Charnwood Arts were privileged to host a performance and talk from pioneering street group Jana Natya Manch (Janam) from India at Fearon Hall in Loughborough in 2013.
Jana Natya Manch (People's Theatre Front; Janam for short, meaning "Birth") is a New Delhi-based amateur theatre company specializing in left-wing street theatre in Hindi. It was founded in 1973 by a group of Delhi's radical theatre amateurs, who sought to take theatre to the people. Theatre personality Safdar Hashmi is the best-known figure associated with the troupe.
The company has now given more than 7,500 performances of about 100 street and proscenium plays in over 140 towns and cities of India. Since it began, Janam has played a significant role in popularizing street theatre as a form of voicing public opinion. It has produced plays on price rises, elections, economic policy, unemployment, globalization, women’s rights, the education system and much more.
Janam performed their first street play (from 1978) called 'Machine', at the Fearon Hall and gave a slide presentation and talk about the company. Safdar's wife, Moloyashree, gave an account of the fateful day when her husband was killed.
She once wrote 'For Janam, Safdar is no cult figure – a word with negative implications. He himself had no time for such concepts. He saw himself as the people's artiste whose creative energies were unleashed by the forces of society."
Safdar Hashmi was Janam's original Convenor. He was murdered along with an audience member during a performance on the 1st January 1989. The attack on Janam took place in Sahibabad, an industrial township on the outskirts of Delhi. The play being performed was 'Halla Bol', in support of workers' demands.
Within days the company had returned to finish the play and they have performed there, in memory of Safdar, to audiences of thousands on an annual basis. Janam collects donations after each performance and funds its work in this manner. As a matter of policy, the group does not accept donations or grants from state, corporate or NGO agencies.