Habib Tanvir (1 September 1923 – 8 June 2009) was an Indian playwright, director, poet, and actor.

Early Life

Habib Tanvir was born on 1 September 1923, in Raipur, India. He completed his matriculation from Laurie Municipal High School, Raipur and later completed his B.A. from Morris College, Nagpur in 1944. After that he studied M.A. for a year at Aligarh Muslim University.


After finishing school and college, he moved to Bombay in 1945 and became a producer for All India Radio (AIR). He even acted in a few Hindi and Urdu films while he was in Bombay. Additionally, he became an actor in Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and a member of Progressive Writer’s Association (PWA). He also worked for six months for Filmindia, a popular magazine run by Baburao Patel.

He moved to New Delhi in 1954 and worked with Qudsia Zaidi’s Hindustani Theatre. He also wrote plays for children’s theatre. He later wrote his first notable play, Agra Bazar.

He went to Europe in 1955 and absorbed the best of European theater. He watched a lot of Brecht productions in Germany. His experience in Europe made him see Indian theater in a new light.

He realized that Indian and western theater traditions differed a lot.

He and his wife Moneeka Mishra founded the Naya Theatre after they moved back to India.

Some of his renowned plays of the first few decades include Gaon ka Naam Sasural, Mor Naam Damaad, Charandas Chor, Mitti ki Gaadi, Bahadur Kalarin, Shajapur ki Shantibai, and Lala Shohratrai.

Habib Tanvir’s special, Ponga Pundit, was based on a story written by two Chhattisgarh folk artists before independence. Despite being targeted by Hindu right-wing groups in the 1990s, Habib Tanvir and Naya Theatre still put on the play.


In 2002, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award of India. In 1983, he received the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award of India.

He was also recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1969), and Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship (1979).


He died on 8 June 2009, in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,