Brecht in Bastar
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Book: Habib Tanvir: Towards an Inclusive Theatre
Author: Anjum Katyal
Price: Rs 650
The modern history of Indian theatre has significant landmarks that have shaped its growth and expression. The hybridisation of theatre — the blending of indigenous folk traditions with Western theatre — was defined largely by the new phenomenon of urbanism and the inception of the proscenium stage in Indian cities. It is not surprising that the next stage began with new awareness that came with Independence.
Anjum Katyal's editing and juxtapositions of Habib Tanvir's writings with her linking comments vividly describe the influence of the local culture of Raipur (Chattisgarh), where he grew up in the early 1920s, on Tanvir. The somewhat "autobiographical" thread traces Tanvir's journey through the local landscape of his hometown, moving into the urban jungle that was Bombay, and ending in the erudite circles of literary pursuit with the Progressive Writers' Association.
The two worlds of the folk and the urban appear to catalyse into a synergistic energy in Tanvir's mind. His interaction with literary luminaries like Sajjad Zaheer, his involvement with Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) and the desire for social justice in an economically imbalanced society probably echoed experiences of his childhood.
IPTA brought him in contact with pioneers committed to social causes like Balraj Sahni, Mohan Sehgal, Zohra Sehgal, Dina Pathak and Sardar Jafri, amongst others. These impressions would play a seminal role in his approach to theatre and the message he would impart in his future plays. Tanvir's exposure to the somewhat romantic style of Parsi Theatre, with elaborate scenery, music and stories of valour and heroism, was another aspect of his early experience.
The book takes the reader through many journeys that formulated his individualistic style of theatre. His first major production, Agra Bazaar, in Delhi, in the '50s, was to determine the direction of his work.