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For Rani Balbir Kaur, the journey to Raipur (Chhattisgarh) was special in many ways. "First, it's the homeland of Habib Tanvir and brought back many memories of our artistic association, I received an award here and also had a chance to stage my play in front of a discerning audience," she says.
The theatre actor, director and singer received the 16th Muktibodh Rashtriya Natya Samman by IPTA Raipur recently. Previously given to Smriti Biswas, Usha Ganguli and Tripurari Sharma, the award recognised the Chandigarh-based artiste's contribution to theatre. Talking about Tanvir, she says, "It's amazing how the thespian still lives among his actors and theatre lovers. He is remembered by artistes and they live his dream and aspirations by doing theatre the way Tanvir did ó picking up themes and subjects that his plays were known for. In Raipur, it was like meeting him once again." Kaur was part of many of Tanvir's theatre workshops.
As part of the award ceremony, she sang some dramatic pieces and her group, Folk Theatre Workshop, staged the play Bhikshu Aur Ganika. Written in Sanskrit in the 7th century, the play was translated into Hindi by Nemichandra Jain and is set in a stylised form that draws from the tradition of Sanskrit drama. "We enriched the theme with live classical music, chants, rituals and dramatic delineation that celebrates our heritage of classical Indian drama," says Kaur, adding that the play argues, in a comic vein, about our true identity.
The award, reflects Kaur, is both rejuvenating and reassuring and gives her a new force to work on two solo productions, one on Kasturba and the second on Rani Jindan, the last queen of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.