|Biographical detail : ||India’s noted playwright and theatre director
Eminent playwright and theatre director Habib Tanvir who drew inspiration from varied sources including classical Sanskrit and the folk theatre of India’s villages was a theatre legend in India.
He founded the ‘Naya Theatre Company’ in 1959. Tanvir mixed indigenous performance styles to create a new theatrical language. Known for his plays like ‘Agra Bazaar’ and ‘Charandas Chor’, Tanvir also scripted many films and acted in a few of them.
Habib Tanvir was born Habib Ahmed Khan at Raipur. Educated in Raipur and later at Aligarh Muslim University, he was drawn to music, poetry and theatre. In 1945, he moved to Bombay, where as a writer, actor and journalist, he became an active participant in two great intellectual movements of the time – the Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association and the progressive Writer’s Association.
Nine years later Tanvir moved to Delhi and began his independent career in theatre. He staged the noisy, cacophonic marketplace of ‘Agra Bazaar’, paying homage to the memory of the eccentric 18th century Urdu poet Nazir Akbarabadi, who wrote verse on demand for market vendors. Agra Bazaar was radical in its engagement with popular culture and use of street language.
In 1955, Tanvir started studies at Rada in London and Bristol Old Vic theatre school while travelling through Europe, watching theatre. He returned to India in 1959.
In 1975, Tanvir wrote and directed ‘Charandas Chor’, the story of a thief who is also a man of his word. His layered, humanistic vision of the “common man’ in the play won him an award at the Edinburgh festival in 1982.
Hindu revivalists disrupted Tanvir progressive agenda and his performances. But he never shied away. He also aired political and social issues such as in ‘Zahreeli Hawa’ based on the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984.
Tanvir won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1969 and Padma Shri in 1983.