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The Mother

  • Karel Čapek’s (1890–1938) play [i]The Mother[/i] (Matka in Czech, 1938) was translated into Marathi as Ai in 1942 and subsequently staged in Bombay.
  • Theatre
  • The Mother

    Word Count: 2

  • Matka, Ai
  • 1942
  • Balmohan school hall, Dr Madhukar B Raut Marg, Dadar West, Shivaji Park, Bombay (now Mumbai).

  • Mumbai (IN)
  • Karel Čapek’s (1890–1938) play The Mother (Matka in Czech, 1938) was translated into Marathi as Ai in 1942 and subsequently staged in Bombay.

    Word Count: 21

  • The Czech writer, translator, journalist and photographer Karel Čapek (1890–1938) is considered to be one of the most important Czech writers of the twentieth century. His literary approach was within the scope of realism, drama and utopian literature. Internationally, he is mostly recognised for his science fiction that is concerned with the ethical aspects of new developments such as mass production, weapons of mass destruction and encounters with other forms of intelligence. R. U. R. – Rossums’s Universal Robots – is his famous 1920 novel about artificially produced people, after which the word ‘robot’ became connected to Čapek.

    In much of his work Čapek warns of impending catastrophes and foresees the imposition of dictatorship. In the 1930s he used his literary capacity to point to the threat posed by National Socialism and fascism. He was, however, distanced from communism.
    In India, some of his texts and plays were translated into Bengali, Marathi, and Hindi as early as 1942. Some were directly translated from Czech while others were translated from English. Matka [The Mother] –not to be confused with Maxim Gorky’s 1906 novel of the same name which was quite popular with the Indian left – was translated in Marathi by Madhav Manohar as Ai. “Ther Mother” is an anti-war drama and it is influenced by the Spanish civil war.
    According to literary and theatre critic Shanta Gokhale, it was staged in a school hall on Dr Madhukar B Raut Marg in Bombay.  Gokhale saw the play as a twelve year old girl. Gokhale also remembers that one of the leading actors of the time, Asha Bhende, played the role of the mother. “According to the information carried in the book Rangayatra [Play Procession] edited by Dr V. B. Deshpande, assisted by Mr Daji Panshikar and Ms Shubhada Shelke and published by the theatre company Natya Sampada, the play was produced by a theatre group named Kalakar (artists).” Madhav Manohar's daughter told Shanta Gokhale that she “vaguely” remembers that Čapek’s play was produced by the Indian National Theatre (Gokhale 2021), founded in Bombay by Rohit Dave in 1944 (Gokhale 2017). To this, Gokhale added that Kalakar was the name of the Marathi wing of the Indian National Theatre (Gokhale 2021).
    Unlike modernist painting, modern theatre in Bombay evolved and developed in direct connection with the audience. The commercial character of Bombay’s theatre is particularly relevant. In 1932, a company called Natyamanwantar [Age for Change] was established in Bombay with the intention to introduce modern drama fashioned on the Ibsen model of a compact three-act structure (Gokhale 2017). While this had only limited success, further plays as adaptations from Western writers were staged on less commercial circuits (Gokhale 2017). Čapek’s texts and plays were frequently read and staged in Bombay, often in connection with Czechoslovak cultural festivals in the 1950s. The fact that Čapek mentioned Bombay several times in his writings–eight times, according to Čapek specialist Hasan Zahirovic from the Society of Brother Čapek (Zahirovic 2021)–may not have been the primary concern for the Bombay audience. More likely, it was the way in which he explored fascism and freedom that stimulated interest for literary and theatre enthusiasts in postwar Bombay.

    Word Count: 520

  • Illustration by Josef Čapek from the fairytale A Long Tale about a Cat by Karel Čapek, 1931 (Čapek 1932, p. 28).
  • Ai, translated by Madhav Manohar. Preface by V S Khan[m]dekar. Associated advertisers and printers, 1942.

    Gokhale, Shanta. From an email conversation with the author. Received by Simone Wille, 19 February 2021.

    Gokhale, Shanta. “The Bombay modern in four languages”. Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 53:1-2, 162-175. DOI: 10.1080/17449855.2017.1293885
    Mědílek, Boris, editor. Bibliografie Karla Čapka. Academia, 1990.

    Zahirovic, Hasan. From an email conversation with the author. Received by Simone Wille, 17 February 2021.

    Word Count: 68

  • Simone Wille
  • Bombay
  • Simone Wille. "The Mother." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 07-09-2021.