Habib Tanvir: Remembering the legendary theatre director

Habib Tanvir was one of the most renowned Indian Urdu-Hindi playwrights, a theatre director, poet and actor. He was the writer behind the hit play Charandas Chor (1975). Tanvir was known mostly for his work with Chhattisgarhi tribals, at the Naya Theatre, Bhopal.

Tanvir was born in Raipur, Chhattisgarh on September 1, 1923.

He passed his matriculation from Laurie Municipal High School, Raipur, and went on to complete his BA from Morris College, Nagpur in 1944. He further did an MA for a year at Aligarh Muslim University.

He moved to Bombay and worked as a producer for the All India Radio. He wrote songs movie Hindi and Urdu movies during his stay in Bombay. In 50s he moved to New Delhi and worked with Hindustani Theatre.

In England, he received training in acting at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and inDirection at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

Habib returned to India in 1958 and produced Mitti ki Gaadi, it became his first important production in Chhattisgarhi.

He started experimenting with “Pandavani”, a folk singing style from the region and temple rituals. This made his plays stand out amidst others.

Habib acted in over nine feature films, including Richard Attenborough’s film, Gandhi (1982).

During he career was accoladed with various top national and international awards, including the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1969. He was awarded with the Jawarharlal Nehru Fellowship in 1979, four years later he received Padma Shri – fourth highest civilian award. He was conferred with Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1996. In 2002 he was awarded the Padma Bhushan. Tanvir Habib has also been a parliamentarian, being nominated as the member of the Rajya Sabha between 1972–1978.

Tanvir passed away on 8 June 2009 at Bhopal following a three-week-long illness.

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