Striving for Excellence
SANGEET NATAK AKADEMI AWARD RECIPIENT, THEATRE DIRECTOR ANURADHA KAPUR TALKS ABOUT THE NEED FOR POROUS BORDERS BETWEEN VARIED ART FORMS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING MEDIOCRES AWAY.
The importance of keeping mediocres away from theatre.
Varied hues from different art forms come together in her work. Poetry of painting effortlessly comes together with a gush of words and silences. It is clear that she likes to see herself in uninformed spaces, dysfunctional meetings. And that is where she feels essentially alive.
Delhi-based theatre director Anuradha Kapur, a two-time (20072013) director of the prestigious National School of Drama in the country’s capital, says that she has always liked art forms where there is no single authorship, where there is an expanded field of dialogue and no comfort. “Porous borders between different art forms, observing how they come together with their similarities and stalk differences, takes the work to a level where meanings emerge in multitudes.” This, she says, is what has been keeping her excited all these three decades in theatre. “From 1990 onwards, I have collaborated extensively with visual artists, filmmakers and sculptors. I just don’t want predictability as the end result,” says the 2004 recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award for Theatre Direction.
And the criticism from ‘puritans’ that follows her work is brushed aside with a smile. “What is new about it? I am quite used to it. The problem is that Indian realism has predetermined the nature of the hut. It has also done its interiors. Yes, I believe in excess, and not the so-called modern business,” she says during the Serendipity Arts Festival held in Goa in December 2016, where she presented the contemporary reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest along with Lillete Dubey. All for small theatre repertory companies in different parts of the country, Kapur, the author of Actors, Pilgrims, Kings and Gods: The Ramlila of Ramnagar (University of Chicago Press (2006), feels that people must go back to their own roots after adequate training. “A huge number of trained theatre people from different regions want to stick it out in Mumbai or other metros. Where is the space?”
While agreeing that it is exciting to see large number of theatre festivals burgeoning in India, the director well-known for her works like Sundari: An Actor Prepares, Ghar aur Bahar, Umrao and Romeo and Juliet, adds, “But it is important to remember that several young and promising directors are seldom invited there. Let us stop playing safe by inviting only major directors. We have to encourage the brilliance of the young.”
Mention all the talk by several Mumbai-based directors about the indispensability of corporate support in theatre, and she is quick to say, “Not that I am against it in principle. However, the best theatre always happens under state’s patronage. Not under corporate nonsense. Corporates need to understand that there is much more to this than mere entertainment. It gets on my nerves when these young corporate types, who can’t even spell literature, talk in that I-know-all tone.”
Kapur, who has always been vocal about the appointment of under-qualified heads to various art institutions under the present central government, says, “It is the business of institutions to ask difficult questions. You can’t have a person there who, like in a guru-shishya parampara expects his feet to be touched constantly.”