For over four decades, Shanta Gokhale has entertained, informed and challenged us with her insightful, witty and forthright writing in both English and Marathi. With rare objectivity and consistency, Gokhale has tried to decode our unique social etiquette while subtly exposing our hypocrisies, and celebrated tradition-defying women while forcefully criticizing the patriarchal and misogynistic structures of society. Her essays on theatre not only illustrate its evolution in India, but also provide arresting portraits of theatre personalities such as Satyadev Dubey, Vijay Tendulkar and Veenapani Chawla. And her detailed yet accessible articles on Indian classical music are a delight to read.
In her short stories, she shapeshifts effortlessly from old men to teenage boys and college students. And finally, her two takes on Shakespeare show us how the Bard’s ideas continue to remain relevant and, more importantly, how little attention he paid to his women characters.
Candid, intense and often humorous, The Engaged Observer is also an invaluable record of the social, political and cultural changes that have taken place in Bombay, Mumbai and beyond.