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Alkazi Theatre Archives

Habib Tanvir – Towards an Inclusive Theatre

Book: Habib Tanvir – Towards an Inclusive Theatre
Written by: Anjum Katyal
Published by: Sage Publications, 2012

A playwright, director, actor, journalist and critic, Habib Tanvir’s biggest contribution lies in developing a new idiom for post-independence Indian theatre. Anjum Katyal in her book, ‘Habib Tanvir- Towards an Inclusive Theatre’ chronicles how Tanvir, by fusing folk with contemporary theatre practices in his productions, experimented with both content and form. Katyal covers different aspects of Habib Tanvir’s life – starting with his early life and work, she further charts his professional trajectory from Agra Bazaar (1954) to Gaon Ka Naam Sasural (1973)– plays from the period when he was still searching for his true form, finally culminating in Charandas Chor (1975) – which portrayed the eventual maturing of his style, and beyond, to cover his entire oeuvre.

“Most of Habib’s plays incorporate not just folk songs (or folk-style songs) but also folk dances and rituals; for example, the panthi dancers and satnami ritual in Charandas Chor or the gauri–gaura ritual. Often, as Brecht says, the purpose is quite simply to ‘help to lend variety to the entertainment’. By bringing in these sequences Habib achieves several things at once: he show- cases the richness and vitality of a folk culture that is rarely seen outside its own cultural context or by urban audiences; he adds an aesthetic dimension to the production by bringing in a different flavour and texture; and he controls the pace of the narrative by introducing these ‘breaks’ in the flow of the play. He has said, when asked why he inserts ritual in his play, that he finds it good theatre as ‘its magic is felt’. It is this instinct for the performative, for dramatic impact, that gives Habib’s theatre its inimitable appeal.” (Page 146)

Habib Tanvir