Theatre brings India, Palestine on same stage

New Delhi, Nov 13 (IANS) When artistes of ‘The Freedom Theatre’ from Palestine received a rousing welcome from their Indian counterparts ‘Jana Natya Manch’ at the Palestine Embassy on Thursday evening, it was a coming together of two like-minded theatre groups.

In the first India-Palestine theatre collaboration, The Freedom Theatre (TFT) from Palestine is collaborating with the Indian theatre group, Jana Natya Manch (Janam) for a joint production to tell tales of resistance, struggle and freedom. The joint production will travel across 10 Indian cities between December-January 2015-16.

“It will be a great experience for young artistes from Palestine to share their ideas of freedom and liberation with Indian audiences,” said Faisal Abu Alhayjaa, artistic leader of the project from TFT. “Indian culture, cinema and theatre have been great inspirations for us, and we hope that this will lead to many more such cultural exchanges between our two countries,” said Alhayjaa.

The cities include Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow and Bengaluru, however, exact dates and venues will be decided by middle of November, said the organizers.

The collaboration sounds natural as both groups have many things in common. Just as Safdar Hashmi, founder of Janam was killed during a performance in 1989, the founder of TFT Juliano Mer Khamis, was shot dead outside the theatre.

The Freedom Theatre is a Palestinian community-based theatre and cultural center located in the Jenin Refugee Camp in the northern part of the West Bank. Established in 2006, the theatre aims to generate cultural resistance through the fields of popular culture and art as a catalyst for social change in the occupied Palestinian territories.

During their three –months stay in India, the eight artistes from TFT, will take part in intensive workshops with Indian theatre experts. Along with actors from Janam, they will prepare a joint production.

“Over twenty different cultural organizations are partnering with Janam to make this incredible tour happen,” said Sudhanva Deshpande, the artistic leader of the project from the Indian side. “A number of artistes are keen to associate with the production and the tour in a variety of ways.”

Theatre group Janam has to its credit more than 7,500 performances of about 100 street and proscenium plays in about 140 towns and cities of India. Janam has played a significant role in popularizing street theatre as a form of voicing anger and public opinion.

Many Indian artistes and intellectuals have welcomed the tour. “I think it is very important for artists of different countries and cultures to connect with each other. That this artistic collaboration is taking place without the mediation of any funding agency or international organization makes it more exciting still — this is a direct dialogue between artistes of the two kindred civilizations”, said actor Sharmila Tagore.

Sanjna Kapoor, co-director, Junoon, who is one of the partners in this project, said: “This is a really important journey, where people from two lands get to meet each other through performances.”

Studio Safdar Trust in West Delhi will be hosting all the workshops and sessions for the collaboration, as the tour is supported through various local city organisers.

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