05 August, 2021

Beyond The Fourth Wall

The great thespian internalised Brecht, adopted folk idiom as his own

Narendra Bisht
Beyond The Fourth Wall

During the last few days I have been remembering Habib Tanvir over the years, ever since we first met in 1954. It's like leafing through an old family album of faded photographs. I knew Habib through his interaction with three people in my family who at various times were important in his life. The first was my eccentric uncle Zulfiqar Bokhari who was the director of the Bombay station of All India Radio (AIR). In 1945 Habib left Aligarh without completing his Masters degree to join the Bombay film industry as an actor. Zulfiqar mamu asked him to work for AIR as a producer and actor. I don’t know whether he learnt anything about radio broadcasting while on the job, but it certainly whetted his appetite for becoming an actor. And like many who were influenced by Zulfiqar mamu, Habib adopted his style of accentuated dialogue delivery, something he was to retain throughout his life. For a while Habib copied mamu’s  "afro" hairstyle as well. The radio stint didn’t last too long because Zulfiqar mamu opted for Pakistan in 1947 and went back to his hometown,...

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