I spent last two evenings with the `main stream' Marathi literature, thanks to the annual literary programme of the Baroda Marathi Vangmai Parishad. On Friday, we were offered what the organizers felt was ` Marathi Love Poetry'. Well, the Maharashtrians dont really have a reputation as lovers. I cant think of Marathi counterparts to Sohni Mahival, Heer Ranjha, Dhola Maru , Devdas Paro or Romeo and Juliet and other romantic pin ups. Bajirao Mastani is not exactly a love story. Mastani was Bajirao's kept rather than a lover. Keeps and mistresses are common; love is rather rare in Maharashtra (as anywhere else probably). Predictably, most of the traditional love poetry in Marathi is mildly sentimental erotica consisting of the hackneyed nature imagery and lyricism. The famous love poetry in Marathi is made famous due to brilliant musical compositions and heavenly voices of the singers rather than the geniuses of the poets. There is neither imagination, nor passion in most of the `love poetry' that is sold across the counter here. Don’t expect to find Octavio Paz or Pablo Neruda or Lorca or Donne. Don’t even expect to find Kabir or Meera. Marathi manus is basically quarrelsome and bickering and brawling is what comes natural to him. Egoism and love are rather incompatible bedfellows. Women poets who write love poetry. Please don’t even mention them. Sentimentality minus lust takes away even the least interesting thing in love poetry. Why did I go there? Simply out of curiosity, because I find the term `Marathi love poetry’ something of an oxymoron.
Interestingly young Marathi people were absent. Not because they find traditional Marathi poetry boring, as some of us would like to believe, but simply because they are not interested in poetry, literature, or things like that. Marathi youngsters in Baroda are irresponsible because they have left something like poetry in the hands of old. Maharashtrians in Baroda are Marathi merely because of historical reasons now. Many Marathi youth in Baroda prefer not to use Marathi out of shame, and in case they do, well they do have reasons for being ashamed. Marathi in Baroda is a dialect of Gujarati rather than being a dialect of Marathi.
The programme on Saturday, yesterday that is, was Ms Mangala Khadilkar's logorreal cultural gossip about the so-called greats. The pretty woman talked non-stop for two hours without a break. She is a famous media person who is reputed as an anchor and reporter. She shamelessly (well, she was paid for it and that is what the audience wanted) dropped all the famous names she had encountered and talked about how an anchor is peripheral to fame and how a good anchor should not mistake the closeness to the celebrities as a real intimacy and that sort of things. I was interested because her Marathi was good and the chances of hearing good Marathi are rather rare in Baroda.
Today, we have the noted actor Sharad Ponkshe who played Nathuram Godse in ` Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoi’. That will be interesting because, it is Nathuram, rather than Gandhi , who is hot in Gujarat. He is the sinner whom people identify with rather easily. Gandhi is a saint and saints are not meant to be identified with. I look at Gandhi’s attempt to identify with the ` common man’ and `the lowest among the low’ rather suspiciously. I think it was a strategy on the part of the Mahatma to promote himself circuitously as a saint. The` common man’, if such an animal really exists, would be more interested in Nathuram today I suppose.
What is really fascinating about the `popular literature’ and culture is its allergy for intelligence. You can’t be intelligent in your work and be popular in India. If you are really intelligent, like Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bacchan, you have to intelligently keep intelligence out of your work.