Regie/Director in New Delhi: Katzelmacher (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)


Directors note




The play "Katzelmacher", which means "Trouble Maker", but is also a more than derogatory term for someone who comes to a country as a stranger and seems to have nothing else on his mind but to produce children here - just like a permanently rolling cat - naturally reflects the point of view of those who believe that the stranger takes away all their jobs from outside, rapes women, destroys their familiar culture and home. This play by Rainer Werner Fassbinder is still the recurring theme worldwide, even 40 years after the drama appeared. Fassbinder succeeded in conceiving an everyday story in an almost monotonous manner that seems more topical than ever. And one does not only have to look at Europe. In my staging I was able to transfer many of the fears, prejudices and harassments of the characters to Indian society. Not only that the foreigner, the guest worker, stirs up the fear that he would take away the work of the old-established people, a very great aggression comes to light as soon as one of the women suddenly becomes interested in the foreigner. With his emergence, one’s own shortcomings, which turn into hatred, aggression and brutal violence, reveal themselves behind the petty bourgeois masks. The stairs and steps also stand for this as metaphors and symbols for the often-hopeless situations in which the figures find themselves. In order to immerse myself deeper into the psychological abysses of the characters, I developed a new play from the script of the same name and the theatre version, which has not yet been performed in this form and will thus have its world premiere in the NSD. With the installation of two journalists, themes such as xenophobia, domestic violence and homosexuality are portrayed as the media voices that relentlessly, but relying on facts, are used as a kind of enlightening function and run like a red thread through the play. In the intermedia staging, theatre, film, dance and music mix and reveal the states of the characters again and again.

Ultimately, everyone must recognize for themselves how tolerant they really are. Racism, contempt, disregard and violation of human dignity is and remains a human flaw. No matter in which nation. 


Brochure of the play "Katzelmacher"

Adobe Acrobat Dokument 26.9 MB

  • 1.     Among multiple choices of text, what motivated you to particularly select Fassbinder’s play “Katzelmacher" which is also made into a film in 1969, and translate it into a theatrical production with Indian artists?
  • I wanted to direct a play which not just had a German relevance, but which also had an international appeal. Already worked as a journalist with the content of Indian society, especially when it all comes to the position of women in Indian Society, raping, domestic violence and foreigners as a guest worker, all that gave me the idea of combining the idea of combining the film script of “Katzelmacher” and the theatre piece.Taking the German element I started reconstructing it in India. Such fusion of screenplay and theatre play had never happened before. I decided to keep the original German name which describes the fear of a society, when a foreigner turns up. All they think about is that this stranger will destroy their life, their habits, rituals and only keeps on reproducing himself. With 12 great actors and actresses, I worked for 3 weeks in English and later switched to Hindi.
  • 2.     What was your process of assigning roles to your cast and how did you make that choice?
  • This has a lot to do with the archetype of characters, which was the main thing. I trained and inspected the kind of archetype that was in front of me and then appointed an actor or actress to the character of the play, that fitted this archetype. I wanted to see their abilities. I had a very special technique of emotional training through which I worked with them. I basically had let them talk in Hindi. Even though I couldn’t understand a word it was interesting to know how open the person is. It also allowed me to speculate their sense of humor. Physical presentation was also taken care of. If I had the character of a great guy supposedly a leader of the party, with the ability to lead like a king, a good-looking man would definitely succeed in persuading the girls to listen to him and eventually respect him. To be honest, I believe the cast chose me. I must say, I had a cast of twelve great actors and actresses.
  • 3.     The character of Elizabeth and her husband, Peter is quite interesting to watch. While Elizabeth is dominating, Peter is submissive and follows her. How did you manage to fit such elements in theatre?
  • People these days want a realistic show or a realistic movie, but theatrical concepts are never realistic because it is an art. I took this chance to tell a very simple story. I wanted to show not just patriarchal violence but also give a blow of violence over a man inflicted by a woman, thus giving it a different purview. The scene where Elizabeth is sitting like a queen up there holding her little dog on her chair gives her an authoritative. When she says, ‘Come on take me down, take me down’, I really wanted to show the capacity of a woman to dominate the male member. So, with the help of Peter’s submissive character I tried to present his inner desire to possess the position that Elizabeth was physically holding, his willingness to take over all the tribulations in order to achieve that seat someday. This puts light on the fact that some people even today wish to take over the trouble over them in the hope of some light in the end.
  • 4.     Sexuality, from the Indian perspective is seen very differently compared to how Fassbinder in his play portrayed. His play explored both heterosexuality and homosexuality. Given the fact, that your production is based in India, were there any challenges that you faced in keeping up with the original narrative?
  • Fassbinder didn’t mention Homosexuality at all! That was my idea and concept. But he surely would have been proud of me, as he was bisexual. My technique of direction is a little different from that of Fassbinder. I was deeply affected by the documentary film India’s daughter. We all are familiar with the horrifying rape case of Nirbhaya. It had a grave impact over the Europeans’ perception of, be it Yoga, the retro culture or food. It is a terrifying memory of what happened to the girl nine years ago in Delhi. I am politically aware person, and this was the reason behind my necessity to understand the country I was living in at that time. I was happy to come to India for the first time considering the great opportunities it grants to one. But I knew the serious issues pertaining to domestic violence, resistance to homosexuality, and its conservative nature towards sex education.
  • I was aware that our topic of work was not a matter of major concern in Germany now. But I have seen how we treat the maid, the poor Uber driver, and people who belong to lower caste. This is an interesting aspect which I combined as well.
  • 5.     The character of "Gunda", played by Devika, sings a song in the play. Was her casting for this role primary based on her talent or did you want to present a Bollywood number that would support the script of the play?
  • Well the thing is that, singing is one of the most important aspects in a film. I did my PhD on Filming and am very aware of music’s power to deliver emotions to the audience in a special way. So, I use this for the character of “Gunda” who gets a chance to reveal her true feelings. She is a plain girl, and nobody desires her. To communicate her inner feeling of being lost, loneliness and longing, she sings because she finds is no better way to express it. She sings out her inner monologue and this indeed is a very special moment for me as well.
  • 6.     The character of “Yorgos“, played by Tribuwhan Nath, who is an outsider, has a very impressive entry, with a dramatic silhouette effect. How did you visualize this?
  • I focus more on the psychology of images which basically talks about symbolism. I gave Yorgos this impressive entry because of the meaning it brings out. What is interesting here is that he is the only person who comes inside. Although, all of them present inside have desires to go somewhere, do something and prosper, nobody wishes to leave and continues to remain stuck inside. Infact, even Yorgos takes his entry as the moment of stepping into ‘paradise’ and hopes to have a better life. However, in the end, it is him who questions the existence of 'paradise’.
  • 7.     There is another scene where he is seen making a painting on the wall. Why did you choose this particular scene for him?
  • He is a nice, handsome guy who too had dreams. He is an artist and even though he was working as a guest worker he is liked by quite a few from the gang. He is an optimistic person who is ready to show his work to the whole world but sadly nobody recognizes it. I wanted to show that he was not just a dumb worker but a very talented and intelligent man. It is interesting to see that the moment he meets the girl, who is suggested to be his future mistress, he is confidently able to show his ability.
  • We were all together as a great team, with a wonderful directing assistant Anirban Banik, which was important for me.  After two weeks I stopped the normal rehearsal and then had solo rehearsals with each character and worked on their movement, feelings, positions, and aim of the character. When I took the solo class, an interesting thing happened; I stated using the highlighting technique to understand what the character wanted, what his/her prime desire was throughout the play and the former’s relationship with the other characters. I wanted each character to ponder over the other characters on their actions, feeling, thoughts and work. We went through the psychological analysis of the characters together. It was very interesting and that’s how we got involved, step by step, in the whole play.
  • 8.     The colour “Red” is visibly dominant in the play. Why is that?
  • Yes, but also blue and black, typical symbols for men and women. We think that because we live in the 21st century we can talk much about gender and sexuality, but I personally believe that ‘men and women are different’. This can be a challenge and a problem. For me it was very important to show that most of the times women in this play think and behave in a very stereotypically gendered manner. In Katzelmacher, people are not able to talk and flag their opinion over issues pertaining to gender and sexuality. Their speech is somehow bounded, and the colors are symbolic of their muted speech. The girls are seen wearing red or pink and the boys wearing black and blue which again relates to the colors associated with genders given by the society. The men are presented in cold colors – blue and black while the women are in bold colors –red symbolizing love and blood, and pink again being a girlish color. Colours help us understand their inability to take off the clichés which is represented by dialogues like “I want to have a child”, “I want to have a nice husband”, “I want to own a lot of money”, “I want a good wife”, etc. With these costumes I was able to show both the challenges and the problems faced.
  • 9.     As this production was also a huge learning experience not just for the actors and actresses but everyone involved, how did you keep this factor in mind?
  • The whole thing was a very interesting process because of course I used different techniques. The most important task for me was to find a good text which could incorporate my twelve talented young actors and actresses whom I had selected from the National School of Drama (NSD). It was essential for them to have a wonderful learning experience. I am not an enthusiast when it comes to the typical situation in so many theatre companies, when only two leading roles dominate the play and all the others get the feeling not being able to show their abilities. Therefore, I wanted to make sure on my part that all the cast members selected by me had a substantial role play through which they could present themselves at the fullest.For two days, I worked with each character very separately because I think it is very important in any drama school that the young next generation of actors and actresses get a chance to showcase their talent.
  • 10.  Is there anything that you would like to add about the play which I may not have asked?
  • About the play, I think lots of people admire the fact that I am a foreigner who has come to India to talk about problems whose existencehave become so common today and still does not get spoken about. But for me, these problems that we have are not personal to only one nation but are universal and is an important matter of discussion
  • And next year, 2020 it is the Fassbinder Year. He would have turned 75 and his work is going to be celebrated. What a pity that the NSD is not able to show this production in this for us in Germany very special Fassbinder Year. 


Thank You from Payal Pande: The director who just not comes only like a director. She becomes the teacher also. In this international production we got a perfect teacher. She has a bunch of talent. Fantastic actor, director, designer, and most important an amazing human being. During this four weeks production I got learn a lot from her in every possible way. Such a sorted director she is . We had very interesting sessions with her on acting. For which she gave us all individual timing for rehearsal with her and did great works on our individual character's archetype. Archetype is an ancient Greek term. Which helps you in making and developing your character. It is a very helpful and solid theory. During this process she wanted me to be her little princess and at the end she did it...She made me a cute little princess through and through. Thank you ma'am it was an unforgettable journey for me . Love You. Jacqueline Roussety mam.😍😍😍😍😍
Anirban Banik
Vikram M Mohan