Remembering the classic, Tanvir

Remembering the classic, Tanvir

Fans of the legendary playwright can look forward to the screening of Habib Tanvir's biographical documentary film Gaon Ka Naon Theatre, Mor Naon Habib (My Village is Theatre, My Name is Habib). Directed by Sanjay Maharishi and Sudhanva Deshpande, the premier film on playwright’s life, revolves around his life in his theatre group, Naya Theatre.

Made in 2005, the film explores the actor’s life in Naya Theatre when the actor toured one city after another. It thus takes the viewer on a journey to those villages where the actors belong.

The film also documents the incident when Habib and the actors of Naya Theatre were attacked by the Hindu Right in August-September 2003 for performing the anti-untouchability farce Ponga Pandit.

Besides that, it also records the making of the play Zahareeli Hawa, which is Tanvir’s translation of Rahul Varma’s English play Bhopal on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984. The film overall, sketches a portrait of all the prominent actors of the theatre group including Habib's wife Moneeka Tanveer and daughter Nageen.

While Sanjay Maharishi is an independent filmmaker, Sudhanva Deshpande is an actor, director, playwright, and member of the Delhi-based group, Jana Natya Manch.

Sudhanva Deshpande was closely associated with Habib since he met the latter in 1988. He recollects that the film came into existence through “private funding and help from friends.”

It took a period of two years and was a wonderful experience for both of them. They travelled immensely across the country and trotted many villages in Rajasthan and Chattisgarh to shoot the movie. Since its release, the film has been screened in various parts of the country as well as abroad. 

Habib passed away in June 2009 after ruling over the hearts of art lovers for five decades. He worked in radio and wrote poems but was devoted to theatre throughout his life span.

Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), London Habib was influenced by famous British playwright Bertolt Brecht. But after coming back to India, he thrived to unlearn most of what he had learnt in Britain since the demands of the Indian theatre were different from that of the British Theatre.

He found his stage actors from the rural masses and is mostly known for his work with Chhattisgarhi tribals, at the Naya Theatre and for including indigenous forms such as nacha, which created a new theatrical language and milestones such as Charandas Chor, Gaon ka Naam Sasural, Mor Naam Damad and Kamdeo ka Apna Basant Ritu ka Sapna.

The film is indeed what Naya Theatre is about. The film explores how the actors criss-crossed the country by road and rail, living out of suitcases and trunks, singing, dancing, performing and that was what Tanvir's life was all about.

The 73-minute screening is a part of a series of film screenings that are held at Mayday Cafe and Studio Safdar every month. Presented by the Magic Lantern Foundation, this documentary is scheduled to be held on June 14 at Studio Safdar, Shadipur.

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