Sanjoy K Roy© HelloIndia

HELLO! 100 Most Influential: Sanjoy K Roy

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Sangeeta Waddhwani

Why he matters: His company produces 33 annual festivals in 72 cities across 19 odd countries, but it’s the Jaipur Literature Festival that’s been called the ‘Woodstock of literature.’ Sangeeta Waddhwani chats with the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts on how the arts power tourism and India’s economy.

HELLO!: Sanjoy, how did your journey begin?

Sanjoy K Roy: “Being involved with theatre in school and university, I’ve always been interested in the arts. In 1989, Mohit Satyanand and I co-founded Teamwork as a film production company, to create jobs in theatre. By the mid 1990s, it was producing 14 television shows, with a team of 20! In the initial years, it was a task to ensure that our artists were treated on par with their international counterparts. Our work at the Edinburgh Festivals in 1999-2000 set the stage for showcasing the best of the Indian arts.”

H!: How does your work uplift artists and put India on the global map?

SKR: “Culture and tourism aren’t seen as primary drivers of the economy, or an opportunity to create jobs locally and sustainably. We need focused training, development funds for local heritage sites, marketing budgets and basic facilities of toilets, cafés and green transportation. India has a million heritage sites. Annual cultural festivals and daily shows around our monuments will allow tourists an opportunity to stay the night, which will boost the local economy and grow the ancillary food and transport sectors. That income can be ploughed back into preserving built heritage.”

H!: What is your philosophy vis-à-vis keeping the arts alive?

SKR: “Governments that believe supporting the arts is about handouts need to reassess their policies, invest in the future and provide for sustained arts education. Over 400 million people depend on the creative industry, from ragis in gurdwaras and pandal makers, to the Kumartuli sculptors, and the Rajasthani Langas and Manganiars. There’s a crying need to include this in the census mapping.”

H!: Today, Teamwork Arts produces 33 annual festivals in 19 countries… Incredible!

SKR: “We also produce the Ishara International Puppet Festival in New Delhi, the annual Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards Festival, other international fests like Shared History in South Africa, India by the Nile in Egypt, and Eye on India in the US.”

H!: Would you say JLF has grown beyond your wildest dreams?

SKR: “When we began the first edition on a cold winter morning in Durbar Hall, I had instructed my colleagues to remove chairs, assuming we wouldn’t fill the venue. Had we done a dipstick survey of the possible success of a festival in Jaipur, I suspect we’d have been laughed out of hearth and home! Year on year, I admire the diverse voices of authors curated by Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple.”

H!: We believe nearly 80 percent of the audience is under 30? Ironic, given the digital age…

SKR: “JLF has made literature and knowledge sexy! Where else would you be able to sit on a chair and travel the world, learning about its many vagaries, cultures, philosophies and ways of life? It’s in Jaipur that you can discover the secrets of deep space and AI, laugh with stand-up comics, explore the visual arts and consume literature by the gigabytes. Yes, a majority of our footfall is the youth. They are a repository of fresh ideas and keen learners who identify with our rich roots.”

H!: What upcoming festivals can your global fans look forward to?

SKR: “JLF New York, JLF Houston and JLF Colorado are scheduled for September. Awaken Florida will be hosted in December, followed by the Mahindra Kabira Festival in Varanasi.

To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!