From acid attacks to sex tapes, playwright Playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar is definitely not one to shy away from controversial topics and often get’s asked why doesn’t she write about the positive side of being an Indian, why focus only on the negative. “I tell them: on the day that these things don’t happen anymore, I will happily start writing bedroom farces.” Her newest play, ‘When the Crows Visit’ is inspired by Ibsen’s Ghosts and ‘it is a brilliantly creepy play, building up tension and horror through the crows that bridge the worlds of the living and the dead.’
Violence against women in India is not new, only that now such cases are receiving more coverage by the media
The play also draws reference to the horrors of the 2012 gangrape in Delhi and although the case takes place off-stage, the terror of it is felt by the characters and the audience. Directed by Indhu Rubasingham, artistic director at London’s Kiln theatre, it had to be directed by someone who has their roots in Indian so that they can fully understand the context. “Anu’s not only a brilliant playwright – she is writing from a place of knowledge and lived experience. Immediately after I got this job, I wanted to commission her,” said Rubasingham. The truth that violence against women in India is nothing new, only that now such cases are receiving more coverage by the media and that rapes are becoming more brutal than ever. “It was not a one-off incident. It has happened over and over again since and has just become more gory, more brutal. But you can sense the media fatigue around the reporting of crimes against women. If it happens outside of the cities, it’s just another incident. The candlelit vigils don’t happen for women in small towns and villages,” said Chandrasekhar.
“I saw people my age doing important things and saw how important they felt their voices were to their own countries”
“I, like Ibsen, am just trying to be faithful to my society’s dynamics. I’m fascinated by how culture and patriarchy express itself in how women are supposed to behave – and I think Ibsen was too,” said Chandrasekhar. According to her, Ibsen is right up there with the likes of Shakespeare because their works tackle the tension between the individual and the society, and that you have them talking to the readers and the audience like contemporaries. As someone who always held a love for all things literature, she started her career as a journalist and after finding that she wasn’t meant to do it, she starting writing plays on the side and began working part-time for the British Council in China. After receiving a fellowship at London’s Royal Court, she knew that her career as a playwright was born. “I saw people my age doing important things and saw how important they felt their voices were to their own countries. I felt I could be part of this. I could matter,” she said. Today, women are speaking out on various issues of our time and are being punished for it and she wants to subvert this.
Image credit: Pacific Ties