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Ambika Shaligram
Monday, 12 November 2018

Savitri Medhatul of Junoon Arts & Education Foundation explains its School Programme ahead of its interaction with students of Delhi Public School, Mohammadwadi

November ushers in Children’s Day with lots of activities lined up for the young ones. One of which is Junoon Arts & Education Foundation’s School Programme, which will be bringing two plays for students of Delhi Public School, Mohammadwadi, Pune on November 12 and 13. Under Theatre Adventures module, children between the ages of 8-10 can watch Catch the Crocodile by Gillo Theatre Repertory and the 11-13 year olds can watch Jhalkari by Rahi Theatre.
    
The School Programme is one of the signature programmes of Junoon and Savitri Medhatul of the group explains the initiative. “Junoon has been co-founded by Sanjna Kapoor and Sameera Iyengar. Its primary motive is to make art available and accessible to people. The most common refrain we hear is, ‘Art is not for us’. Or ‘This is too complicated’. We think that art has to become a part of everyone’s day to day life. This is the umbrella motive of Junoon. We hold multiple programmes keeping this in mind,” says Medhatul. 

Catch ’em young
Junoon’s School Programme was started with the thought that if the seeds of art are sown in the kids at an early age, then it will take root more firmly. “If you are introduced to art forms early on, before prejudices and biases set in, then you share a deep friendship with them. We don’t expect that everyone will do theatre when they grow up, but we would like if the children or the young people develop a taste for it, understand the aesthetics and nuances. You can become a scientist, or an accountant, but if you have a bond with art, then you grow better at what you do — this is what we at Junoon believe,” adds Medhatul.

When the programme was conceived, it was a week-long initiative called Arts Week Programme. But the schools found it difficult to put aside a week from their curriculum. “We felt that this shouldn’t prevent schools from inviting us. So we have staggered the modules. We had one show of a play, then in Arts Encounter, artists from across the country establish a dialogue with the students etc. Now, we have something called Theatre Adventures, under which we take a play to the school. The schools have now more options to choose from based on the budget, timing etc. We have made the programme far more flexible now,” she points out.
  
Making it more inclusive
From last year, Junoon has started Theatre Inclusive programme, in collaboration with Lal Jamal Foundation. Explaining this aspect, Savitri says, “We visit various cities in India alongwith the School Programme. Last year, we had an extra, free show for children of local NGOs, in six cities. Around 3,500 kids watched these shows and we gathered their feedback. This year, we are visiting four cities. The show at Ludhiana is over. Rahi Theatre’s Jhalkari will be having another show on November 19 at Maharashtra Cultural Centre in Pune. We have two shows lined up at Patna and Bikaner.” 

The team’s broader vision is a three-fold programme — to groom fine artists; to build good infrastructure and to cultivate informed audience. To that effect, Junoon has planned workshops with local theatre groups in those cities who want to develop theatre for children. “This is a part of capacity building programme,” says Medhatul, adding, “A good audience will demand good theatre and this will put the onus on artists to create something new.” 

Junoon is working with local partners in different cities. In Pune, their partner is Maharashtra Cultural Centre. In Ludhiana, they have partnered with Lok Kala Manch which has built theatre with its own money. “Local partners make their venues available to us and also help in tapping local NGOs. We want homegrown theatre to develop,” emphasises Medhatul, adding, “Sanjna keeps travelling across the country and her interactions with people told us that they are keen to watch plays, but they don’t have access or exposure to it.”

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