‘Festivals promote diversity, they bring neighbours into dialogue, they increase creativity, they offer opportunities for civic pride, they improve our general psychological well-being. In short, they make cities better places to live.’
When theatre producer David Binder wrote those lines, he could have been talking about Junoon co-founders Sanjna Kapoor and Sameera Iyengar’s initiative Mumbai Local, which aims to bring the performing arts to the people and strengthen the sense of community. Imagine a neighbourhood experience that is innovative, creative, as well as inspirational — week after week. Well, that’s how team Junoon envisions the city with their project that kickstarts in January next year.
A shared experience
According to Sameera, this project is a response to the way people experience a city. “We have this wonderful city, but with very few opportunities for us to gather for a shared experience. There is a lot of talk about urban regeneration that focusses on the physical structure, but what we don’t hear enough about is how to breathe life into these spaces. We’re interested in bringing communities together, that eventually changes the way we feel about each other,”
The seeds of the project were sown with Sanjna and Sameera’s interactions with various artistes. “I remember a conversation with Makrand (Deshpande), where he told me that he wants to speak with the audience. He told me that he has so much to share, but there is no outlet for it,” says the latter. The duo, in the meanwhile, have spoken to a number of artistes who have expressed a similar wish. “So each session will be about what they want to share and talk about. They will have a certain focus. Even the artists are aware that they have never been part of a project like Mumbai Local. There is tremendous internal growth built into something like this,” adds Sanjna.
Junoon has tied up with four venues — M Cubed Library in Bandra, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla, Kitab Khana in Fort and Somaiya Vidyavihar — to give shape to their community arts project. These venues will see curated monthly programmes across the arts and sciences, where artistes and scientists will open up about their vision, their experiences and their journeys. “We don’t intend these to be like a masterclass,” clarifies Junoon member Swati Apte, “It will be a dialogue between the artiste and audience and then hopefully, among the audience.”
Actor and director Rajat Kapoor, who’s kickstarting the Mumbai Local with a session at M-Cubed library on January 4, believes it’s an idea whose time has come. “The idea of Mumbai Local is to get artistes, who have a passion for their work, to somehow convey their passion to the people out there. I think it’s a fantastic way to reach out to the audience,” he says. In his session, Kapoor will show a few clips of the films that have influenced him and will also speak about his journey as a filmmaker.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Likewise, Sanjna and Sameera agree that they don’t expect to see a massive change within a year or two. “It’s a long-term vision. We’re not talking about the next year but maybe 15 or 20 years down the line, we will see a change in the way people experience their city through the arts,” says Sanjna. They plan to expand to more places within the the next few years. “We’re also looking at public gardens, spaces where we can hold longer sessions over the weekend with interactions, amateur performances and quality music,” they tell us.
Rajat is all praise for the duo’s efforts. “What is admirable about Sanjna and Sameera is their passion. Most people go about their lives without caring about the larger picture but with them, it’s always about the larger picture. They are taking the first step, and now it is upto us to join hands with them,” he says.