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JYOTSNA BHOLE (1914-2001)

Jyotsna Bhole was an actor and singer in early Marathi theatre and the wife of the music director Keshavrao Waman Bhole. She was born Durga Kelekar in 1914 in Goa and trained as a Hindustani classical vocalist. She debuted on stage as a classical singer at the age of 13. When her husband co-founded the theatre company Natyamanwantar in 1933, she acted in many of their productions, thus becoming one of the first female stage actors from the middle class to be seen on stage. Natyamanwantar was a highly intellectual group that had studied European modernist theatre in great detail and wished to reproduce it on the Marathi stage.

They were heavily influenced by Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw and Konstantin Stanislavski. Later on Leela Chitnis (q.v.) also acted with this company.

Jyotsna played the heroine in their inaugural production Andhalyanchishala (School for the Blind) in 1933. Natyamanwantar closed down in 1935 after a glittering but short career, and she then joined M. G. Rangnekar’s Natyaniketan in 1941 and played the lead character in his Kulavadhu (Wife of the House) in 1942, a play heavily influenced by A Doll’s House. She became one of the most respected singer-actresses in Marathi theatre, retiring in the 1960s. She also wrote a few plays and an autobiography.

She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowship in 1977, the Vishnudas Bhave trophy in 1980 and the Lata Mangeshkar award from Maharashtra in 1995 and Goa in 1999. She was also president of the Akhil Bharatiya Natya Sammelan in 1984.
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