Well-known playwright, lyricist, actor, theatre director and social activist Habib Tanvir, one of the greatest protagonists of the Indian stage and the world of drama, passed away in Bhopal at the ripe age of 85 years.
He was noted for blending theatre, folk art and poetry in his works, leaving a deep impression on the minds of the audience.
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 in Raipur, Tanvir did his matriculation from Laurie Municipal High School, Raipur, and completed his B.A. from Morris College,
Nagpur, in 1944. After pursuing his Master’s for a year at Aligarh Muslim University, he moved to Bombay and joined All India Radio in Bombay as a producer in 1945.
While in Bombay, he wrote songs for Hindi films and even acted in a few. He also joined the Progressive Writers’ Association and became an integral part of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) as an actor. Later, when most prominent IPTA members were imprisoned for opposing British rule, he was asked to lead the organisation.
Habib Tanvir won the 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 to 1978. His play “Charandas Chor” which was first produced in 1975 got him the Fringe Firsts Award at the Edinburgh International Drama Festival in 1982. In 1959, he founded the Naya Theatre in Bhopal and it is set to complete 50 years this year.
In 1954, he moved to Delhi and worked with Qudsia Zaidi’s Hindustani Theatre and also worked with the Children’s Theatre and authored numerous plays.
In Tanvir’s death, India lost a great lover of theatre and a social activist who inspired the people through his punch lines in his plays.