Habib Tanvir, one of India’s greatest dramatists, died on
Monday at the age of 85. He died of pneumonia and pulmonary
daughter Nageen was at his bedside when the end came.
theatre legend was admitted to the National Hospital here three
weeks back after he complained of breathing problems and was put on
a ventilator, family sources said.
patrician figure inseparable from his pipe, Tanvir was revered by
the people attached to Theatre world over for blending theatre, folk
and poetry in his works, leaving an indelible mark on the minds of
on September 1, 1923 at Raipur, Habib
Tanvir passed his matriculation from Laurie Municipal High School,
Raipur and completed his BA from Morris College Nagpur in 1944.
After pursuing his Masters degree for a year at Aligarh Mulsim
University, Tanvir moved to Bombay and joined All India Radio (AIR)
Bombay as a producer in 1945. A multi-faceted personality, Habib
Ahmed Khan adopted the pen-name 'Tanvir' when he began writing
poetry at an early age.
also joined the Progressive Writers' Association (PWA) and became an
integral part of Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) as an
actor. Later, when most prominent IPTA members were imprisoned for
opposing the British rule, he was asked to take over the
1955, Habib moved to England where he trained in Acting at Royal
Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) and in Direction at Bristol Old Vic
Theatre School (1956). For the next two years, he traveled through
Europe, watching various theatre activities. One of the
highlights of this period, was his eight-month stay in Berlin in
1956, during which he got to see several plays of Bertolt Brecht,
produced by Berliner Ensemble, just a few months after Brecht's
proved to a lasting influence on him, as in the coming years, he
also used local idioms in his plays, to express trans-cultural tales
and ideologies. This gave rise to a "theatre of roots", which was
marked by an utter simplicity in style, presentation and technique,
yet remaining eloquent and powerfully experiential.
deeply inspired Habib returned to India in 1958 and took directing
full-time, founded Naya Theatre in 1959 and immersed himself in
drama. His troupe would live and work in a large bungalow and for
many of the artists, Naya Theatre was a source of livelihood. ‘‘They
loved and hated each other like a family,’’ said Choiti Ghosh, a
theatre actor who spent two-and-a-half years with Naya Theatre. They
also produced some audacious theatre. For Ghosh, Tanvir’s Basant
Ritu ka Sapna is the best adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
that she has ever seen. ‘‘He has cut out the lovers,’’ she said.
‘‘And it’s all in verse.’’
Known for his plays like Agra Bazar and Charandas Chor, Tanveer
was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1969, Padma Shri in
1983, Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1996, and the Padma
Bhushan in 2002.
He also scripted
many films and acted in few of them including Richard Attenborough's
films Gandhi (1982) and Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
Tanvir was also nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha
(1972-1978). His play "Charandas Chor" got him the Fringe Firsts
Award at the Edinburgh International Drama Festival in 1982.
of Tanvir's plays have even met with controversy. In 2003, Ponga
Pandit was targeted by the Sangh Parivar for offending Hindu
sensibilities, even though it had been performed for decades. His
daughter Nageen Tanvir said, "His life was full of struggle. But I
have never seen a more determined person than him.'' Tanvir died
before completing his autobiography. Nageen admitted that she's not
sure what to do about it. "But something will have to be done,'' she
large number of people from the theatre and art world in the city
thronged Habib's residence here n Bhopal to pay their last respects
to him. Condolence messages began pouring in as the news of his
demise was made public yesterday.
Vice President Hamid Ansari termed the
demise of Habib Tanvir as irreparable loss for the Nation in general
and the Theatre Industry in particular. "Today the country and the
Theatre industry has lost one of its greatest sons. His life would
remain as a role model for the future generations", Hamid Anasri
said in his condolence message.
Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dixit who
was away in Nainitaal spoke to Tanvir's daughter on phone and
offered her condolence over the sad demise.
Director Salim Arif recalls that some of his best moments in theatre
were spent in the company of Tanvir, who was fondly known as
Habibsaab. "To me Habibsaab's greatest contribution is that he gave
the folk performer of India a belief in his art,'' he pointed out.
"He diverted (national) attention to traditional resources in
performing arts. In a way, he made it fashionable.''
Jameel Khan, a member of Naseeruddin Shah's theatre group Motley,
recalled that he didn't recognise Tanvir when he first met him at
the Prithvi cafe. "For the first time, I saw Naseerbhai sitting like
a student,'' Khan said. "I'm a great admirer. I see this guy who has
given his entire life to theatre and has given employment to actors
from tribal areas who otherwise would not get a platform to
funeral will be held here in Bhopal today on Tuesday.