Today we have an exclusive conversation with Janani by our Senior Sub Editor Suresh.

Janani is a versatile creative professional with a dynamic background in writing, theatre, and independent filmmaking. She began her journey in advertising and production, collaborating with notable brands and contributing to animation projects. In 2017, Janani founded 'Articoll Theatre & Pictures' to drive social change through creativity. Her acclaimed short film 'Baat Ek Dopahar Ki' earned recognition at prestigious film festivals. Janani's visionary leadership and commitment to artistic growth have left a lasting impact on the industry.

  1. Tell me about yourself Janani Ray- Life, childhood, family, academics, profession, hobbies, interests.

My life’s journey so far is one of heart over mind. I have always listened to my heart in taking decisions in all aspects of my life which has thankfully worked for me so far. When I was in school, my friends used to discuss about which College they wanted to go, and the most popular choice was St. Stephen’s. 

But I just wanted to score enough to get into Sri Venkateswara College and pursue English Honors- because I had heard a lot of good things about it and I didn’t really care to weigh my options much; I was engrossed in my music back then - I used to love singing.  

I was the only one from my school, JD Tytler, to take part in the Delhi Pepsi Storm Singing Competition, at least from my batch. It was there that I first witnessed how rich in talent the music scene across schools in Delhi was. 

In College I was a part of the Western Music Society called ‘Crescendo’; another place where I met some incredible talent. I learnt a lot from them. During this time, I was with a band as one of the lead Vocalists; I did that for about two years until life happened, and music took a backseat. 

I think ,without knowing it, I have somehow manifested certain things in my life. Like, I did manage to get admission in Venky and pursue the course of my choice. Somehow everything fell in place; I scored just enough to make it to the cut off. Same thing happened with Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) where I completed my Post Graduate Diploma in Advertising & Public Relations from. All my three years in College, I kept telling people and myself that this is what I wanted to do after College, and it happened. I obviously had to prepare for it, but I also consider myself very fortunate that I had an opportunity to do so.

A few years later, our NGO called AICURD collaborated with the National School of Drama and a month-long workshop for ‘Young Theatre Directors’ was held at our NGO’s basement, which is a full-fledged rehearsal and performance space. That’s when I got to interact with many theatre actors and directors, but my most valuable interactions were with the Workshop Director late Shri KS Rajendran Sir.

 He was a veteran in the field of theatre, and I cherish that I also got to learn under his guidance. It was only for a short while, when I attended the ‘New Directions in Performance-Making – Workshop for Young Theatre Directors’ organized by the National School of Drama.    

I started my career as a Copywriter after graduating from IIMC. While I was working with RK Swamy BBDO, I realized that there was so much more that you learn when you get a job. So much that no school can teach you because it is the practical environment that brings you face to face with the reality of being in this big world. It is a world of opportunists, competition, and hustle. I remember learning a new term in this agency, and that was to “think out of the box”. Even after all these years, the term always sticks to my mind. 

Well, if you would ask the younger me about life goals, I would tell you that I want to work in the field of Creatives, I have stories that I would like to put life into, and I also want to make a difference. How wonderful it would be if my field of Creativity could make a difference and do something good for society.  

My father had started our NGO even before I was born, and I have always seen him surrounded by people. I have seen him listen very patiently to everyone that comes to him, even today, looking for some kind of support, and then he goes out of his way to try and help in every way possible. Both my parents are very strong people, both have done a lot for us, and I draw inspiration from them every day.  

They are the reason why I have the courage to always follow my heart because they did not bind me in their dreams, they encouraged me to follow my dreams and find my own journey. I am very grateful to them and again I consider myself very fortunate.  

Today, after being at many places without any real job satisfaction, I have finally stuck to this job of being the Founder & Director of ‘Articoll Theatre & Pictures’ for over six years now, apart from that almost a decade of working for our NGO, and…I never stopped writing.  

What is Articoll? Tell me the whole story behind Articoll. How did the concept originate, what was your motivation to start it?  How much time did it take from inception to the start of the actual work in Articoll?


‘Articoll’- the word popped up when I wanted to name the group of students who came to learn Basics of Computers in our NGO’s Free Computer Training Center. I thought of many names, but I felt that it would be appropriate to give a name that sounds like an ‘Artist’s Collective’; I shortened it and came up with the word ‘Articoll’. That’s how my brand, which I like to call ‘Articoll Theatre & Pictures’ now, came into existence.  

There’s an interesting story behind all of this. I had started the Free Computer Training Center with four computers and four students. Gradually the number of students increased, children from the vicinity started joining in, a neighborhood NGO sent some of the kids that were homeless and living in their shelters to learn at our center. They was a diverse group. I used to frequently interact with them. 

By the grace of god, today our Center remains pre-booked for batches and students come from all over Delhi. I used to take sessions on PowerPoint Presentations back then.

There was a universal problem in these classes -most students were unable to speak in front of the whole class. I randomly introduced the idea of having a skit/short play in the initial batches. The idea was to get all the students of one batch to collectively work on a topic of their choice and prepare a skit/short play on it. Everyone had to speak, no one would be a nonverbal actor.  

This worked wonders! It broke the ice amongst the students, helped them open to the world and speak with more confidence in front of the entire class. I was amazed to see how well it worked with the initial batches. 

They came up with such interesting concepts- they learnt to do ‘nukkad nataks’ and perform plays. This group of students also got to perform at the Opening Ceremony of the ‘Young Theatre Directors’ Workshop.  

Hence, realizing how much confidence theatre can instill in an individual, it intrigued me how therapeutic theatre can be. I knew then that ‘Theatre as Therapy’ was our core concept.  

I decided to take separate classes dedicated to theatre where all the interested students could join in and learn this amazing art form without worrying about the fee, not only from not just me, but many more compassionate theatre practitioners, so that their learning could be more intricate and varied. 

I did not want to restrict them to my style of work, I wanted them to become ‘Thinking’ actors and understand different ways in which theatre practitioners approach theatre. So, that’s how the Theatre Group ‘Articoll’ got rolling.  

Today, ‘Articoll Theatre & Pictures’ has an entity of its own. It has evolved and grown with me, and I have learnt and grown in this entire process. The free classes are still on, and they will always be- that is our prime commitment. We also have a separate production unit. We have made several plays and a few short films. We are currently working on a Theatre production and a short film project.   

We started the Computer Center in 2015, we also started our skits/short plays around the same time. After our collaboration with NSD, I got an opportunity to meet a lot more people from the fraternity. Before joining the NGO, I was in Kolkata for a year, and in Pune before that, where I worked briefly with Reliance. 

It was in this period in between that I wrote a script about the ‘otherization’ of a North Eastern boy in a big city, I named it ‘Arthur’

In 2018 I decided to stage it as a play. At that time, I had 22 students learning theatre with us, I took all of them in the production as actors. The only actor that came from outside of my group was for the role of the protagonist ‘Arthur’, who had to be a native, and it was played by an actor called Thejasilie Sekhose.  

The entire process was a great learning experience for the whole team. Shri Torit Mitra of ‘Sansaptak’ Theatre Group was kind enough to come and watch the play at Muktadhara Auditorium along with his entire team. He said some really encouraging words and that gave immense confidence to all of us.

 I feel happy to say that a few of the students that stepped on to that stage as actors for ‘Arthur’ have now become theatre actors, some of them have even worked in short films and other projects.  

This is the magic of theatre, it helps you explore yourself, deeper and deeper as you spend more time with it. I love this quote by John Steinbeck, “The theater is the only institution in the world which has been dying for four thousand years and has never succumbed. It requires tough and devoted people to keep it alive.” And I believe everyone who has been consistently doing theatre is a vanguard in taking theatre ahead. It is their zeal that is keeping this magical art form alive, and I am certain it will never die! 

We were working on many projects, things were going smoothly, we had a bigger team, and we were getting better at our work. We had received grants from Gas Authority of India Ltd. (GAIL) to stage a big production of our adaptation of Habib Tanvir’s ‘Kamdeo Ka Apna, Vasant Ritu ka Sapna’ which was also an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. We called it ‘Dekha ek Khwaab’. It was a full-fledged comedy directed by a theatre practitioner called Sachin Bisht, who worked with me for a long $me.  

We were very excited about the project. Then Covid 19 happened, and the world came to a halt. They were dark times; theatre people were one of the worst hit due to the pandemic. 

There was a silver lining. It was during Covid 19, when I learnt that there is never a bad time to do something great. I made a short film called ‘Baat ek dopahar ki’- shot on mobile phones, with three actors, Altaf Hussain, Prerna and Suzain, all of us working from our respective homes. The film was released on YouTube and within no time it had more than a thousand views.  

The film won us accolades. It was selected in many national and international festivals including Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, UK and many more. It was selected to be played in the Bengaluru International Short Film Festival (BISFF) which is an Oscar qualifying Short Film Festival.

 I also launched a successful Online National Poetry Competition called ‘Rhyme & Verse’, with the objective of keeping people occupied with creative ideas and thoughts.   

As the lockdown eased a little, theatre was allowed to start, albeit with restrictions. We resumed our work on ‘Dekha ek Khwaab’ and managed to stage it at Akshara Auditorium’s Open Space. It was very well received by the audience.  

What challenges did you face when you wanted to start Articoll?            

The challenges I have faced/still facing are not limited to just Articoll. A theatre practitioner always faces many challenges. My experience tells me that theatre is not commercially thriving, it does not guarantee any professional settlement or growth, it has a selective audience and funds are limited too.  

Sometimes it makes me sad that theatre is not getting the love and attention it deserves. I wish people knew more about how effective and important it can be. I wish people introduced their kids to theatre early so that they can manage stress better, they would build better levels of concentration. They would understand the joys of fun learning. They would be more confident socially, and they would feel more confident about the way they are.  

I say all this with experience, I say this having seen people with anger issues becoming calmer and happier, I have seen special children feeling comfortable in a social environment, feeling better about themselves, loving what they do in the theatre space and carrying that happiness in their everyday life. 

A few things that would help a lot are - affordable performance and rehearsal spaces. 

I wish theatre actors and practitioners were paid better; I wish there were more funds for theatre. I wish more people would go and watch theatre just like they go for movies. I wish people would join theatre not just to get trained to become TV or Bollywood actors, but also to improve themselves and their way of life.  

Theatre on its own adds joy, beauty, and confidence to an individual’s life, I think that is what one’s primary approach should be when they think of it.  

What are your other interests, besides Articoll? What are your plans?

I have been fortunate to have the support of wonderful people and eminent organizations in my journey. I have written and directed many plays, worked on adaptations, worked in collaboration with great minds, and recently started with short films too.

 My adaptation of ‘Dayashankar ki Diary’ was presented at Muktadhara Auditorium in the presence of Smt. Nadira Babbar Ma’am, who is an institution on her own, was a blessing. 

I have made a yet to be released film based on ‘Dastangoi’, which is a dying art form, with Dastango Syed Sahil Agha’s story. The film also features Nageen Tanvir ji who is the daughter of legendary Habib Tanvir ji. In my future projects, I look forward to working with some wonderful people from whom I can learn the art of theatre. Tt has been great so far, but there’s still a long way to go.

I look forward to it.  

I think I am fortunate doing everything that I wanted to do, whether it is writing, theatre & Independent Filmmaking. Someday. I do wish to get back in touch with music. It is a love that I miss, I just need to make some time for it.  

I want to work on bigger projects and meet and work with talented people from cinema as well as the field of theatre. I want to continue learning. I want my team and my students to flourish and get commercially viable opportunities. 

I hope to keep my theatre group going, and wish to contribute, even if in a very small way, to take this art form to more and more people so that they understand and admire it for its worth.  



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