Sanjoy Ganguly was active in Communist politics as a student. Disillusioned by its centralist tendencies, he left the party to search for a political culture of dialogue and democracy. He began working in the theatre in rural Bengal in the early 1980s. His encounter several years later with Augusto Boal and the Theatre of the Oppressed, coupled with his own passionate commitment to the creation of a more just and equal society, led him to found Jana Sanskriti(JS), an independent organization committed to the use of theatre to conscientise and empower the communities it serves. With more than thirty active theatre teams(of which 9 are all women teams) associated with the group, Jana Sanskriti is now the largest organization of its kind in India.
Ganguly’s theatre philosophy is founded on the fact that every individual is essentially intellectual and most often that is not manifested. He believes theatre can manifest that faculty, scripting intellectual power on stage which breaks the passivity and transforms spectators into ‘Spect-activists’.
He has refused to adopt partisan political positions and has initiated and supported community action throughout his journey.
Why is Sanjoy Ganguly appropriate to be the recipient of the Ellen Stewart Award?
JS has an outstanding record of work with women and children, and have already been successful in helping people across a large area. As a result of their work over more than 30 years, citizens in many areas have formed local committees to identify needs (educational, economic, social eg: provision of resource, tacking illegal alcohol production, supporting land-rights negotiation and so on) and have been able to deliver marked improvements in these domains.
Using performance methodology has enabled JS to work across borders of age, gender, caste and religion, incorporating people from all categories. JS has also successfully made house wives in rural Bengal – actors and activists. JS with her aesthetically structured plays operates among nearly 200,000 people through 30 satellite teams opening the door of the world of intellect to people living in margin. Ganguly’s use of theatre beyond a problem solving session to develop critical understanding on issues affecting the lives of the people is a more clarifying approach to make theatre as activism.
In Purulia, among tribal and under privileged, Jana Sanskriti has been addressing child marriage and child trafficking through Forum plays working in conjunction with schools, social services and the police, and involving active co-operation from local communities.
Key accomplishments and impact of the work
Sanjoy’s work and dedication to his goals over a very long period testify to his strength of vision and the practical ability to deliver it. His company’s ethos is strongly egalitarian and organization and practice are shared endeavors which value the co-creativity of all participants and enable them to recognize and develop their own artistic and intellectual capacities. The quality of the theatrical work is high, incorporating a rich, imaginative and evocative mix of indigenous forms (e.g. dance and music) and a rigorous focus on actual practical issues affecting the daily lives of performers and spectators. He is a thorough, sensitive and responsive trainer of performers who elicits great support and loyalty from those he works with. He has displayed extreme resolution, courage and astuteness in negotiating extremely tricky political and social contexts and pursuing the goal of getting communities to take responsibility for their own processes and to find ways of making change happen. He has had to develop the skills of being a theatre maker and trainer (with no previous formal training), an activist, a community worker, an educator, a negotiator and an inspiring leader. His personal life-style remains extremely simple; he has acquired none of the trappings which compromise many.
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
The Hindu: Coming soon: Theatre of the Oppressed (Published in Kolkata edition on 5 November 2015 during Inauguration of Jana Sanskriti International Research and Resource Institute)
The centre is being set up by Jana Sanskriti, one of the chief exponents of Boal’s form of art which has turned out to be the main point of reference of “Theatre of the Oppressed” across the globe over the past few decades. Thespians and academicians describe the coming of the centre in the State as shifting of the movement surrounding the art form from Brazil to India
Shiv Sahay Singh
Hindustan Times: Kolkata is world’s stage (Published in Kolkata edition on 14 November 2015 after Inauguration of Jana Sanskriti International Research and Resource Institute)
Every year, more than two dozen theatre enthusiasts from different parts of the world visit Bengal to participate in workshops under the guidance of Ganguly. The work of Jana Sanskriti is now treated as a point of reference for Theatre of the Oppressed in 42 Universities including Harvard, Cambridge and East Anglia University
NDTV India Matters: Theatre of the Oppressed
Collection of Jana Sanskriti Videos
48/2/1 Badu 2nd Main Road, PO Badu, Kolkata 743202, WB, India