23 June 2009

Remembering Habib Saab

In April 2004 both Habib Saab and his late wife Moneeka Misra Tanvir came down to Calcutta to see our workshop production of Crossings for which their daughter, Nageen, created the music. Their inputs and comments were invaluable in the future directions this production was to take. It is now one of Ranan's most successful and critically acclaimed presentations. Habib Saab joined us at an International Shakespeare Festival in Kerala in October 2005 (see accompanying photographs) and the first Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards in Delhi in January 2006, following the development of Crossings with as much passionate interest as he would follow one of his own productions. His appreciative remarks after watching the DVD of the final version of the piece created in December 2007 mean more to us than all other accolades put together.
Our association did not end with Crossings. Habib Saab happened to be in Calcutta for an extended period when we were conceiving and choreographing Rangeeniyan in 2005. Both Debashree and Vikram as choreographers spent several sessions with him where he painstakingly explained the lyrical poetry of Nazir Akbarabadi and Mirza Ghalib word by word, phrase by phrase, metaphor by metaphor. The ghazal by the former was originally set to music by Habib Saab himself for his landmark play, Agra Bazaar, and we were delighted that he permitted us to choreograph it as part of a separate production altogether. In fact, Rangeeniyan is christened by Habib Saab.
The memories go further. He returned to Calcutta once again to see a show of our new production Chitra in August 2007. We rehearsed at his home in Bhopal and had him among our audience when we were invited to perform at the Bharat Bhavan in September 2007. And always, always, always was he there to encourage us, question us, engage us and provoke us.
Habib Saab had once remarked:
"Ranan has done marvellous work breaking new ground constantly - changing, improving, discovering and reacting to audiences and their own impulses. No educational institutions to this day have really got a cultural aspect to them. Nobody is taught to really imagine and really explore - probing, finding new things. Ranan aspires to impart this not only to themselves, but leave a heritage to be explored further by upcoming generations."
Ranan turns six on 24 June 2009. Birthdays are a time for introspection, and this year we pledge to revisit the potential that Habib Saab saw in us and live up to it to the best of our ability.
Here's to you, Habib Saab - a friend, philosopher, guide and much more in the truest sense. We will miss you more than words or actions can ever express.