Mahesh Dattani

Mahesh Dattani is a prominent figure in Indian theatre, renowned for his contributions as a playwright, director, and writer.

Born in Bangalore in 1958. Dattani’s academic journey encompassed history, economics, political science, and later, post-graduation in marketing and advertising management, indicating his diverse skill set and thirst for creative expression.

Initially, Dattani embarked on a career in advertising, where he honed his writing skills. However, his true calling emerged when he discovered a passion for playwriting after being inspired by works such as Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and Madhu Rye’s “Kumarni Agashi.”

From 1995 transitioning into theatre full-time, he also delved into filmmaking, directing movies like “Mango Souffle,” adapted from his own play, and “Morning Raaga.” Through his multifaceted career, Mahesh Dattani has significantly enriched Indian theatre and cinema, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural landscape.

Dattani’s work reflects on societal issues, relationships, and human complexities, often portrayed through thought-provoking narratives and compelling characters. His collaborations with esteemed directors like Arvind Gaur, Alyque Padamsee, and Lillete Dubey have further elevated his theatrical productions. Here’s a breakdown of his notable plays:

  • Where There’s a Will (1988): One of Dattani’s early works that showcases his storytelling flair.
  • Dance Like a Man (1989): This play Sheds light on the post-independence Indian society’s patriarchal and heterosexual framework. Explores the intricacies of relationships and aspirations within a family of Bharatanatyam dancers. Dance Like a Man winning the Best Picture in English at the National Panorama in 1998 underscores its excellence in storytelling and portrayal on stage.
  • Tara (1990): The play explores Tara’s life, delving into her quest for self-discovery and embracing herself on her personal journey. Known for its exploration of societal norms, gender roles, and the struggles of an Indian woman.
  • Bravely Fought the Queen (1991): A play that delves into the complexities of human behavior and relationships.
  • Final Solutions (1993): Considered one of Dattani’s significant works, this play confronts communal tensions and the repercussions of religious divides. This play notably addresses the issue of communal harmony.
  • On a Muggy Night in Mumbai (1998): It stands as one of the pioneering plays in Indian theatre to openly address homosexuality. Explores the urban milieu of Mumbai and its impact on individuals.
  • Seven Circles Round The Fire (Seven Steps around the Fire) (1998): A radio play created for BBC that likely touches on interpersonal relationships or societal aspects. In this play, Dattani tells the story of how the Hijra community faces a lot of hardship. They’re a group that doesn’t get much attention in society and faces difficulties both from nature and from how people treat them.
  • 30 Days in September (2001): Deals sensitively with the aftermath of child sexual abuse and its impact on survivors.
  • The Girl Who Touched the Stars (2007): A newer addition to his works, possibly touching on aspirations or societal barriers.
  • Where Did I Leave My Purdah (2012): Explores identity-related to cultural or societal norms.

Dattani’s body of work demonstrates his ability to tackle diverse subjects, societal issues, and human relationships with depth and insight, making him a significant figure in Indian theatre.

Sahitya Akademi Award was bestowed upon his book of plays, “Final Solutions and Other Plays”. This prestigious honor acknowledges Dattani’s literary prowess and the profound impact of his written works.

The Sahitya Kala Parishad honored several of Dattani’s productions directed by Arvind Gaur, such as “Final Solutions” (1993), “Tara” (2000), and “30 Days in September” (2007), recognizing them as the best productions of their respective years.

This acknowledgment highlights the excellence in direction and the impactful nature of Dattani’s storytelling and themes. holds the distinction of being the first English-language playwright to receive the Sahitya Akademi Award, a testament to his literary prowess.