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Habib, Mahasweta Named National Research Professors

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 2 (UNI) Habib Tanvir and Mahasweta Devi were today named National Research Professors in recognition of their ''unique contributions'' to theatre and literature respectively, the Human Resource Development Ministry said.

The appointments have been made on the recommendation of a Committee comprising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Ministers of Human Resource Development, Finance and Home.

Past appointees include Sir C V Raman, Dr S N Bose, Satyajit Ray, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar and renowned Cardiac Surgeon M S Valiathan.

The scheme to honor distinguished academics and scholars in recognition of their valuable contribution to knowledge has existed since 1949.

The professorship is bestowed on individuals of real eminence who are credited with outstanding contribution in their chosen field and upon attaining the age of 65 years are still capable of further research.

Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in Dacca in East Bengal-- now Bangladesh. After partition, her family moved to West Bengal. Born into a literary family, she was influenced by her early association with Gananatya, a group which tried to bring social and political theatre to villages in Bengal in the 1930's and 1940's. She began writing for literary magazines from an early age.

After completing her Master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University, Devi began working as a teacher and journalist.

Her first book, Jhansir Rani-- The Queen of Jhansi-- was published in 1956. Over the past forty years, Devi has published twenty collections of short stories and close to a hundred novels, primarily in her native Bengali language.

Her works include Amrita Sanchay (1964) and Andhamalik (1967).

She was influenced by the Naxalite movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s and her Hajar Churashir Ma-- Mother of 1084-- described an upper middle class woman whose world is forever changed when her son is killed for his Naxalite beliefs. She has also written about the position of tribal communities within India, championing their political, social and economic advancement in such works as Aranyer Adhikar-- Rights of the Forest-- and Nairhit Megh-- Clouds in the Southwestern Sky.

She has been a regular contributor to several literary magazines such as Bortika, a journal dedicated to the cause of oppressed communities in India. She retired as an English lecturer at Calcutta university in 1984 to concentrate on writing.

Over the past decade, Devi has received several literacy prizes.

She was awarded the Jnanpith, India's highest literary award, in 1995. A year later, she won the Magasasay award.

Habib Tanvir was 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).

He tried his skills in cinema, theatre and poetry and 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, was an expression of his twin interests-- poetry and music. Tanvir and his wife Moneeka Misra, a theatre person herself, founded a company of their own in 1959 and called it Naya Theatre. The group produced a number of plays including moden and ancient classics of India and Europe.

He is also a journalist, dramatist and poet and was a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) for six years from 1972-78.

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


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