"Kanyadan" by Vijay Tendulkar - A Drama Highlights the Class-Divide

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If we talk about the modern Indian drama, the contributions of the playwrights like Mohan Rakesh in Hindi, Badal Sirkar in Bengali, Vijay Tendulkar in Marathi, and Girish Karnad in Kannad are remarkable.

Vijay Tendulkar is a prolific writer. Twenty eight long plays are to his credit. He has written several one-act plays as well as children plays. He often portrays socio-political problems in his dramas. In “Kanyadan”, he depicts the conflict between the upper-class and Dalit. He criticizes the politicians on the base that rather than removing the evil of class-distinction, they capitalize it. He presents this evil as it is. He certainly arouses some questions in our mind but he does not bother to answer them. As a creative genius, he does not take side!

As the title suggest, “Kanyadan” deals with the theme of marriage. The problem and the consequences of the marriage Vijay Tendulkar shows is self-created. Nath Devlalikar is an MLA and his wife Seva is a social worker. Jayprakash is an M. Sc. student and Jyoti is an intelligent girl. This Brahmin family belongs to the upper-class.

The play is divided into two acts. In the first scene of the first act, Jyoti informs her parents her decision to marry Arun Athavle, a Dalit youth. Seva is shocked to know it but Nath is relaxed and happy inside because he wants to remove the class-system which is his dream. He consents Jyoti to get married with Arun, whom she knew for the last two months!

Nath wants to experiment with this marriage, which is a sort of political act. In the second scene of the act one, Jyoti brings Arun, who is dark Dalit youth doing his B. A. Jyoti is very much interested in his poetry and his autobiography. Arun feels uncomfortable in “big houses” and gets nervous and finally leaves home. What Jayaprakash and Seva most is Arun’s intention to brew liquor in order to survive, if not anything remain.

In the first scene of the second act, Jyoti arrives perplexed and looking unhappy. Then Arun follows, rather drunk. He asks for Jyoti’s forgiveness as he had beaten her. Jyoti leaves with him again. At this juncture also, Nath does not want his dream to get broken before his eyes though he’s aware of the plight of his own daughter.

In the second scene of the act two, Arun’s autobiography gets published in which he is dealing with the theme of oppression and miserable condition of the poor – the lower class. But the irony is that Arun himself exploits Jyoti and lives as a parasite on her. Though Jyoti is pregnant, he makes her work at home. His ill-treatment to Jyoti is a kind of answer back from the Dalits to the upper-class.

Arun asks Nath to deliver a public speech on his autobiography but he refuses to do so. But looking at the plight of his daughter, in the final scene of the second act, Nath gives a hypocrite speech by praising Arun’s autobiography against his will. Nath wants to prevent Jyoti from further annoyance, but Jyoti does not tolerate this and she leaves home for forever. At the end, Nath, the idealist is turned into Nath the realist. He says at the end in rage that the entrance of such dalit (Arun) has polluted his home. That is how the drama ends with Jyoti’s departure never to come back at the Nath’s home.

The end of the drama leaves a question in the readers mind as to what is the future of Jyoti’s marriage? The marriage does not succeed. It is suggested that the class-divide and the conflict between the upper-class and the Dalit would continue to remain, which is very sad!

(Kanyadaan by Vijay Tendulkar, Gowri Ramnarayan (Translator); Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (August 15, 1996), Hardcover: 80 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0195638646)



Rakesh Patel (b, May 2, 1979) has a Masters degree in English literature from The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India. He has served as a part-time/visiting lecturer in English for the past three years at two different Govt. Arts & Commerce Colleges of Gujarat, India. He has been writing poems in free verse, the author of two self-published poetry books, contributing to various online poets’ community websites, and also serving as an active Platinum member for EzineArticles.com.