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An Interview with Alvim Cossa about Jana Sanskriti an Experiment for Social Change

“I learned a lot from them in Jana Sanskriti” ~Alvim Cossa

Jana Sanskriti was started as an experiment about 30 years ago by a group of dedicated people who saw it as an effective means of social change. Later, they came into contact with Augusto Boal of Brazil, the father of Theatre of the Oppressed, and Jana Sanskriti - Centre for Theatre of the Oppressed in Kolkata – was born.

Today Jana Sanskriti has more than 30 teams in West Bengal alone, most of whom are agricultural labourers. Their plays range from domestic and political violence, reconstruction of public institutions to resistance against aggressive forms of development. Recently, artists from 15 countries covering almost all the continents came to Kolkata to participate at the Muktadhara VI theatre festival, organized by Jana Sanskriti on December 19, 2014. "We have unsung theatre lovers from different corners of the world to doyens like Brian Brophy who heads the arts and theatre wing of California Institute of Technology,” said Dr Sanjoy Ganguly, Director & Founding member, Jana Sanskriti. Abhijit Ganguly interviews Alvim Cossa, from CTO-Maputo (Center of Theatre of the Oppressed).

Since how long have you been associated with the theater? How were you initiated to it? What is the most memorable and challenging incident of your career?

I'm working in the theater since 1993, when together with my friends from childhood created the "Colectivo Gota de Lume" that same year participated in the Amateur Theatre Festival of Maputo and were in 2nd place. It was a good start and never stopped. In 2001, I met the Theatre of the Oppressed and had the opportunity to learn directly from Augusto Boal, returned to Maputo, created GTO-Maputo (Oppressed Theatre Group) that since 2013, went to CTO-Maputo (Center of Theatre of the Oppressed). We are working with 120 theater groups throughout Mozambique, bringing community reflections on health (HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, leprosy) among others, but also our plays and performances bring governance, quality of services provided by the state to citizens – water and sanitation, among many.

How has been your experience at the Jana Sanskriti?

I learned a lot from them in Jana Sanskriti. The way they associate the pure Indian culture in their presentations, the way they work in the spectator's psychology, allowing them to step on stage consciously, and fight to change the reality in the play that is both the spectator’s reality as a person.

How do you see the future of theatre in the age of the internet?

Nothing will replace the theatre, yes it is a growing challenge, because we have to grow in our dramatic buildings, bring more joy even addressing pain and sorrow, we have to be more creative in the aesthetics of each presentation and create conditions for human contact is intensive in each show, we have to come to life in a visible and discernible for our different public!

Contributing Writer, Abhijit Ganguly, is an extensively published journalist based in Kolkata, India. His stories cover the global arts scene and the fusion arts movement with the culture and art of India. Ganguly’s work includes personal interviews with world renowned dance troupes, film directors, fine artists, sculptors, as well as jazz, hip hop and classical musicians. He is known for presenting an inside view of the artist's craft and what motivates their creativity. Ganguly also delves into the artist's take on what a young person in Kolkata can learn from each artist, so that the youth of the city can learn to master these skills.

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