NEW DELHI

Monika Misra Tanvir remembered

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: The revolution in Indian theatre that was the Naya Theatre Company was possible only because of Monika Misra Tanvir, said a member of Jan Natya Manch, Sudharna Deshpande, at a remembrance ceremony held here on Saturday. Mrs. Tanvir passed away in Bhopal on May 28.

"As the wife of director Habib Tanvir her role was frequently overlooked. She might have been in the shadows, but she wore many hats. She was manager, balanced the books, found venues and did all the nitty-gritty work required for a theatre company to function,'' said Mr. Deshpande. "Mrs. Tanvir was also an inspiration and a leader for the actors,'' he added.

Famous for mixing contemporary subjects with rural actors who were encouraged to contribute to the production, Naya Theatre Company under the joint stewardship of Habib and Monika Tanvir was formed in 1958 and was based up to the late 1990s in Delhi.

During their 50-year partnership the husband-wife team was frequently the target for vitriol and violence by various groups. The latest wave in 2003-04 was inspired by their play "Ponga Pandit", a satirical take on the relationship between a Dalit sweeper and a Pandit. "They were harassed with the aim that the play would not take place,'' said Mr. Deshpande.

Director M. K. Raina noted other impediments to the couple's work. "The Tanvirs left Delhi because the city never provided them with what their company needed. There was very little support for them here,'' he said. "But that was not the only reason why they went to Bhopal. They wanted to return to where their actors and much of their inspiration came from,'' added Mr. Raina.

The duo are best remembered for their deftly crafted plays that were a mix of social satire and comedy. An example was "Charan Das Chor" which tells the story of a guru who asks a thief to give up his profession.

The "chor" instead names four alternate vices he is willing to renounce instead -- he will never eat off a gold plate, never ride an elephant, never marry a queen and never become a king.

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