‘I write for theatre, but I am not out to woo a large audience’
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Mahesh Elkunchwar is acknowledged as one of India's foremost and favourite playwrights. His Marathi plays, which deal with universal themes of morality, identity and choice, have been translated into many national languages and into French, German and Russian. The 15th edition of National School of Drama's Bharat Rang Mahotsav recently opened with Elkunchwar's Atmakatha directed by Vinay Sharma with Bollywood actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda in the lead role. Through the story of an author and a researcher, Elkunchwar's play deals with the disjunct between literature and reality and the many sides of the "truth". The 73-year-old retired English professor speaks to Vivek Deshpande, in Nagpur, about how good theatre must transcend topicality to become art.
You have said art is a byproduct of life and your own experiences colour your creative work. In Maunraag, for example, you draw from your childhood experiences. What made and shaped the playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar?
My writing is a byproduct of my life. It could be different in the case of other writers, I don't know. In my case, writing was never the rasion d'etre. Living life was and is. Writing just happens. Certain experiences demand to be expressed and so I write. But it is not a career; perhaps, that's why I am not a very prolific writer. And when I say confessional, I do not mean I am writing about certain incidents or certain people picked up from my life. I try to distill the essence of certain personal experiences and translate it, thereby creating and inventing perfectly imaginary, new situations, characters and details.
Why did you choose plays and not novels or poetry?
Any writer's writing is usually a record of his emotional, intellectual and spiritual journey. It is not an effect. I chose plays because it came naturally to me. Do you know I have published two volumes of essays? These days I am more into essays than into theatre. The medium is not really a matter of choice. Your content decides whether it is going to be a play or an essay.