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Habib Tanveer: How much does today’s generation know the legend of the theater world?

  • Alok Prakash Putul
  • From Raipur, to BBC Hindi

8 hours ago

image source, NAya Theater

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Habib Tanveer

Passing through the narrow lanes of Baijnathpara Chhotapara area of ​​Raipur city, I stopped a young man and asked – “Habib Tanveer sahib used to live here, do you know anything about him?”

The young man living in the next street, working in a multinational company, asked- “Habib bhai? What do they do?”

Pointing to the ruined house lying at the corner of the street, I say – “Used to do theatre. Not anymore. Used to live in this house.” The young man shrugs his shoulders, saying he doesn’t know anything about Habib Tanveer and gets lost in the street.

Had Habib Tanveer been alive today, he would have entered his 100th year on September 1 this year after completing 99 years.

At the beginning of this birth centenary year, one after the other events are being organized in his birth place Raipur from September 1. However, since the formation of the state, as always, there is no news of a single event in the list of the state government in the name of Habib Tanveer.


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Mohammad Yusuf

There is a madrasa on one side of the street where Habib Tanveer’s house is located. Just in front of it is the house of 74-year-old Mohammad Yusuf.

Mohammad Yusuf, retired from the Home Department, said- “When Habib sahib lived, this house was buzzing. From where people used to come. Fifty people. The rehearsals of the play used to go on throughout the day. We used to watch. From time to time. I had a meeting a year ago. At the time of my mother’s death, I kept sitting here with a chair.

I ask Mohammad Yusuf that after the death of Habib Tanveer in 2009, when did you remember him for the last time or he was mentioned in some incident. He says very clearly- “I can’t remember. Maybe never after that.”

Some people around tell that after the formation of the state, Habib Tanveer chose Bhopal instead of making his base in Raipur.

Mohammad Rameez Chishti, 13, who lives in the same street listening to our conversation, says that his father told him about Habib Saheb. Rameez says- “Habib Tanveer was a very big film star.”

There is a poem by Vinod Kumar Shukla, a well-known poet-story writer of the country honored with Sahitya Akademi- Talking about Rajdhani and Habib Tanveer/Leaving Delhi, then went to Bhopal/habitually followed them/Chhattisgarh went to Bhopal/their this Chhattisgarh/Some other province was not made / nor Raipur Rajdhani … / when Habib Tanveer / came to his home in Raipur Chhotapara for three days / then for three days / Chhattisgarh also came to Raipur.

Vinod Kumar Shukla, 86, who lives in Raipur, told the BBC- “Folk traditions have been made by popularity and by themselves. Now they will not. Time has come to feel like this. Here Habib Tanveer is a great example of this that the people of his locality. People don’t even know them. Now power and politics try to create folk traditions of their times, which will keep on changing.”

Habib Tanveer and Deepak Tiwari

image source, NAya Theater

image caption,

Habib Tanveer and Deepak Tiwari

The Raipur Gharana of Drama i.e. Habib Tanveer

Born on September 1, 1923 in Raipur, Habib Tanveer first played Prince Arthur in Shakespeare’s ‘King John’ at the Lowry School at the age of 11-12.

Father wanted Habib to go to civil service. In 1940, with this hope, his father got Habib Tanveer’s name written in Morris College, Nagpur. From there Habib went to Aligarh to study MA.

Acting had replaced his father’s dream of joining the civil service and Habib left his MA studies incomplete and went to Mumbai with his photographs. There he started working first in radio, then in film India and then for films. During this time Habib Tanveer had also joined IPTA and Progressive Writers’ Association.

In Mumbai itself, Habib Tanveer performed his first street play ‘Shantidoot Kamgar’. He also edited some newspapers and magazines during this period.

But Mumbai did not like it for a very long time and Habib Tanveer reached Delhi in 1953. Here he began teaching drama at Elizabeth Gauba’s Montessori School.

Where in 1954 he wrote the play ‘Agra Bazaar’ based on the writings of Nazir Akbarabadi. The play was staged for the first time in the Arts Department of Jamia Millia Islamia on March 14, 1954. Habib then directed the play ‘Shatranj Ke Mohra’ based on the story of Premchand.

Theater artist Anup Ranjan Pandey, who had worked with Habib Tanveer for nearly two decades, remembers Habib Tanveer’s entire journey in words: “In 1954, Habib Tanveer went to London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts to learn acting. He later studied at Bristol’s Old Learned directing at the Vic Theater School. For about eight months, he watched the plays of Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble. After returning to India, he began working closely with Begum Qudasiya Zaidi’s Hindustan Theatre.”

Anoop Ranjan Pandey says that work was going on with Begum Kudaisiya Zaidi, the Hindi translation of Shudrak’s Mrichhakatikam play ‘Mitti Ki Gaadi’, that in the summer of 1958, Habib Tanveer returned to his home in Raipur.

Habib Tanveer

image source, NAya Theater

image caption,

Habib Tanveer

Presentation of drama with folk artists

One day he came to know that in the same lorry school where he studied, Dau Ramchand Deshmukh’s ‘Chhattisgarh Dehati Kala Vikas Mandal’ is going to dance at night in the same lorry school. Ramchand Deshmukh had formed his own dance party with the artists of Ringni-Raveli Nacha Party, an organization of Lalu Ram and Mandraji Dau. Habib Tanveer kept watching Chhattisgarhi theatrical genre ‘Nacha’ throughout the night.

In the morning he invited Madanlal, Thakur Ram, Babudas, Bhulvaram and Jagmohan, who was involved in this dance troupe, to accompany Habib Tanveer to Delhi. In one such event in Rajnandgaon too, he met Lalu Ram. With these six artists, he presented ‘Mitti Ki Gaadi’ for the first time in Delhi.

In a ‘classic’ play, this intervention of ‘folk’ was appreciated, and somewhere it was called corrupting the art. Meanwhile, Habib Tanveer along with Monika Mishra said goodbye to Hindustan Theater, settled down together with each other and also built his ‘new theatre’.

Folk artists continued to join. Artists would be given monthly salary and additional amount per show. The actors working in the ‘Naya Theatre’ would return to their homes during the farming days and would arrive when called upon to prepare and perform the play.

Some 40 years later, in a conversation, Habib Tanveer told me- “I have not institutionalized ‘Naya Theatre’. It means free, open type. I don’t think you will find such an example in the whole world that if an institution Chali to Chali. First came in 1953, then came in 1958, then it has been going on continuously since 1973. Some have lasted for a year or two, some have ended within five years.

Habib Tanveer

image source, NAya Theater

image caption,

Habib Tanveer

Chhattisgarhi and Chhattisgarhi

The year Habib Tanveer mentioned in 1973 was actually the same period when Habib Tanveer did a month long dance workshop in Raipur.

Amar Singh Lahare, who played the role of a thief in Habib Tanveer’s play ‘Charandas Chor’, explains how artists from four different nacha troupes attended that workshop, along with his nacha company, and Habib Tanveer’s ‘Naya Theatre’ Completely turned into Chhattisgarhi theatre.

In this theater there was dance of Chhattisgarh, there was Gammat, there was Panthi dance, there was Raut dance, there was Pandwani and so was the folk of the whole of Chhattisgarh. In this workshop, the play ‘More Nao Son-in-Law, Gaon Ke Naam Sasural’ was prepared.

Amar Singh Lahre told in an event- “Habib sahib used to do only this much that he used to improvise an act or scene gradually. I worked with him for years. His magic was improvisation. The workshops lasted for a month in 1973. After that the drama was prepared – Peacock Nao Son-in-Law, the name of the village in-laws.”

Amar Singh Lahre says that Habib Saheb allowed the natural acting of the actors of Nacha to remain intact, also allowed to manipulate the dialogue as per the convenience in between, but he kept looking for a place for betterment in it.

Referring to a play, Amar Singh Lahere states that he had to snatch his belongings from Ranjit Kapoor in the scene of that play. In this sequence, Amar Singh Lahere, who became a punk, slipped and he fell. But without losing a moment, he disappeared behind the scenes while eating gulati. The thunderous applause of the audience told that their mistake was hidden.

The next day there was a drama show again and when Amar Singh reached behind the scenes after completing this scene without any disturbance, Habib Tanveer got angry. He asked- Why did not eat Gulati today? Amar Singh understood that now Gulati will also have to be included in that scene of this play.

In the midst of plays like Agra Bazaar, Chess Pieces, Lala Shohrat Rai, Mitti Ki Gaadi, Peacock Naam, son-in-law, Gaon Ke Naam Sasural, Habib Tanveer along with his Chhattisgarhi troupe prepared the play ‘Charandas Chor’, which gave a new definition of plays. forged. In 1982, when Habib Tanveer received the Edinburgh Fringe Award for ‘Charandas Chor’ at the Edinburgh Drama Festival, the world’s attention turned towards Habib Tanveer.

Poet and literary critic Ashok Bajpayee often points out about ‘Charandas Chor’ that the award in Edinburgh did not go to the modernity that Ibrahim Alkazi had developed. This award was not even given to the restrained modernity that Shambhu Mitra had developed. This award was given to the raw rugged modernity that Habib Tanveer to some extent had discovered, to some extent configured and to some extent developed.

Habib Tanveer and Deepak Tiwari

image source, NAya Theater

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Habib Tanveer and Deepak Tiwari in ‘Charandas Chor’

worldwide respect

Poonam Tiwari, who has worked in Habib Tanveer’s ‘Naya Theatre’ since the age of 13, is 58 years old. Her husband Deepak Tiwari also worked in Naya Theater for years.

Deepak, who played the main character for many years in plays like Charandas Chor, Lala Shohrat Rai, Mitti Ki Gaadi, Agra Bazaar, Dekhte Hai Nain, Cupid’s own spring season dream, Jin Lahore Nahi Vekhya, Bahadur Kalrin and Hirma Ki Amar Kahani Tiwari was honored with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. Deepak Tiwari died in April last year after a prolonged illness.

When Poonam Tiwari’s 30-year-old son Sooraj died in November 2019, she bid farewell to her son by singing the famous song “Chola Mati Ke Ram, Aker Ka Bharosa” from Naya Theatre. This scene became very popular on social media.

Poonam Tiwari, who lives in Rajnandgaon, says- “I remember every scene from the old days. I worked with Habib Tanveer all over the world. Our whole family kept doing theatre. We gave our performances all over the world, but financially The situation always remained bad. My mother, my elder mother, father, husband, son… all spent their lives in art. Many times there were differences with Habib sahib, we formed our separate organization – Rang Chattisa. It is about the matter that because of Habib sahib our art, Chhattisgarh got respect all over the world.

After the formation of a separate state, Habib Tanveer, along with Chhattisgarh and Chhattisgarhi, remained in Bhopal for most of the time. Till his death in 2009 after illness, he kept visiting Raipur. After his death, his daughter Nagin Tanveer and his troupe’s senior theater artist Ramchandra Singh are running ‘Naya Theatre’ from Bhopal itself.

Talking to the elders of Raipur, apart from the theatrical image of Habib Tanveer, there are many memories in their mind.

Koi Rahi, Phatpath, Gandhi, Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahi, Hero Hiralal, Prahar: The Final Attack, The Burning Season, Sardar, Mangal Pandey to Habib Tanveer, who suggested asking Armaan Taylor of Baijnathpara, the address of the street and house , remembers as an artist of films like Black and White, then as a fine poet. Some people do not forget to remind how Habib Tanveer worked as a journalist and editor.

Talking to a theater artist, he will tell how Habib Tanveer never needed a huge set except for a couple of plays like ‘Agra Bazaar’ and ‘Jin Lahore Nahi Vekhya’. Somebody complains that even after getting the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and being in the Rajya Sabha, Habib Tanveer remained entangled in his theater, even though he could have done more.

Habib Tanveer's house


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Habib Tanveer’s house

But it is a common complaint that the Government of Chhattisgarh never gave importance to Habib Tanveer, who brought Chhattisgarhi to the whole world for the first time. Not even a street in Raipur was named after Habib Tanveer. No government event is ever held in his honor.

Ashfaq, who was coming out after offering prayers in the mosque near his house, says that this house of Habib Tanveer was two-storeyed but is now slowly turning into ruins. How good it would have been that the state government would save this house in the memory of Habib Tanveer and give it the form of a memorial.

Habib is selling balloons by making a balloon sound in front of Tanveer’s closed house. A child is going slowly looking at the balloonist and a woman in a burqa is coming from the front. In the waning evening, as if the rehearsal of a play is going on and the old house is silently witness to these scenes.

Filmmaker Devendra Shukla standing together says- “We are lucky, we have seen Habib Tanveer.”

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One such movie theater in Telangana, where everyone watches the movies but women run it.

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