Habib Tanvir must have passed a very contended man into the realm of god to spread the magic of folk of the present times on his stage, contend in the fact that the tradition of folk that he established in a big way in the realm of theatre has found a successful expression in the world of cinema as well. He would have also been happy that it was one of his protegees dyed in his tradition of exposition, Piyush Mishra who has done it through Anurag Kashyap's film GULAAL.
How many of us would be aware that Habib Tanvir was one of the founder members of the IPTA or the Indian People's Theatre Association, the progressive left group, formed in Mumbai in the early forties and was instrumental in giving a new idiom and direction to the medium of popular culture in the form of cinema and drama. He had a good acquaintance with Balraj Sahni, another doyen of Indian cinema, who had equal interests in drama as well; different Tanvir was from the fact that he adopted drama as a religion, while Balraj Sahni kept on balancing between cinema and drama. Another nugget about Habib Tanvir, when one is trying to trace his association with the Hindi cinema is the fact that he had shared the screen space along with Dilip Kumar in the black and white film FOOTPATH.
He was last seen in the Subhash Ghai directed film BLACK AND WHITE. A man whose voice was defining element of his persona, having a hint of unclear throat on account of his persistent smoking, would have been an asset for the world of Hindi cinema as well, had he not decided to work for the cause of theatre and more so the folk theatre involving the local people and giving an expression to the local culture.
When he had made his mark in the world of theatre he turned his gaze towards the world of Hindi cinema once again and came up with one of the finest films made for children CHARAN DAS CHOR which again had distinct underpinnings of folk influence, the only difference being that the background of Gujarat was used in this film. He had collaborated with Shyam Benegal for this film and it is high time the children of the present times who are growing on the staple diet of flicks from Hollywood be given exposure to the Indian culture through this film. Are the DVD/VCD producing companies listening?
When Nana Patekar decided to make his directorial debut through PRAHAAR he chose Habib Tanvir to play an important character role, and Sudhir Mishra also used his talents in his film YEH WOH MANZIL TO NAHIN, which was an eponymous film and would indeed have reminded Tanvir whether the efforts to promote the theatre bore the desired fruit. It is in the context of the fact that the staple diet of television programmes is slowly weaning away people from the diversified mosaic of culture that India as a country has.
May be, in his passing away some of his protégées would take the call, and carry the baton forward and expand the outreach of our diversified culture on an all India basis. It would be the fittest tribute to this giant of the Indian folk culture.