Ghasiram Kotwal is a landmark in Marathi folk theatre. This play was first presented on Sixteenth of December 1972 by the Progressive Dramatic Association. In this play the playwright has shown the elegant blend of ancient folk tradition and modern theatrical techniques. Vijay Tendulkar marked the advent of modernism in Marathi drama. Tendulkar has dramatized power as its central theme. Nana is one of the most significant characters of this play. He has been used like a symbol of manipulative power. As far as the context and mode of dramatization is concerned in this play we can divide it in two main parts that is to say Act I and Act II. It is interesting to find that Act I has three prominent clusters as it revolves around three main concepts-
- The decadence of the Poona Brahmins
- Bavannakhani or the red light area where Ghasiram is favored by Nana and later humiliated by Gulabi, a prostitute.
- Ghasiram Salvadas rise to power which culminates in his becoming the Kotwal.
Throughout the First Act, Nana and Ghasiram acts like foil to each other. The play begins with inhuman behavior of Brahmins of Poona. Ghasiram Salvadas who was a poor Brahmin from Kanauj was the victim of Poona Brahmins. In the First Act of the play we find that Ghasiram did not belong to Poona. He was mistaken as a thief and he was beaten brutally by the insensitive law enforcers, the soldiers of Nana. This incident succumbed Ghasiram Salvadas and led the foundation of his oath of taking revenge from Brahmins of Poona, for his insult and humiliation. At that time he promised to those Brahmins that he is not going to spare them. From there he begins his plan to make their life terrible and outrageous. Vijay Tendulkar in this play has depicted the Peshwai rule of the Brahmins who enjoyed political power and cultural hegemony. The Peshwa rule symbolized the exploitative domination of the Brahmins over the rest of the community. Now, coming to the second important issue of the First Act we find Bavannakhani as the red light area or the district. Nana is introduced here for the first time. He has been depicted by the playwright as a very lusty, flamboyant and careless character. he always indulges himself in lusty dances and flirting with the prostitutes. This scene also unfolds prodigal and extravagant life of Brahmins. Mahatma Phule has described in Brahmanche Kasab that Brahmins were lusty and enjoyed power. He remarks that-
“They bathe, worship, put the chandan mark on their forehead, with a cap on their head and seat a whore on their lap.”
Even minor writers of the Nineteenth Century like Ramchandra Narayan wrote about Ghasiram that he was Nana’s Kotwal who used to procure women for Nana’s lustful ventures. Nana’s eighth wife was only fourteen years of age. It shows the patriarchal exploitation of women and girls in the Peshwa rule. Ghasiram successfully perceives the weakness of Nana. He understands that Nana is the ladder to seek his revenge from the Brahmins of Poona. This was the reason that he used his own daughter Lalita Gauri to win the favor of Nana. Here we find the true colors of Ghasiram that he can do anything to achieve his goal. He forgot al, the duties of a father and handed his daughter to a wolf (Nana). He used his daughter for the sake of his own desires. He wanted power at any cost. It ruined the life of his daughter. Her life became pathetic. Later we find Ghasiram repenting over his own action. It is actually a serious erosion of moral ethos. Here Lalita Gauri was used as a commodity. It is ironical to find that Ghasiram slips into the same tyrannical moulds of power. Once he is made the Kotwal of the city of Poona he makes the life of Brahmins terrible. His laws, regulations and punishments were beyond tolerance. He easily managed to eradicate immoral practices in the town. His consistent exploitation ultimately ended his reign of terror. It is a fact that one can tolerate only up to a certain extent. Same thing happened with Ghasiram which led his violent end.