DEKH RAHE HAIN NAYAN: Celebrating the Birth Centenary of Habib Tanvir

Curated by M.K. Raina and Tausif Rahman

Research and Documentation by Anjum Katyal

30th August - 1st September 2024   
KCC 4th floor & Amphitheatre   

On the 100th birth anniversary of one of the most influential playwrights and poets of post-independent India, Habib Tanvir, KCC is thrilled to present "Dekh Rahe Hain Nayan" – a three-day festival celebrating his life, work, and immense contributions to Indian theatre, literature, and art. This is the first major initiative to take serious note of Tanvir's ouevre, designed to include a diverse range of events including an exhibition, workshops, masterclasses, panel discussions, film screenings, dramatic readings, dastangoi, musical and theatrical performances, and other cultural events showcasing Habib Tanvir's work and his profound impact on Indian theatre and art.  

Renowned theatre professionals, well-versed in Tanvir’s work, will conduct workshops and masterclasses, offering aspiring playwrights and actors unique learning opportunities, while panel discussions by eminent theatre scholars and experts will delve deeply into Tanvir’s philosophy, his relevance in the contemporary scenario, and examine his enduring legacy. Join us in making this historical tribute to Tanvir a truly one-of-a-kind celebration!
Concept Note
It is a universal tradition to celebrate and honour the achievements of eminent individuals who have contributed to society, particularly if it is his or her centenary.  

Habib Tanvir deserves to be so honoured and celebrated, because of his unique position in developing a truly indigenous post independent contemporary theatre in India. After the nation attained freedom it was essential to decolonize India from the weight of western ideas of culture. Habib Tanvir was unique in realizing that the new cultural landscape of a free India would come from the seeds of the indigenous resources that had survived over centuries and were preserved in the rural world of India, although many of them were rapidly growing extinct due to changing socioeconomic conditions.

He went deep into studying available indigenous cultural forms, learning, conserving, reviving and celebrating them by sharing them with the people. For years he worked with regional folk theatre performers and studied their methodologies of training in acting, music, and rituals. Through this study he discovered the richness and versatility of the indigenous Indian actor, who acts, dances, sings, plays instruments: in short, a multi-skilled actor. This definition of the Indian actor was also described in the ancient Natya Sashtra. While working with them he developed them into fully contemporary actors who could take up any theatrical text of the world and perform it with ease, be it Sanskrit, Greek, Russian or German. Meanwhile he was also creating a new theatrical form which had local texture, rhythm and colour.

As a playwright he wrote masterpieces like Agra Bazaar, Charandas Chor, Dekh Rahe Hain Nayan, Hirma Ki Kahani and many more. Because of their difference of form, content and structure these distinguished him as a playwright from the playwriting that was happening during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. He employed classical and folk formats to structure his stories, weaving into them the most contemporary social and political themes, often through entertaining and fun filled satire.

He was also a music expert and a poet. His poetry, while employing simple images and metaphors, digs deep into the psyche of the human condition in the contemporary Indian situation. He showed new ways of incorporating live music into theatre. The political dimension of his plays and performances explores the principle of the sacred through hard hitting irony while maintaining the fundamental humanity of his characters. The element of the sacred in his work is spiritual rather than religious,based on the dialectic of the material truths of the physical world.

He dedicated his life to working with the tribal performers of Chhattisgarh, where he grew up, and where he witnessed rural cultural life in all its colour and virtuosity. It is from here, with the Chhattisgarh Nacha performances, that he built his campaign of developing post-independent India’s new theatre, naming his troupe Naya Theatre, with its roots firmly grounded in the heat and dust of Chhattisgarh. Naya Theatre started touring for pan Indian performances and soon got invited to perform widely internationally.  

Habib Tanvir took a theatre rooted in the world of indigenous spaces, with colour, singing, ritual and dance, and made it relevant to the national and the global stage as well. This is a unique contribution to the discourse of modernity in Indian art and culture: how to render the local, indigenous and the traditional simultaneously contemporary and global, in a fundamental way, without merely exploiting the exotic or colourful elements as decorative, illustrative or mere spectacle.

Habib Tanvir is no longer with us, but it is important to take a look at his life and work and to celebrate, honour and truly value his contribution to the world of theatre. This will be the first major initiative to take serious note of his service to the nation through multiple sessions including talks, demonstrations, panel discussions, films, an exhibition and performances. This will be a truly historical tribute to one of India’s most original and popular theatre persons in his centenary year.

About the Curator: M.K. Raina  
M.K. Raina is a veteran theatre actor, director, filmmaker, and cultural activist. With a career spanning several decades, he has developed over 150 theatrical performances in different Indian languages and folk forms. He has also made documentary films and acted in several renowned television serials and feature films. He has been a visiting director at the National School of Drama, Delhi, FTII, Pune, Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal and the University of Hawaii, among others. He has worked closely with urban and rural communities, conducting theatre workshops and performing street plays. As an actor, he has worked in over a hundred plays. He has directed several memorable productions like Kabira Khada Bazar Mein, Karmawali, Pari Kukh, Kabhi Na Chooden Khet and The Mother, Bhanbhatt Ki Atmakatha, Godan, among others. His production encompasses the works of Sanskrit classic plays, folk theatre and classic international playwrights like Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekov, Lorca, Brecht. Andha Yug, which he directed, was performed in Berlin and the Festival of India in the USSR.   

Raina received the Sanskriti Samman in 1980, the Sahitya Kala Parishad Award in 1981, Best Director of the year by West Bengal Government 1982, and the Best Director's award of Punjabi Akademi, Delhi in 1987. He was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1995 and the Swarna Padak from the Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir in 1996 for his contribution to Indian Theatre. He was also awarded one of India's highest theatre awards, the B. V. Karanth award for lifetime achievement in 2007. The Delhi Government awarded him the Hindi Akademi Shikhar Samman in 2018.  

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Series of Masterclasses on Acting & Direction

On the 100th birth anniversary of one of the most influential playwrights and poets of post-independent India, Habib Tanvir, KCC is thrilled to present "Dekh Rahe Hain Nayan" – a three-day festival celebrating his life, work, and immense contributions to Indian theatre, literature, and art. Curated by Mr. MK Raina, this festival will take place from August 30th to September 1st, 2024.

This celebratory festival includes a series of Masterclasses on Acting & Directing by the finest facilitators in India. The Masterclasses are as follows:

1.Masterclass on Directing Folk Theatre | Facilitator: Danish Husain | 30th August | Time: 10am – 12:30pm
2.Masterclass on Acting | Facilitator: Ratna Pathak Shah | 31st August | Time: 10am – 12pm
3.Masterclass on Acting | Facilitator: Naseeruddin Shah | 31st August | Time: 1:30pm – 3:30pm
4.Masterclass on Acting | Facilitator: Raghuvir Yadav | 1st September | Time: 10am – 12:30pm
5.Masterclass on Directing Folk Theatre | Facilitator: MK Raina | 1st September | Time: 1:30pm – 3:30pm

How to Apply

  • Applicants need to submit a Google Drive link containing their updated CV, a short showreel, and a valid official ID, and share the Google Drive link with ‘access to all’. Paste the Google Drive link in the Razorpay column.
  • The application fee for the CV submission is INR 100 per application.
  • Rename the file names as: Applicant’s Name_DRHN
  • An eminent jury will shortlist the CVs and select applicants for an in-person interview session.
  • After the interview selection, the final selected applicants must pay a consolidated fee of INR 9500 to enroll in all the Masterclasses.
  • Student Fee INR 7500

  • Any Indian citizen can apply.
  • Applicants must be between the ages of 21 to 40 years.
Important Dates

  • Application Deadline: 4th August 2024
  • First Shortlist Announcement: 8th August 2024
  • Second Shortlist Announcement: 9th August 2024
  • Final In-Person Selection: 10th August 2024
Register Now