Indian literary and theatre heritage is one of the many things India will boast about for generations to come. History has it that we are a civilization of legendary writers and playwrights. Some date back to the pre-independence era while some emerged more recently to add to our literary laurels, either way we take immense pride in our literary legacy. However there have been some instances when writers were criticized for venturing into controversial territories. These writers continued writing non-the-less and fought the societal norms with their pen. We enlist 4 such controversial writers from the sub-continent to add a pinch of unconventional to your reading list.
Vijay Tendulkar (1928-2008)
 

Vijay Tendulkar (1928-2008)

Violence serves as the unifying theme for most of Tendulkar’s work that dealt largely with complexities of human relationships. Almost all of his plays are character-centric and portray real human emotions of desire, ambition and conflict. His work invited criticism for delving into sensitive issues of sex, illicit human relationships and power. But that didn’t deter Tendulkar from bringing to light women’s issues. He portrayed women as victimized, suffered, tortured and exploited characters in his plays to mirror our patriarchal norms, which clearly wasn’t received well. His work successfully struck a chord none-the-less.

Read: Five Plays: Kamala, Silence! the Court is in Session, Sakharam Binder, The Vultures, Encounter I by Vijay Tendulkar available at Amazon.in

Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955)
 

Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955)

Manto’s work despite of being accused of obscenity has been extremely insightful of the conservative societal norms and been instrumental in challenging them. Although his stories are replete with sexually explicit content he dares to touch upon sensitive issues of morality, lust and human needs. In his popular works like ‘Boo’ and ‘Khol Do’ he expresses the naked truth as it is and does so blatantly. “If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living is dirty. With my stories, I expose only truth”, he had said. Most of Manto’s stories were written around the time of partition and spoke of his own experiences from his time as a journalist.

Read: Bitter Fruit: The Very Best of Saadat Hasan Manto (English) available on Flipkart.in

Ismat Chughtai (1915- 1991)
 

Ismat Chughtai (1915- 1991)

One of the most controversial woman writers of the twentieth century, Chughtai uncovered female sexuality with utmost honesty. Known for her feminist stance she once said, "Purdah had already been imposed on me, but my tongue was a naked sword. No one could restrain it." In one of her most controversial works, The Quilt (Lihaf, 1942), she taps a lesbian relationship between a wealthy landlady and her servant. Sexuality occupies center stage in her work as she explores identity issues and challenges cultural, patriarchal ideologies. Chugtai has also written another explicitly feminist novels like Ziddi, Kaliyan and Chui Mui.

Read: Quilt and other Stories available on Flipkart.in

Kiran Nagarkar’s (1942)
 

Kiran Nagarkar’s (1942)

In his much talked about and heavily censored play Bedtime Story he subverts episodes from the great epic Mahabharata to make his points about discrimination. Written in Marathi in the mid 1970s, the play was attacked and banned for 17 years by fundamentalist parties. “What’s the use of keeping a tongue in your head if it doesn’t do its work when required?” he asks through the Chorus in the Bedtime Story. Nagarkar is therefore among the few contemporary, post-colonial Indian writers who’re totally unconscious while writing about sex and or about any bodily function. His writings also imply that those who look away from wrongs that don’t concern them may end up in a gas chamber of their own making.

Read: Ravan & Eddie and other works by Nagarkar on Amazon.in