An opera of invisible labour: Anuradha Kapur on ‘Daughters’


NEW DELHI: This may be the first time Anuradha Kapur is venturing into this space, but then navigating the unexplored has never been a new territory for her. Kapur talks about the importance of exploring what is novel without any preconceived notions of the end result.

“It opens up several internal spaces inside, isn’t that what is most important?”

As Sangeet Natak Akademi award winning theatre director Anuradha Kapur, whose latest production ‘Daughters’, an opera gets set to be staged in Delhi from January 3 to 5, takes a break from the rehearsals at the Black Box in Okhla, she makes it clear at the onset that the effort should be seen as collaborative in its essence.

“My name may be there as the director, but what will be presented is in fact a coming together of many minds and interpretations. In some senses, there may be division of the work, but ‘Daughters’ is completely collaborative, and that’s what we wanted. In this work, everyone’s process leaks into each other and there are no hierarchies, making the effort not only unique but also extremely interesting,” says the former Director of National School of Drama (NSD).

A contemporary performance work created by Indian, Australian, Portuguese, British and Chilean artists, the all-female cast of eDaughters’ address everyday gender violence through the form of Portuguese Fado music and live experimental electronics.

With libretto written by Tammy Brennan, music composed by David Chisholm, scenography by Deepan Sivaraman, Movement language and Choreography by Victoria Hunt, the director stresses that the real challenge was how to present violence without actually etalking’ only about it.

“We do this by pointing towards the unparalled labour women do. It has a lot of present connections. So many efforts are made to invisibilising the woman and her labour. In fact, there is one sequence in the opera — women in the absolutely packed local train and cutting vegetables while commuting. It’s basically trying to make a connection between the everyday of the woman and the way life runs for her,” adds Kapur, a 2016-2017 Fellow at Freie Universitat, Berlin.

While the text was written in 2013, the music was composed in the year 2017 and the team has been meeting regularly since then.

While the actors are Indian, the opera singer is from Australia. “She has come prepared with the music. Now, our job is integration, but in a way that the end product doesn’t look like stitching but a form.”

Kapur says that she had been interested in the form of opera for a long time now. “I like the fact that this is a long-term project.”

Known for her interdisciplinary approach towards the arts, Kapur, who has in the past collaborated with several major visual artists including Arpita Singh, Bhupen Khakhar, Vivan Sundaram, Nalini Malani and Nilima Sheikh, insists that the most interesting aspect of such exercises is the difficulty of making it. “You must go through improvisation, you must change till the very end. It needs to be ascertained that a constant dialogue between forms exists at all times. It is only then that something truly unique emerges.”

Citing the example of Kochi Biennale and Serendipity Arts Festival, which have successfully incorporated an interdisciplinary approach, ascertaining that visitors get to see not just art but also theatre, films and performances there, she says, “The need of the hour is to blur boundaries.

‘Categorization’ is only a notion. In my experience, I have seen that people come to things and accept different kinds of experiences, even if just for a novelty. We must test out our urges without the preconceived notion of ‘this won’t work’. Whenever boundaries have been blurred – there is an interest – what is this?’ Of course you can also say that I don’t understand, and that this doesn’t work – but so what?” says the director who will be directing Mahesh Elkunchwar’s ‘Sonata’ in coming months.

While small-town India may be witnessing an increase in number of intimate film festivals, Kapur feels that in order to ensure that theatre festivals too make a mark in Tier 2 cities, the government and local administration must come forward. “A theatre fest will require an elaborate organizational spread – logistics, people to stay and sets etc. The local administrations need to not only support but also push for them.” IANSlife