Sameera Iyengar,co-founder of Junoon,recounts its a year-long journey of sharing the joys of theatre and the related arts with people:
It is nearly a year since you launched Junoon. How has the experience been so far?
We started Junoon with an idea and an instinct that the arts were intrinsic to healthy societies. The first year was a time of play and experiment. We ran many pilots last year,which included A Trip to the Theatre for schools,which is part of our school programme; the Arts Camp,which brings children from different backgrounds together through the arts in an effort to build mutual understanding and respect as wells as theatre workshops for corporates. We also carried forward our summertime programme which we had run in Prithvi for many years. We went into its second season from May 1 with 32 workshops and offering 700 seats.
How different has this experience been from working with Prithvi Theatre and regular theatrewallahs?
We are still working with the same network of theatrewallahs and artistes,with whom we used to work before. However,with Junoon we are sharing a dream. In a deeper sense,we are building together. We are all responsible in a far more equal way for making it happen,which perhaps was not possible at Prithvi to that extent. Or perhaps with Junoon we are demanding much more active contribution and participation. Theatrewallahs as well as other artistes are there with us,ready to experiment,put their creative best into our projects,work with us to share the arts in multiple ways with people.
What has been the most heartening aspect of your work with Junoon?
People. Be it our artistes or theatrewallahs network,participants and audiences in our various programmes,our office team,or our volunteers. In our work,I see the way people come together,open up,give their all,collaborate,create and be joyous together. I see the glint in childrens eyes when theyve watched a play and talked to artistes,and plunged their hands into clay and climbed over each other in a theatre or movement workshop. I see our artiste community throw themselves into growing and contributing together. I see at every step everything that is beautiful about the human spirit.
What kind of challenges has it posed?
The most obvious challenge is money. Weve started Junoon with very little money in the bank just a doggedness,which is how everyone who has an idea they believe in starts,I guess. Weve had to start thinking of sustainability in a way we did not have to earlier. And weve had to think of scale,as thats intrinsic to what we want to do take Junoon out to more and more people.
Based on the observations made in the last one year,have you made any changes in the Summertime programme?
Weve brought down the number of workshops to 32 and brought our venues down from five to three. We are focussing on our venues in Kandivli,Matunga and Khar. Instead of spreading ourselves thin,we want to develop each centre to hold a substantial number of workshops over time.
Can you share some future plans of Junoon?
Weve launched our school programme,and schools have been showing interest,so that should take off this year. This goes beyond Mumbai to other places in the country as well,and is our way of injecting quality arts and creative experiences into the regular school calendar. Weve managed to hit on a model that makes it quite affordable,and we look forward to more and more schools coming on board.