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Habib Tanvir passes away

Tanvir, 85, passed away today morning. Known for his probing, provocative and delightful plays, Tanvir is regarded as one of the greatest stalwarts of the Indian stage.

art and culture Updated: Jun 08, 2009 20:08 IST

Habib Tanvir, often described as the ' legend of Indian theatre', passed away today morning in Bhopal, following a brief illness. He was 85.

Known for his probing, provocative and delightful plays, Tanvir is regarded as one of the greatest stalwarts of the Indian stage. A multi-faceted personality, Habib Ahmed Khan adopted the pen-name 'Tanvir' when he began writing poetry at an early age. Born on September 1, 1923 at Raipur, Tanvir completed his matriculation from Raipur and BA from 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.While in Bombay, he wrote songs for Hindi films and even acted in a few.

In 1954, he moved to New Delhi and worked with Qudsia Zaidi's Hindustani Theatre and also worked with Children's theatre and authored numerous plays. It was during this period he met actor-director, Moneeka Mishra, whom he later married.

Later in the same year, Tanvir produced his first significant play Agra Bazar.

In 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)

He founded 'Naya Theatre' in 1959 in Bhopal, along with his wife.

Habib Tanvir has written numerous plays that have been very well received. These include Agra Bazar (1954), Shatranj Ke Mohrey (1954), Mitti ki Gaadi (1958), Charandas Chor (1975), Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya (1990), just to mention a few .

Tanvir’s style of theatre was a "theatre of roots", which was marked by an utter simplicity in style, presentation and technique, yet remaining eloquent and powerfully experiential. Spontaneity and improvisation became the hallmark of the new style, where folk artists were allowed greater freedom of expression. The technique has finally evolved to an accomplished form, by the time he produced his seminal play, Charandas Chor in 1975, which immediately created a whole new idiom in modern Indian theatre, whose highlight was 'Nach' - a chorus that provided commentary through song.

During his career, Habib acted in over nine feature films, including Richard Attenborough's Gandhi(1982).

The playwright is a recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1969, Padma Shri in 1983, Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1996 and the Padma Bhushan in 2002. Tanvir was also a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1972-1978.