Habib Ahmad Khan Or Habib Tanvir was born on 1st September 1923 at Aa village near, Raipur, Chattisgrah.His immediate family was town based some of his uncles were land owners and he got chance to visit countryside often.As a child he too had several opportunities to visit villages where he listened to music and songs of local people Here he developed passion to later become a trend setter.
He passed matric from Laurie municipal school, Raipur and obtained bachelor’s degree from Maurice college Nagpur (1944).for Post graduation He moved to city Aligarh and took admission in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). As a post graduate student at Aligarh ,Habib developed interest for writing. He started with “poetry” under pen name “Tanvir”.
He later moved to Bombay(Mumbai) to join All India radio (AIR) Indian people’s theater association (IPTA) and Progressive writers association (PWA).To pursue his his theatrical interest Habib Sb shifted base to Delhi.He joined Qudsia zaidi’s Hindustani theater group.Habib tanvir’s creativity scaled new heights.
Delhi : At Delhi where Habib tanvir began his carrier,the theatrical scene was dominated by Collegiate drama groups and amateur artists.They were offering plays in English and vernacular translation only with great sign of of European influence. They derived their concept of of theater, acting standards, staging and others from European models of later 19th and 20th century.
Earlier to “Agra bazaar”there was little effort to link theater work to native Traditions of performance with immediate value to INDIAN audience.Agra Bazaar, first major play of its kind broke the mold and offered a truly native experience.
Agra Bazaar- based on the works and times of 18th century poet Nazir akbarabadi ,Habib tanvir’s twin interest in poetry and music found its major expression on stage with Agra bazaar.a play based on life and times of 18th century poet Nazir Akbarabadi.Tanvir in his highly expressive and interesting artistic strategy put “Agra bazaar” in an entertaining plot.Actor director poetry and music interests found expression with the play.
Royal academy of dramatic arts-Soon after this production, Tanvir went to England where he spent over three years studying theater at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and Bristol Old Vic Theater School. He also traveled extensively through Europe, watching theater. He spent about eight months in Berlin in 1956 and saw several recent productions by great Bertolt Brecht.
Call of nation- Habib Tanvir was convinced that no truly worthwhile theater production is no socially meaningful and artistically entertaining unless theater was possible unless one worked within one’s own cultural traditions and context.
Tanvir began his long exploration for an Indian performance idiom and conceived a traditional Chattisgarhi Art forms and techniques. He called on folk artists of his region to give way to traditional forms in ‘Mitti ki gadi’ Mitti ki gadi included six folk artists, thereby giving the play a distinctively Indian look.
Mitti Ki gadi:considered by many as one of the best modern renderings of shudraksha’s Mrichkatikam.Mitti Ki Gadi convinced Tanvir that the style and techniques of the Sanskrit playwrights can be accessed through Folk traditions.Mitti Ki gadi and Visakhdutta-Mudraksha are practical demonstrations of the fact.
Quest for best: While working with Folk actors,Habib tanvir was not fully satisfied about output.While searching for the best appropiate result explored faults in his approach with traditional artists.He concluded one itis not correct to fix performance rather in advance.second it is also not good to make folk actors speak Hindi/Hindustani.
Succeeding in search Habib tanvir initiated the method of ‘Improvisations’ and allowed folk actors to speak in their native Chattisgarhi dialect.For the best, He allowed them to do their own traditional pieces in their own way. ‘Gaon ka naam sasural mor naam damaad’ a great success not only in Chattisgarh but also Delhi.The play turned out be a significant turning point in the visionary’s carrier graph.By the time of ‘Charandas chor’(1975) the Habib tanvir theater in its form and style had reached its perfection.
Folk as vehicle: Habib Tanvir’s fascination with the ‘folk’ is not motivated by restoration or an old-fashioned impulse. It is based, instead, on familiarity the tremendous creative possibilities and artistic energies inherent in traditional forms.His theater does not belong within any one form/tradition in its completeness.He insisted for Folk performers who brought their own forms and styles with them.Habib tanvir production involve cast of actors capable of singing and dancing.habib tanvir project from the beginning has been to harness elements of folk as vehicle to produce theater with a touch of soil.
Fusion Vision: Tanvir was the First to meld the Chhattisgarhi, Pandavni and Nacha folk dance song forms of his Region in his Theater, bringing Urban and rural actors in one single production,explored content from Sanskrit drama, Shakespeare to tribal folk themes and contemporary European satire.
HabibTanvir’s urban, modern reflections and the folk styles and traditional folk forms is perhaps best illustrated by the songs in his plays such as Kamdeo Ka Apna, Basant Ritu Ka Sapna(A Midsummer’s Night Dream)and “Shaajapur ki Shantibai” (The Good Woman of Szechwan)could not be possible without this interaction.
The native folk touch in compositions provide an original and authentic freshness to habib tanvir poetry.One of the notable citations of this kind of interaction is ‘Dekh Rahe Hain Nain’ an adaptation to Stephen Zweig’s story,the play is about a warrior exponent embarked by moral dilemma .
Habib tanvir has went beyond and invented fresh characters,events,situations,dimensions.
Habib tanvir theater offered a harmony of tradition and modernity.He dealt folk creativity skillfully and at the same time let modern analytical reasoning glow.
Tanvir is quite careful not to create a hierarchy educated consciousness as over the unschooled creativity of his actors. In his work, the two usually meet , as equal partners in a collective, collaborative endeavor. Tanvir’s theater offers an incisive blend of tradition and modernity, folk creativity and skills on the one hand and modern critical consciousness on the other
Empowering people: His occasional productions outside his home production group such as Enemies (maxim Gorky-NSD) or Jisne Lahore Nai Dekhya Wo Jamyai Nai (Asghar Wajahat Sri Ram Center Repertory) are marked by the style that he developed through his work with the folk artists. Habib tanvir had special liking for poular traditions and upheld traditional art forms.there is close connection between his special liking for popular traditions and his left wing characteristic.Habib tanvir’swork has no categorical and additional hierarchy of Actors.It is to be stated here that there is no difference of Positional rankings between educated sensitivity of Visionary and unschooled talent of actors.In his execution the Two usually meet as “equal” partners in collaborative enterprise.
His participation with the left-wing cultural movement suggests his commitment to the common people and their causes. The habib tanvir content, style, production reflects a larger socialist project of empowerment to people
IPTA and PWA-Habib Tanvir’s open approach to culture was shaped by crucible of the Left-wing cultural movement particularly Indian people’s theater association (IPTA) and Progressive writers association (PWA).
Sahmat: formed in the consequence of murder of Safdar hashmi.Habib tanvir remained founder trustee and became chairman in 2003.
Naya theater- Habib Tanvir and wife Monika mishra (herself a theater personality) founded a company of their own in 1959 and called it”Naya theater”company produced number of plays including modern and Ancient classics of India and Europe.post independence country was rife with new ideas, new thoughts and writing.Indian theater was in the grip of a colonial hangover.Naya theater offered Indian audiences truly Indian experience on stage
Plays: Agra bazaar: Habib tanvir had special fondness for the language of bazaar versus the durbaar.His Agra bazaar picked a vegetable vendor who believes that if he could get a”poet” to write in praise of wares he would sell more sabzis.Originally based on the life and times of Poet ‘Nazir akbarabadi’ for the first time in Indian theater, it had mixed cast of Rural and urban actors.The play turned out to be spectacle and stressed that Literature and poetry are prerogatives of masses.
Charandas chor:The story of a thief who keeps his honor at the cost of his life by stealing, but keeping his commitment.The play explained how difficult it is to stick to truth and Thief,like most people has to survive on half truths.
Ponga pandit: Originally written by Folk aartists Sukhram and sitaram,Ponga Pundit is identified so strongly with Naya Theater and Tanvir that many assume he was the author.After the 1992 razing of Babri masjid Habib tanvir’s performances of play Were often attacked by Shiv sena,Bajrang dal,VHP,RSS and Hindu wing activists.
Book lover: Reading was Habib Tanvir way of silent-conversation.Eugene o Neil’s collected plays, Austin’s making of democratic constitution, Urdu Duniya, Arthur miller’s after the fall lie stacked in his Bhopal living room.
A Legend: – one of the pioneers of the interest in folk forms and traditions of performance, Habib tanvir’s approach to folk is is in contrast to to others in contemporary theater. In popular mind,The name of Habib Tanvir is closely associated with to the idea of Folk .considering position and identity of Folk theater forms,Habib tanvir efforts made it a known object.When he began his carrier folk had not yet become a major pre-occupation in theater practice.so folk as theatrical act can be said came into being with Habib tanvir.
His contribution to theater such as :shatranj ki mohre,Lala sohrat rai, Agra bazaar,Mitti ki gadi, Gaon ka naam sasural mor naam damaad, Charandas chor, Bahadur kalarin,Ponga pandit,Jisne lahore nahi dekhya,Kamdeo ka apna vasant ritu ka sapna, visarjan and Rajrakt are a testomonial to the greatness of Legend.
He Lived a full life, worked till his last days,followed his passion to glory and never settled for less than he could dream of .
In any culture and in any age it is rare for a person to become a Legend in his own lifetime.The 86 year stalwart of contemporary theater attained this distinction in his Lifetime.