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'Habib Tanvir was the symbol of energy in theatre'

June 08, 2009 20:17 IST

Legendary theatre personality Habib Tanvir passed into the ages on Monday. Stage director Jabbar Patel, who also directed films like Dr Babsaheb Ambedkar, salutes his memory.

Habib Tanvir was the pioneer of many things in theatre. He was the first person to cast villagers and tribals in his plays. He had patience to work with tribals and look out for talent in them. He also introduced folk music in his plays.

He was a very genuine person. He told stories of exploitation, corruption and helpless people. He was in theatre with an agenda. His artistes were like family to him. He stayed with them so that he could take care of them.

I first met him when he came to Pune for a theatre festival with his play Charandas Chor. I was at the festival with my play Ghashiram Kotwal. We both loved each other's work.

I have learnt a lot from him, especially how to use different device of music in plays. He never used too many items on the stage and used the human body as props in a big way. He introduced make belief theatre. He was a follower of Marxism and incorporated many of his ideas in plays.

We would often meet at Theatre Academy, Pune's festivals. He was very transparent and open-minded person. He believed in human rights. He was not happy with the way democracy was used in our country.

Though I never worked with him, I did a documentary for Film Division on Milestones in Indian Theatre where his play Charandas Chor was used. He also spoke on the definition of theatre in that documentary.

I met him last about three years ago at Mumbai's Nehru Planetarium. He had come there with five plays. One could see that he was aging and looked tired. But his energy and clarity of thought was the same. His thirst was still the same.

I am 25 years younger than me, yet he was a good friend. I will miss him. He was the symbol of energy in theatre.

As told to Patcy N