemporary times. Jayant Pawar’s Phoenixchya Rakhetun Uthla Mor (2010) and Varanbhat Loncha ni kon nai konchya (2015), Bharat Sasne’s Ayushyachi Choti Goshta, Ratra Shitijavarchi Ratra (2000), and Shubhavartaman (2004) are important short story collections by the newly established fiction writers. Samar Khadas’s Bakryachi Body (2009) is a notable short story collection. Rajan Gavas’s short story collections ‘Rivanavayali Mungi (2001), and Apan Mansaat Jama Nahi (2011) are well-acclaimed. Asaram Lomte’s realistic depiction of exploitation and decadence brought about by globalization in rural Maharashtra in his collections like Aalok (2015) and Ida Pida Talo are noteworthy. Pranav Sakhdeo’s recent collections Nabhitun Ugavlelya Vrukshache Rahasya (2017) and Nilya Datanchi Dantakatha explore newer urban realities of the urban Marathi youngsters.

 

Marathi has a vigorous tradition of theatre.  The noted theatre critic, short story writer and playwright Jayant Pawar (2005) notes the contribution of two important theatre workshops in the post- VijayTendulkar period of Marathi drama. He notes that Pandit Satyadev Dube’s theatre workshop in the nineteen seventies played a critical role in launching the career of the three playwrights Mahesh Elkunchwar, Satish Alekar and G. P Deshpande who dominated the Marathi theatre for almost three decades. The Theatre Akademi Workshop of 1986-87 in Pune launched almost a dozen of significant playwrights like Ajeet Dalvi, Datta Bhagat, Shaafat Khan, Premanand Gajvi, Prashant Dalvi, Jayant Pawar and Makarand Sathe among other writers not associated with the workshop like Sanjay Pawar, Chetan Daatar and Rajiv Naik. Though Jayant Pawar in his later article in 2012 laments the ebbing of the experimental parallel theatre in Marathi in the nineteen nineties. Renowned theatre critic Kamalakar Nadkarni (1935- ) has reviewed almost four hundred plays for numerous papers that were performed during various drama competitions between 2000 and 2010. A selection of these reviews is published as Mahanagri Natak (2000-2010) in 2016.

 

This period is also significant because it saw the rise of Marathi Dalit theatre. Premanand Gajvi and Suresh Meshram went on to start Bodhi Theatre workshops for Marathi Dalit theatre later in 2003. Premand Gajvi’s Kirvanta (1991) and Sanjay Pawar’s Kon Mhanta Takka Dila (1990) are important Dalit plays of the nineteen nineties. Pawar’s play uses the myth of Kacha and Devayani to interrogate the caste system in general and the Mandal commission developments in particular. Pradnya Pawar’s play ‘Dhadaant Khairalanji (2007) deals with the infamous Khairalanji massacre of Dalits. An anthology of Marathi Dalit one-act plays edited by Datta Bhagat (2013) is a useful selection of representative voices.

 

Travelogue is an extremely popular form in Marathi and no Diwali issue is complete without it. There are also special Diwali issues dedicated to travel writings. However, some of the most important travel writings to emerge towards the end of the century are by women writers. The first wave of feminism in Maharashtra saw significant travelogues of Pandita Ramabai in the late 1880s and the 1890s. There was a trickle of women’s travel writings after that. However, the   major women travel writing emerged after 1975s when there was a second wave of feminist movement. Some of the most important of the late eighties and nineties are Girija Keer’s  Tasubhar Jameen, ManbharAakash(1989) ,Mangala Dastane’s  Hasre Hong Kong, Ramyate Singapur and , Bahurangi Bangkok(1989) Ashwini Dhondge’s  Pashchim Gandha(1994), and Deshantar(1999), Shaila Kamat, Adnyaat Pradesh BhutanGopurancha Desh Tamilnadu, Pravas Kokan Railwaycha, Gadhwal Chari Dham Yatra (1997) are important women travel writers. However the most prolific and popular woman writer after the 1990s is Meena Prabhu, a medical practitioner based in London, with around a dozen travelogues. Her Mazhe London (1991) , Dakshinranga (1999), Mexico Parva (2001), Cheeni Mati (2003),Egyptayan (2005), Turknama (2006),Greekangali (2006),  Gatha Irani (2008), Rome Rajya (2009), New York, New York (2014). Significant travelogues by the Dalit writers also have emerged at the turn of the century in Marathi, including travelogues by Daya Pawar, Urmila Pawar’s Mauritius : Ek Pravas (1994) and Laxman Gaikwad’s Cheeni Matitle Diwas (1998).

 

The travel writing in the age of globalization after nineteen nineties, in the period of what sociologist Anthony Giddens terms as ‘The Runaway World’ reveals the emergence of the chronotope of globalization. The chronotope of globalization embodying the altered relation between space and time brought about by the Internet and explosive growth of technology as well as the rise of neo-liberal ideology shapes the contemporary travel writing in Marathi.  The altered meaning of travel, shifting poetics of travel in the age of YouTube, 360 degree views, corporate Tourism, digital simulated spaces for leisure, the search for more unexplored exotic destinations like Arctic and Antarctica seem to be the hall mark of contemporary travel writers. Anil Damle’s Dhruva Pradeshat (2011) talks about his six annual expeditions to the South Pole starting from 2006. Accounts of cruise voyages by Suhas Mantri, Don Dhruvavar Don Pavle, (2010), Dr. Maya Bhalerao’s Dhruva Bhramanti: Safar Antartica and Arctic chi (2010) are also popular.

In a sense, though the picture of Marathi literary scene in this very brief and not a very comprehensive overview looks exciting and energetic, there are serious concerns about its sustainability in the face of overriding forces of entertainment industry, media and new media, rampant communalism, casteism and commercialization which were launched by globalization. Questions are also raised about the actual readership where various marketing strategies for flourishing publishing books and selling books mask the realities of reading culture.

 

References:

Kurikotti, Trupti. ‘Samkaleen Marathi Kadambari: Itihas Lekhanpadhati ani Adhi Kathan’, Pune.  Khel, June 2004

Pawar, Jayant.  ‘Marathi Rangabhoomi aani Nava Natak.’ Mumbai. Khel. Jan-Mar. 2005

————— ‘ Navadottari Marathi Rangabhumicha Nava Natak’, Buldana. Atirikta. May 2012

Sapre, Avinash. ‘Marathi Kadambarichya Sandarbhaat, Parantu..’, Pune. Khel, June 2004

——————‘1980 Nantarchi Marathi Kadambari’, Pune. Khel. Diwali, 2007

Sachin Ketkar

About Sachin Ketkar

The Baroda-based Marathi writer Sachin is a bilingual writer, translator, editor and critic, and has a collection of poems in Marathi and English. Apart from translating and editing an anthology of Marathi poetry, titled Live Update, Sachin has also translated short stories and poems from Gujarati and Marathi into English. Sachin holds a doctorate in translation studies and is currently the professor of the English department at the MS University, Baroda.

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