INDIAN PROTEST THEATRE COMES TO WASHINGTON
Interview by Joel Markowitz with Lorraine Treanor
Moloyashree Hashmi speaks with us about JANAM (Jana Matya Manch – People’s Theatre Forum)
Moloyashree Hashmi, India’s best-known street theatre actor, spoke with us moments before JANAM, New Delhi’s pioneering street theatre company, took the stage for their final performance in the Artomatic Festival.
As Moloy explains, street theatre has been used in India for many years, originating in the 1940’s with the IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association). Since 1973, JANAM has been collectively developing plays around issues of gender, youth, violence, education, and labor issues, both in proscenium and street spaces.
In 1989. 34 year old Safdar Hashmi, one of the founders of JANAM, was killed following the disruption of a performance. “People from all walks of life – workers, political activists, artists and intellectuals – came together spontaneously in a massive, unprecedented protest against this brutal murder. Today, Safdar’s name has become synonymous with street theatre and the progressive cultural movement in India.” (quoted from JANAM’s website).
Moloy explains that JANAM draws inspiration from American theater companies such as El Teatro Campesino and Bread and Puppet Theater . as well as theatre in Europe, Central America and China
What has she discovered in her time in America? “People’s problems are essentially the same. American people are like us – the color, the language, the look may change … but our hearts beat together.”
Click here to listen. (Run time: 8:33)