Ministry of Human Resource Development02-March, 2006 12:39 IST
Mahasweta Devi and Habib Tanvir appointed as National Research Professors
Government has appointed Ms. Mahasweta Devi, an eminent author and Shri Habib Tanvir, a well-known theatre personality as National Research Professors in recognition of their unique contributions to the fields of literature and theatre, respectively. The scheme was instituted in 1949 to honor distinguished academics and scholars in recognition of their valuable contribution to knowledge. Persons of real eminence who have attained the age of 65 years and who have made outstanding contribution in their respective fields and are still capable of further productive research are considered for appointment as National Research Professors. Their appointment has been made on the recommendation of the Committee comprising the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Human Resource Development, Finance and Home.

In the past various eminent persons such as Sir C.V. Raman, Dr. S.N. Bose, Shri Satyajit Ray, Ustad Bismillah Khan and Pandit Ravi Shankar have been appointed as National Research Professors. Recently, Prof. M.S. Valiathan, a renowned Cardiac Surgeon has been appointed as National Research Professors.

Ms. Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in the city of Dacca in East Bengal (Modern day Bangladesh). After participation, her facility moved to West Bengal in India. Born into a literary family, she was also influenced by her early association with Gananatya, a group who attempted to bring social and political theatre to rural villages in Bengal in the 1930’s and 1940’s. 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 forty years, Devi has published twenty 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). She was influenced by the Naxalite movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In urban centers, this movement attracted participation from student groups. Devi’s Hajar Churashir Ma (Mother of 1084) is the story of a upper middle class woman whose world is forever changed when her son is killed for his Naxalite beliefs. One of the major themes of works of Mahasweta Devi involves position of tribal communities within India. 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.

Shri 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 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. Shri 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. Shri Tanvir and his wife Moneeka Misra (herself a theatre person) 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, poet, and action, 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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