The Roots of Reform: Understanding the Form, Content, and Meaning in Habib Tanvir’s ‘Charandas Chor’ (1975)


The post-independence canon of Indian theatre is a manifestation of the socio-cultural turbulence that marks a paradigmatic shift in the reformist agendas of the playwrights. Some playwrights used the method of proscenium plays, while others relied on street or folk theatre to make reformist appeals. Habib Tanvir is one reformist playwright of the period whose works lie at the intersection of proscenium and rural/folk theatre. Tanvir’s plays are considered milestones in the amalgamation of Indian folk theatre arts and the contemporary perspective of the world. Scholars such as Katheryn Hansen and Javed Mallick have credited Tanvir for bringing together the rural and urban paradigms of theatre arts and propagating a form that was of, for, and by the people. The present paper expands this proposition and studies Tanvir’s Charandas Chor for its distinct representation of rural folk tales in an urban theatrical model. By studying Tanvir’s texts closely, the paper examines the form, content, and meaning of the play analogously through Richard Scechner’s lenses of drama, theatre, and performance. The paper also explores the trenchant reformist agendas that, in a ‘carnivalesque reversal,’ challenge the affiliation of qualities and etiquettes in a hierarchical social arrangement through Henri Bergson’s idea of inversion. The paper establishes that Tanvir’s theatre’s uniqueness lies in harnessing the intersectional dimensions of rural and urban theatrical models, which he uses to express plebian issues represented through the vibrant performative elements of folk theatre and the urban techniques of theatre.

Author Information
Manivendra Kumar, Indian Institute of Technology Indore, India
Ananya Ghoshal, Indian Institute of Technology, India

Paper Information
Conference: IICAH2024
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

This paper is part of the IICAH2024 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Kumar M., & Ghoshal A. (2024) The Roots of Reform: Understanding the Form, Content, and Meaning in Habib Tanvir’s ‘Charandas Chor’ (1975) ISSN: 2432-4604 – The IAFOR International Conference on Arts & Humanities – Hawaii 2024 Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon