Impressions from Muktadhara 2016

informal gathering between international and Indian forum theatre activists

Muktadhara, the international forum theatre festival organised by Jana Sanskriti Centre for Theatre of the Oppressed was held from 5 – 20 Dec 2016. This was the 7th edition of this bi-annual international forum theatre festival organised since 2004 and witnessed 28 participants from 14 different countries. As always, the festival was held in two phases – first in Kolkata, then travelling with forum theatre performances to the villages of rural Bengal. The important reason for organizing Muktadhara is that it becomes an international meeting ground for Forum Theatre teams and practitioners including those trained by Jana Sanskriti all over India.



Update from Muktadhara for the TO community (Ralph Yarrow), blended with quotes from festival participants

Jana Sanskriti’s Sonar Meye at ICCR, Kolkata

i) A report was delivered to the public at an open event at the ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) auditorium in Kolkata, detailing results from the 2-year survey carried out by the Centre for Studies in Social Science, Kolkata, examining changes in attitude and behaviour (largely re. male/female relations, e.g. decision-making and trust between husband and wife, views about education of children and marriage of girls, and instances of domestic violence) by comparing 35 villages where Jana Sanskriti has worked with others where it hasn’t. Results indicate significant differences, with the JS locations generally showing an improvement in the order of 10-20%.


My respect because JS are contributing towards the creation of a new world. And the most important, the materials for the creation of that new world, instead of doctrines and certainties, are just human love, devotion, passion and hard work, that is, the elements that this new world should carry – Sergio Kob, Greece


ii) Jana Sanskriti’s new performance and activist work has included changes to existing plays, work in new locations, and a Bengali version of Brecht’s The Good Person; proposals to do other adaptations may be pursued when time permits.

Some moments when I was sitting down watching your plays in the villages, together with other villagers, I felt I was the luckiest person on earth! – Giota Theodoropoulou, Greece

Impressions from Jana Sanskriti’s new play, an adaptation of Brecht’s The Good Person, at its premiere in Digambarpur, South 24 Parganas, using shadow elements.

The workshop, the beautiful food, the evening programs, the late-night (or early morning!) airport rides, the tea, the kindness so many of you shared in so many ways. . . I know that all of it took so much hard work from every single member of Jana Sanskriti who I met and also from many other members that I did not meet.“ Kelly Howe, USA

iii) Muktadhara participants made a short forum piece about the ethics and practicalities of funding which was presented in the Mukta Manch at Digambapur for participants and led both to good interventions/discussion and to some useful comments from Sanjoy. In fact the main issue was revealed to be not so much about whether to take funding or not, but rather about processes of group decision-making.

My visit in India made me skeptical and see from scratch how I see the world and my actions in it. It made me see how alienated I am from my own life and close friends and family. Because in the end, aren’t they also part of the society? – Chris Karystinos, Greece

Two students from the University of East Anglia, Norwich (UK) have recently completed placements with JS and are writing these up as dissertations on ‘Art, Knowledge and Human Transformation: relationships in the Web of Life of Jana Sanskriti’ and ‘How Has Jana Sanskriti impacted the lives of women living in rural communities in West Bengal?’. In subsequent editions of this newsletter we’ll ask them to present some of their findings.

Image from the workshop of Sanjoy Ganguly with international participants in Badu, portraying status differences existing in society


I knew TO before but I hadn’t realized its importance before. Sometimes I thought that it is just another tool for fed-up Europeans to release their anger and frustration, a kind of privilege. In India I realized TO is an artistic space that gives people who are exploited and marginalized their voice – Giota Theodoropoulou, Greece

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