27 years ago, a group of dedicated people got together to try an experiment in utilising theatre as a method of social change. It was a propaganda theatre group in the beginning where actors were all from the distant remote villages. The idea of democratising theatre form took shape in their minds after their encounter with the work of Augusto Boal, the theatre theorist and practitioner who may be said to be the inventor of ‘Theatre of the Oppressed'. Being on the same boat as Paulo Friere (of ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed' fame), Boal has started off this whole theatre movement in various parts of the world, which envisages theatre as a powerful tool of change.
This method builds up a cultural movement that is based on humanism, which equips people to fight against the oppression faced by them in their daily lives. This movement strives to remove the culture of monologue (home between man and wife, father and children, at school between teacher and students; at work between employer and workers…) and establish a habit of dialogue. This is the first step towards democracy which empowers us. Jana Sanskriti came into being with a deep commitment towards building up of such a cultural movement.
Firm belief in the strength and efficacy of theatre as a tool not only of communication but also of empowerment has resulted in the formation of as many as 30 theatre teams active under the banner of Jana Sanskriti today. Each of these teams comprises men and women from agricultural worker families. Putting up theatre performances regularly in and around their villages on pressing current issues is the main agenda of these 30 teams.
Jana Sanskriti, through its interventions, seeks to stop the oppressed people from thinking that they are inferior, weak and incapable of analytical thought. They can become aware of their ability to plan constructive action and provide dynamic leadership in the process of development of human society, if the culture of monologue is broken and dialogue established at various levels in society. Jana Sanskriti believes that dialogue opens up space for rational thinking, prevents a human being from acting blindly and thereby empowers them.
Swami Vivekananda has referred to the incident of how a falling apple led Isaac Newton to discover the law of gravity. The falling apple, Swamiji said, was a proposal, which made Newton think. In the same way, Jana Sanskriti wants to set forth a proposal, so that people (the blind followers of the political parties and NGOS) in our villages are forced to think, and then act. This approach is very different, in fact diametrically opposite to that of political parties and NGOs, which encourages people to follow rather than think intellectually, rationally towards collective and individual development.
Augusto Boal has said “In all human being , all sensations arouse emotion. Equally the human being is a rational creature, it knows things it is capable of thinking, of understanding and of making mistakes.”