V.N. alias Bhausaheb Datar joined ‘Social
Club’ or ‘Bharat Natya Samshodhan
Mandir’ in 1904. He was a contrator by profession;
belonged to a well-to-do family and had a firm,
stubborn nature. Once Bhausaheb visited a few
art galleries in Delhi. He was astonished by the
collections of ancient paintings from the Mughal
era. He was inspired to strart a similar gallery
in Maharashtra around 1936. Being aware of Maharashtra’s
craze for theater, Bhausaheb proposed that Social
Club should start its own research wing and collection
of pictures and paintings. As research needs patience,
finances and hardwork; there was some oppositions
from some members of the Club initially. But later,
realizing the worth and importance of such research
activities; all opposition was withdrawn.
Portraits of all actors, playwrights, producers,
directors were collected. It was hoped that such
portraits would be donated by general public and
would be framed and preserved by the Club. Potraits
of all Presidents of all annual national dramatics
meets (Marathi Natya Sammelan) were also sought
and achieved. 18 Presidents during 1930 to 1935,
107 potraits of theater personalities totalled
to 180 portraits or paintings. Eminent people
started visiting the Club to watch this wonderful
collection. Their remarks and words of appreciation
are evident of the importance of the historic
collection. The Club has in its possessions photograph
albums of old drama companies. The collection
is a visual record of the history of the Marathi
stage. It now unfolds before your eyes
Bhausaheb Datar mooted the proposal that the
Club should have its own full-fledged Library.
He was greatly helped by Appa Gokhale. Madhaverao
Joshi donated his book collection to the library.
400 English plays till 1935, 300 Marathi plays
were collected for the library. Till 1970 the
collection rose to 2000 books related to the theater.
At present, the library boasts of a collection
of 6 thousand books. Many books about the technique
of the theater and referance books are also included.
Many research students get benefitted by the library.
Mr. Mohan Mulay efficiently looks after the library
which houses several rare artifacts related to
the Marathi theater.
Appa Gokhale used to collect newspaper clippings
which published news items related with the Club.
Later, the tradition was continued by Bapusaheb
Kelkar, Bhaskarrao Patwardhan and now Mohan Mulay.
Thousands of such newspaper clippings re-create
the history of the Club before your eyes.
Thirty spools of taped plays, music concerts,
folk plays, holy recitals (Kirtans), speeches
of well-known speakers offer an audio treat to
artifacts related with the t heatre
The Club has a valuable collection of information
regarding various drama companies, their activities,
performances, advertisements, souvenirs. Hundreds
of notes, cuttings, pictures, correspondence,
manuscripts, rare old advertisements of plays
literally stand testimony to the history of the
Marathi theater. This collection of records through
various means is a source of knowledge for theater
lovers and students. This has been an exceptional
and unique task of ‘Social Club’ or
‘Bharat Natya Samshodhan Mandir’.
of Marathi Theater:
The tradtion of the Marathi theater consists
of ‘Lalit, Tamasha, Gondhal, Bahurupi’s
different forms and at last, the Marathi
The tradition began when in 1843 the king of
Sangli asked Vishnudas Bhave to transform a Kannada
play ‘Seeta Swayamvar’ into Marathi
and present it on stage. Vishnudas Bhave kept
up the same profession of performing plays in
Sangli, Mumbai and Pune till 1861. The plays in
Bhave’s times and style followed a particular
pattern. They would begin with holy prayer-like
music and songs, followed by the entry of Lord
Ganapati and Goddess Saraswati, which was followed
by the play, which presented a story or a plot.
This Bhave style of plays continued for long.
They can be called musical plays as music played
a major role in the whole presentation. The main
comperer or ‘Sutradhar’
had to sing throughout the performance. Later,
Sokar Bapuji Trilokekar cut down the Comperer’s
singing and let other characters also sing. This
brought welcome and entertaining variations for
the audience. In 1879, S.B.Trilokekar produced
‘Nal Damayanti’-a prose-cum-musical
play named ‘Harishchandra’.
After the Vishnudas Bhave era,
around 1861, universities were set up in Maharashtra
and English education was being imparted in the
state and people started turning towards bookish
plays. As works of Shakespeare, Kalidasa were
being read, their performances were also staged.
Sanskrit and English plays were being transformed
into Marathi and were performed. Writers also
wrote new plays of their own in Marathi, which
enriched the Marathi theater considerably.
The drama company called Aryoddharak Natak Mandli
was mainly responsible for presenting bookish
plays. Some of them were ‘Veni Samhar’,
‘Othello’, ‘Tara’, ‘King
Lear’, etc. Shankarao excelled greatly while
playing the role of Iago in ‘Othello’.
These bookish plays brought about a lot of improvement
in costumes, settings lighting etc. Shahu Nagar
Wasi Natak Mandli was the most popular drama company,
performing bookish plays. The play ‘Tratika’,
based on Shakespeare’s, ‘Taming of
the Shrew’, was greatly humorous. Along
with, Prof.Vasudevrao.Kelkar and Shankar.Moro.Ranade’s
drama company performed bookish plays.
In the meantime, social and historical plays
also appeared on the Marathi stage. Govind.N.Madgaonkar
published his ‘Vyavaharopyogi Natiak’
(Practical theater) in 1859. ‘Thorle Madhavrao
Peshwe’ will have to be mentioned as the
first historical play, which was written by V.J.Kirtane.
Bookish plays certainly made the Marathi theater
Bharat Natya Samshodhan Mandir
has been doing pioneering work of maintaining
a very valuable and rare record of the Marathi
theater, thousands of personalities who have been
associated with it in different capacities, their
detailed documentation in the form of books, pictures,
photographs, films, tapes etc. The Club has got
a most precious collection of all these artifacts.