“The New Year’s Day (1st Jan 1958) witnessed the first production of the Hindustani Theatre, the First Professional Theatre of New Delhi, capital of India. It was the Hindustani version of Kalidasa’s “Shakuntala”, most well-known classical masterpiece of India,” writes Habib Tanvir in a press note introducing the newly formed Hindustani Theatre.
After completing his theatre training in Europe, Habib saab, as he came to be called, returned to India to form, along with Begum Qudsia Zaidi, the Hindustani Theatre in 1955. Their vision of a “professional theatre”, though progressive for the times, was also incredibly ambitious. Most actors were either from the college theatre circuit, or from other amateur groups, or were complete newcomers.
Seeing how problematic it was to bring the “professional” into theatre, Habib saab took it upon himself to instill some “discipline” in the actors in the hope that they would imbibe an etiquette befitting a “professional theatre company”.
Below is a notice that he circulated to the members of the Hindustani Theatre in December 1958. Dry and detailed, the notice seems to suggest that Habib saab did not want any concern to be neglected, or any unwritten rule to be conveniently ignored.
“If we need further rehearsal”, he writes, “there is no time for that now, except after the show tomorrow. Please come prepared for that.”
And most importantly, he warns, “There ought to be no loud conversations backstage at any time.”