Sixty years of theatre person Habib Tanvir’s career were celebrated on his 85th birthday by Sahmat, the non-governmental organisation founded in 1989 after the murder of activist-playwright Safdar Hashmi.
At an informal function at New Delhi’s Constitution Club on Tuesday afternoon, Tanvir’s fellow theatre persons like Zohra Sehgal, M.K. Raina, Sudhanva Deshpande, Ramgopal Bajaj and many others, gathered to heap encomiums on Tanvir.
Tanvir is the author of benchmark plays like Agra Bazaar and Charandas Chor, besides adapting the plays of writers as far apart as Shudraka, the ancient Sanskrit writer of the play Mrichhakatika, The LittleClay Cart and 20th century German playwright Bertolt Brecht.
Having grown up in Raipur, Chattisgarh, Tanvir married theatre person Moneeka Mishra and set up his own company Naya Theatre, with her in 1959 at Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. He worked with folk artists in the Chattisgarhi dialect of Hindi, raising it to cult status.
Tanvir’s play Ponga Pandit, performed since the 1960s, critiquing religious hypocrisy, drew violent protests from the RSS in the distressed political climate after the destruction of the Babri Masjid in December 1992.
It was to have been performed on Tuesday but was finally cancelled by the organisers, given the presence of many senior citizens.
“I swear by jabillat (instinct) that takes over a person’s creative process, be it in MF Husain’s paintings or my plays,” said Tanvir.
He added: “Globalisation is a boa constrictor that swallows small local traditions. But if something is dynamic, it survives, and that's the secret of Indian culture.”