Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kochi remembers a legend*

T S Preetha

First Published : 09 Jun 2009 11:18:00 PM IST

Last Updated : 09 Jun 2009 10:31:36 AM IST

KOCHI: Puffing away at his trademark pipe, Habib Tanvir would pace the room as his troupe finetuned their rehearsals.

In his baritone he would shout instructions or correct a pronunciation; he would laugh at some dialogues, frown at the lighting and sometimes hop onto the stage to sing along with the chorus.

That is the picture theatre people have of this trendsetting playwright-theatre director-actor-singer who passed away at Bhopal on Monday at the age of 86. The man who presented Shakespeare and Tagore on stage brought his plays to Kochi, talked about social theatre and taught us that threatre need not be an elite activity.

Habib Ahmed Khan ‘Tanvir’, the legend who revolutionised theatre through his signature plays, has left behind many admirers in the city including V N Venugopal, president, Kerala Fine Arts Society, and Kamakshi Balakrishnan, director, Chinmaya Vidyapeeth. They have been waiting for him to get well and surprise everyone with another play that makes a dig at modern day politics and lives.

“For him theatre was a ‘tapasya’. He was the first to identify social theatre and make it practical. His strong point was that he was sincere and his plays were transparent,” says Prof Chandradasan, director of Lokadharmi who has been closely associated with Tanvir from 2000. “More than the text, he used gestures to convey his comments.

And he never stopped experimenting with his plays,” he says.

In 2002 Tanvir came to Kochi to present his seminal play, ‘Charandas Chor’ which had created a whole new idiom in modern Indian theatre since it went on stage in 1975. His last programme in the city was an interaction with the members of ‘Mazhavillu’, the children’s theatre, in February, 2007. Tanvir watched them stage ‘Charandas Chor’, voiced his comments and sang folk songs with them.

His play ‘Ponga Pandit’ caused quite an uproar amongst Hindu fundamentalists, but Tanvir ignored their protests and kept showing it all over the country. Even when RSS supporters disrupted shows and emptied the auditoriums, he showed it for the police on duty, says Chandradasan.

‘Jisne Lahore Nahin Dekhya’ was his take on Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism while ‘Kamdeo Ka Apna Basant Ritu Ka Sapna’ was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

“His ‘Zahareeli Hawa’ was based on the Bhopal gas tragedy. ‘Raj Rakt’, based on Rabindranath Tagore’s work, was the last from his stable. Tanvir who has played many roles in plays and films founded the Naya theatre in 1959.

He was a man who walked alone. And he never minced his words, whether in real life or on stage.

*This article is published in indian express and is written by TS Preetha on habib tanvir and his links with Kochi.


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