It all began in the 1880s, when Sangeet Seeta
Swayamwar, the first Marathi play of modern
times (written and first staged by the renowned
writer Vishnudas Bhave in Sangli in 1843) was staged
in Pune. In the 20th century, Annasaheb Kirloskar's
troupe took musicals to glory. The magic of their
music mesmerised the masses.
Like everything else, theatre too had to ride the
seesaw of fortunes. The musicals ran into competition
from cinema in the '30s. The amateur theatre founded
by academics had taken roots in the city in the
form of Bharat Natyasanshodhan Mandir and Maharashtriya
Kalopasak Mandali. These associations did everything
to lay the foundations of a lasting theatre culture
- festivals, competitions, workshops et al.
Dr Shreeram Lagoo, Nana Patekar, Dr Mohan Agashe,
Mohan Gokhale, Smita Patil, Rohini Hattangady, Sonali
Kulkarni all took faltering steps towards fame and
fortune on the Pune stage. They followed in the
hallowed footsteps of the legendary Balgandharva,
who along with Pandit Deenanath Mangeshkar etched
a golden chapter of opera-styled Marathi musicals
in the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1955, the Progressive Dramatic Association was
formed by thespians like Keshavrao Date and Acharya
Atre. It was in this association that talents like
Shreeram Lagoo and writers like Venkatesh Madgulkar
were ushered in. With satirical plays like Sashtang
Namaskar, the orator and academician Acharya
Atre breathed new life into professional theatre.
Purushottam Karandak is an annual inter-collegiate
competition which is organised in the month of August
by the Maharashtriya Kalopasak Mandali. It began
way back in the 1960s, thereby setting standards
for amateur theatre. And from Purushottam Karandak
emerged actors like Satish Alekar and Dr Jabbar
Patel, who acquired international acclaim for their
brilliant performances in the famous 'Ghashiram
Kotwal', a play written by writer Vijay Tendulkar.
Not to forget the famous heart-throb Sonali Kulkarni
who made her first appearance as an actress here.
Almost all colleges participate in the event. Participants
start practising their parts from the month of June
in order to do their best in representing their
college in the competition and striving to take
the 'Karandak' or cup home. There is a lot of hustle-bustle
seen on the college campus venue during this period.