Theatre man : Habib Tanvir

New Delhi/Bhopal, June 8
World-renowned theatre personality Habib Tanvir (86) passed away here on Monday. He is survived by his daughter Nagina. The funeral is scheduled for Tuesday noon.

Tanvir was being treated for asthma and a range of related ailments in a Bhopal hospital for the last three weeks. His condition turned critical yesterday and he breathed his last today.

Born in Raipur (now in Chhattisgarh), Tanvir was educated in the Aligarh and Nagpur Universities. Tanvir, along with Sahir Ludhianavi, Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Balraj Sahni and Sadat Hasan Manto was a part of a galaxy of extremely talented and equally committed artistes. He helped found Indian People’s theatre (IPTA).

He produced outstanding dramas in Chhattisgarhi dialect and his “Naya Theatre” tapped the talent of ordinary people- rickshawpullers, panwallahs and small shopkeepers.

Whether it be “Mitti ki gadi”, “Charandas Chor” or “Agra bazaar”-his theatre productions almost always carried a message. Tanvir’s contemporaries and colleagues in the Capital remembered the ‘true renaissance personality’ with fond memories and sad countenance.

Moloyashree Hashmi, noted theatre actress and wife of co-founder of Jana Natya Manch (Janam) Safdar Hashmi, termed Habib Tanvir as the last of the generation of actor-manager. “Habib is a legend in the league of Prithviraj Chauhan, Shishir Bhaduri and Utpal Dutt. He was last in the generation of actor-manager. He not only acted, wrote scripts and directed plays, but also managed affairs of his Naya Theatre Company from production to paying salaries. His demise has brought an end to this kind of acting,” she said. Her association with Habib began in 1980 when he directed the play Moti Ram ka Satyagraha for Janam on the request of Safdar Hashmi.

DR Ankur, former director of the National School of Drama (NSD), recalls a play they had performed in 1970’s in Chattisgarh where protagonists Ram, Laxman and other characters from Ramayana were asked to put on heavy moustaches and beards by Habib. However, the locals with images of clean shaven gods could not digest Ram with beard and objected to it. “When the audience objected to the beard and moustache on Ram, Habib came up with a very witty answer. He told the audience that a man who had been staying in jungle for last 14 years without barber is bound to have moustaches and beard. Only now that Ram is going back to Ayodhya will they be able to shave. People were left in thralls,” said Ankur.

For Hema Singh, associate professor (acting), NSD, recalls Habib puffing pipe and she often telling him of its bad effects. Hema says Habib was never punctual. She narrates one such incident when she like always she reached the venue of practice on time while Habib was late.


One Response to “Theatre man : Habib Tanvir”

  1. What a shame! Chhattisgarh government bans both book and Play “Charandas Chor. Read following news item from Hindustan Times
    by Ejaz Kaiser,Raipur, August 01, 2009

    The Chhattisgarh government on Saturday banned a book Charandas Chor – a play written and produced by noted theatre personality late Habib Tanvir, after a controversy erupted owing to citing one of the key characters as a dacoit.

    Heeding to the protest lodged by a religious leader of Satnami Community Baldas that the book insults and defame their saintly idol Guru Ghasidas, the state government had decided to put a ban on both the book and the play based on ‘Charandas Chor’, which is revered as Habib Tanvir’s masterpiece.

    The book, published by Delhi-based Vani Publishers, narrated that Guru Ghasidas before founding Satnam panth was a dacoit. Ghasidas according to the satnam panth was born in 1756 in village Giroudhpuri Raipur district in a Dalit family and is believed to have played a significant role in elevating the social status of the oppressed and underprivileged.

    Several myths and beliefs have been built around Guru Ghasidas and the 35-lakh strong Satnamis in Chhattisgarh are now the followers of Ghasidas to whom they also attribute supernatural powers.

    Habib Tanvir too was born in Raipur in 1923 and remained highly popular. Tanvir’s adaptation to comic folk tale ‘Charandas Chor’ has been acclaimed through India as one of the outstanding contributions to New Indian Theatre.

    According to Baldas there have been repeated attempts to malign the image of Guru Ghasidas and the Satnami Samaj.

    “We have warned the state to ban the book or else be prepared to face aggressive statewide demonstrations,” said Baldas, who again conveyed the feelings of the community to the Chief Minister Raman Singh and school education minister Brijmohan Agrawal.

    The education minister took the decision to remove the objectionable part of the book and it was later decided not only to ban the book but also impose a ban on the play or drama based on it anywhere in the state.

    The state education secretary Nandkumar told Hindustan Times that the ‘controversial’ book Charandas Chor would be banned in the state from Saturday. “We will also withdraw the book from all libraries in the state,” he said.

    Interestingly, the first edition of the book was launched in 2004 and it was in the same year the Satnami community demanded not to allow the book to be released in schools or academic centres. But the state government did not take any decision then.

    “It may be launched in 2004 but the controversial book was supplied to the schools and libraries only recently. We do not wish to offend any community so have decided to withdraw it with immediate effect,” affirmed Nandkumar.

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