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Sanjana Kapoor’s “Junoon”

Child’s play

MEENA MENON

Renewed vibrance: The Junoon team.

The newly formed Junoon sets out to make the theatre experience an
integral part of growing up.

Prithvi Theatre’s loss is Junoon’s gain. Last year Sanjna Kapoor
announced her decision to leave a theatre she had nurtured for 21
years. On February 29 she announced the launch of a new venture to take
theatre to the people and replicate her work at Prithvi in a broad-
based way. “I am trying to create a platform that is accessible,
engaging and welcoming,” she says enthusiastically. Along with Sameera
Iyengar, Satyam Vishwanathan, Swati Apte and Ayaz Ansari, the compact
team has its task cut out.

One dream

Junoon has a dream that every child in India will grow up with the arts
as an integral part of their life and the journey begins with an “Arts
at Play” programme, a season of creative workshops, plays for
youngsters apart from programming theatre experiences including
exclusive shows for children.

International and national theatre companies will be showcased from
this year onwards starting with Footsbarn’s Tempest in November,
Motley’s Shaw Festival and Arpana’s Stories in a Song, the only play
which will travel to cities and towns.

Swati, a dancer once based in New York, felt the paucity of an arts
education for her child on her return to India, and is motivated by
that need. Satyam, a market research professional is concerned about
the commercial growth in cities which leaves no space for the arts.
“There is no environment with a cultural breathing space,” he says.

The most compelling argument comes from Sameera, an ex MIT student who
was surprised at the substantial arts courses during her student days
at the institute. She says MIT took a conscious decision after the
Second World War when its illustrious students, Richard Feynman among
them had assisted in developing the atom bomb. While the premier
institute produced brilliant students, it also decided to have a more
rounded education with a 25 per cent Arts component, she points out.

Sanjna says that Junoon is built on four pillars, the youth connect
programme which involves a series of engagement with schools and
children, small touring plays, developing local involvement and an
engaged community which supports theatre and lastly giving expertise to
people by creating a peer sharing process. “It’s not cold consultancy
but seeding cultural hubs with people’s involvement,” she explains.

Generating revenue

Sameera laments the lack of arts managers in India who make theatres
live. Junoon for now will rely on corporate sponsorships, fellowships
and also aim to generate revenue from people themselves. “Junoon came
out of meetings with mad dreamers but they have clear dreams,” Sanjna
remarks.

Everything needs an environment and that’s what the new group aims to
create with its huge experience of theatre workshops, managing arts and
festivals and skilled trainers. Already Junoon has support from actors
like Swaroop Sampat and Naseeruddin Shah who shares a special
relationship with Prithvi and who admits that the one thing that kept
him going in school was the annual visit by the Shakespearian troupe
synonymous with Sanjna’s grandparents Geoffrey Kendal and Laura. In
fact in the later productions of Dear Liar at Prithvi, Shah and Ratna
Pathak wore the old costumes of the Kendals as a tribute.

Junoon is already tying up with schools across the spectrum and
municipal schools will also be part of its target. It’s not purely
about the theatre experience, says Sameera. “We want to fire
imagination and creativity,” she adds. The one thing that has been
bothering Sanjna is that while Prithvi set an example in theatre
management and community engagement, it was not replicated anywhere
else. Travelling theatres were not really feasible always and Junoon is
a result of that lacuna. “We are doing this because we feel no one else
will do it,” she grins. “It’s a culmination of 21 years of working in
theatre and following one’s passion and propagating something that is
essential for our own lives,” she says.

As the team members of Junoon say, they aim to put their collective
skills on show and create a renewed vibrancy in theatre.

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