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About us

Brief details of the Institution/Organization, its objectives and activities
Jana Sanskriti Centre for Theatre of the Oppressed

Jana Sanskriti(JS) Centre for Theatre of the Oppressed established in 1985 was the first exponent of Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) in India. Today the Centre is seen as one of the most important point of references to the global community of Theatre of the Oppressed. Jana Sanskriti believes that there is perfection latent within every individual – waiting to be discovered and manifested. When a person discovers this perfection he is able to overcome the sense of inferiority imposed upon him by the centralised social culture. He becomes articulate, confident and capable of confronting challenges, which come on the path of development. Jana Sanskriti’s goal is to create a space in which the oppressed will have enormous scope for introspection and discovery of the self and to facilitate a meeting between the individual and the perfection within himself. For “what is this perfection but the richest resource of human society?” 

Over 3 decades JS has addressed issues like domestic violence, child marriage, girl child trafficking, child abuse, maternal & child health, primary education & heath care, illicit liquor, etc. – all through theatre. A recent study headed by Dr. Jyothsna Jalan of Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata has proved the impact of ‘spect-acting’ in creating a strong community of active & responsible citizens. 

Jana Sanskriti’s journey began from a small village in the Sunderbans in 1985 today it has 30 satellite theatre teams in West Bengal (mostly in the districts of South and North 24 Parganas and Purulia), two in Tripura, one in New Delhi. Teams have also been formed in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhond, Madhya Pradesh, Orrisa and Karnataka. These teams reach at least 2,00,000 spectators every year through their performances. As Augusto Boal said, “Jana Sanskriti is the largest and the longest lasting forum theatre operation in the world”. Of the teams in West Bengal, nine are all-women theatre teams, perhaps another first in India.

Jana Sanskriti has also been organizing a bi-annual Forum Theatre festival called Muktadhara since 2004 (next scheduled in 2016). These festivals have been highly successful and attended by noted theatre personalities from India as well as from all the continents.

Click here to view glimpses of Muktadhara festivals https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m64ojUTbQro.

In November 2015 the organisation has launched the Jana Sanskriti International Research and Resource Institute (JSIRRI) unifying artist-activists from across the world justifying the Indian ethos represented in "Vasudhaiva Kutum Bakum". Click on this link to know more about JSIRRI https://www.voiceofjsirri.wordpress.com.

Our Practice

Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) is a school of theatre first conceptualised by Brazilian theorist & theatre practitioner Augusto Boal.  In TO, the oppressed speak, act and express their social will. Jana Sanskriti’s theatre teams reach out to thousands of people every month, with aesthetically refined theatre and hard-hitting questions on the reality around us. Jana Sanskriti’s theatre does not offer any solutions – the attempt is to arrive at a solution is made with the help of the spect-actors (spectators who intervene during forum sessions)

In India, Jana Sanskriti is the only exponent of Forum Theatre in which members of the theatre team select, construct, and narrate a social problem from their daily life. With artistic direction this play is taken to an audience who must now find a solution to the problem. Passive spectators then become engaged spect-actors. Spect-actors come on stage to enact the solutions they have thought of, debating with trained activists about the feasibility of the solutions suggested. Thus individuals publicly engage in tackling a problem that has thus far provoked the most profound cultural silence and acceptance. This exercise gradually suggests possibilities for liberation from that oppression in real life. Over the years we have seen that the experience of ‘spect-acting’ has motivated people to be active outside theatre as well.

In Image Theatre actors and spect-actors recreate images of their own reality – through consensus. They look at their reality in an objective manner, try to understand and analyse it. This is called the real image. Spect-actors then proceed to make the image of a situation that they desire – the ideal image - in which the oppression will have disappeared. We then return to the real image and debate begins. Each spect-actor must then show images of different stages in the possible transition from real to ideal. This entire experience becomes a rehearsal of how to deal with oppression in real life. Introspective Theatre affords an individual the scope of being her own spectator. As a spectator she introspects, analyses and understands the reason for every small experience of oppression in her life. She discovers the talent within herself – this gives her confidence. She recognizes how various social values are guiding her actions.

Jana Sanskriti does not see theatre as a problem solving space. Theatre for Jana Sanskriti is a space for developing critical understanding about the oppressions affects the lives of the people. According to Ganguly this in turn makes “Spect-Actors” into what he says “Spect-Activists” and Actors into Act-ivists

Here are some quotes about Jana Sanskriti’s work –

Jana Sanskriti: Forum Theatre and Democracy in India (Routledge publications – 2010)

“I think that this is a very important book. Anyone who wants to understand the usefulness of Boal’s work and its possibilities, especially when removed from Boal’s own projects and from its implementation in a first world context, needs to pay attention to Sanjoy Ganguly and Jana Sanskriti”

  • Franc Chamberlain, University College Cork, Ireland (Currently Professor of Drama, University of Huddersfield, UK)

“This book seeks to illuminate the process of engaged theatre as a cultural practice and the struggle between the collective and the individual within the vast networks of globalization and politics. The necessity of theatre to form a space for the joy of thinking through symbols and rituals with energetic “debate and discussion before taking political action” adds a much needed elaboration of Theatre of the Oppressed to 21st Century theatre forms. The book succeeds in pointing the reader to a deeper engagement with complex social problems, economism, and how Marxism is India, specifically, lost its moral authority in the everyday, social concerns of its most abundant resource, the people. Ganguly stands as an international symbol of theatre for social change in South Asia”

  • Brian Brophy, Lecturer in Theater-Performing and Creative Arts, Caltech

Scripting Power: Jana Sanskriti On and Offstage (CAMP publication – 2010)
“Freire,Fanon and Ganguly all received formal education from Western, colonially inspired academe, but they went on to reject the elitist model it propagates, and to argue for a completely different base of experiential learning as the basis for promoting analytic thought and human liberation”

  • Professor Jane Plastow, Faculty of Arts, University of Leeds  (Essay: The Poet and the Pendant)

Youth and Theatre of the Oppressed (Palgrave Macmillan publication – 2010)
“Sanjoy Ganguly has become the most prominent figure of integration in the world’s international Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) movement”

  • Peter Duffy, Head of the MAT Program / Associate Professor, Theatre Department of Theatre and Dance, University of South Carolina and Elinor Vettraino, Head of Creative Arts at Adam Smith College