Matter of honour

Mahasweta Devi
Mahasweta Devi
Habib Tanvir
Habib Tanvir

Eminent author Mahasweta Devi and well-known theatre personality Habib Tanvir were appointed as National Research Professors in recognition of their unique contributions to the fields of literature and theatre, respectively.

After finishing a Master’s degree in English literature from Calcutta University, Devi began working as a teacher and journalist. She started writing from an early age for various literary magazines.

Her first book, Jhansir Rani (The Queen of Jhansi), was published in 1956. In the last 40 years, Devi has published 20 collections of short stories and close to a hundred novels, primarily in her native language of Bengali. She has authored books like Amrita Sanchay (1964) and Andhamalik (1967).

Mahasweta Devi was also influenced by the Naxalite movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In urban centres, this movement attracted participation from student groups.

She is a long-time champion for political, social and economic advancement of these communities. These influences can be been in her work such as Aranyer Adhikar (Rights of the Forest), Nairhit Megh (Clouds in the South Western Sky).

She has also been a regular contributor to several literary magazines such as Bortika, a journal dedicated to the cause of oppressed communities within India.

In 1984, she retired from her job as an English lecturer at Calcutta University to concentrate on her writing.

In the last decade, Devi has been the recipient of several literacy prizes. She was awarded the Jnanpith, India’s highest literary award in 1995. In the following year, she was one of the recipients of the Magasasay award, considered to be the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Habib Tanvir was born and brought up in Raipur in Chhattisgarh. After graduating from Morris College, Nagpur in 1945, he moved to Mumbai to pursue a career in cinema. There he joined Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and Progressive Writer’s Association (PWA).

Tanvir had tried his skills in various forms of arts viz. Cinema, theatre and poetry. He did a variety of things to support himself including working for the radio.

Tanvir shifted to Delhi in 1954 and went to England in 1955 to study at the Old Vic Theatre School, then returned to India to direct. His first significant play Agra Bazar, is an expression of his twin interest in poetry and music.

His famous productions are Mitti Ki Gadi, Charandas Chor. In later years he directed plays for Jan Natya Manch in 1988.

Persons of real eminence who have attained the age of 65 years and who have made an outstanding contribution in their respective fields and are still capable of further productive research are considered for appointment as National Research Professors.