Dr Jacqueline Roussety grew up in London and studied acting and directing in Hastings. She then made a foray into the world of theatre. After more than a decade and a half of permanent engagements as an actress and director in Germany, she has been living in Delhi since 2019, during which she has also been associated with the National School of Drama as a guest lecturer and trainer, teaching European theatre and film methods.
Dr Jacqueline Roussety
In this interview, she talks about her new book ‘Everyday Life’, her acting journey, the theatre scene in Germany, her association with the National School of Drama, and her PhD thesis. Excerpts:
Q: Your latest offering ‘Everyday Life,’ which is your seventh book, is a collection of short stories, poems, plays, and scripts. What is the creative vision behind it?
A: ‘Everyday Life’ is a book which was my friend throughout my entire life journey. Along with the recent stuff, there are also some poems written by me about 25 years ago. It’s a journey through all the genres of literature, and I think that’s what makes it unique. I think I managed to show as an author that I am capable of writing in all genres. I have been an actress for so many years and I think it is my tool as an actress how I use the language. And not only on the stage, but also as a director as well as a movie actress. People say that it is my voice and the way I use the words because every word can have two or three meanings. So when you put words together, it is not just about what it means, but also what you can also see behind the words. And this was interesting for me to see if I could also put all my creativity, how people think, move, and behave into written language.
Q: You grew up in London and studied acting and directing in Hastings, London, and later on in Germany. Tell us about your journey as an actor and director.
A: My father is French and my mother is German-Danish, and after I was born, they moved to London. That’s why I grew up in London and I am a British citizen. From London, I moved to Hastings, where I studied acting. When I was 18, I came back to Germany, and there I went straight to the theatre. For 13 years on the trot, I acted on the stage, which is rare, especially for a woman. Then I started directing. Subsequently, I joined as acting and directing professor in an acting school in Munich. I carried on with this in Berlin and now here in India at the National School of Drama.
Q: Tell us about the theatre scene in Germany.
A: The theatre scene is quite big and well known. Back in the day, there was a huge difference in the theatre scene between East and West Germany. But, of course, I have been part of the theatre in West Germany. And it was very interesting to watch because we were really able to be very political without being fearful of the authorities like in the East. And I had a great time on stage, both as an actor and director. To be quite honest, I haven’t seen another country in the world that has so many theatres. Every town in Germany has its own theatre, and it’s been supported by the state.
Q: What kind of challenge is posed by the ever-growing popularity of cinema (and now OTT) to the theatre? Is there segregation between theatre and film actors?
A: Well, in recent times, the theatre indeed has been facing stiff competition from the movies, and more so because of the advent of OTT platforms. So, yes, it’s getting a little challenging for theatre to compete.
Speaking of segregation, there used to be a big separation earlier. Once I got an ad and I remember that I was told to not tell anyone. But this has changed completely. Now the theatre actors freely say that they have this and this movie in their schedule and the directors accept it. We also have many actors and actresses who are famous in both theatre and movies, and it’s great because it offers greater financial stability.
Q: How has your experience been at the National School of Drama?
A: It’s been a great experience as I have had to bring the European way (I call it a psychological way of playing) to the Indian way, which is incredibly emotional. It’s been wonderful working with extremely emotional actors and actresses, but also in a very psychological way. And the audiences, too, have been both enthralled and touched by it.
Q: Tell us about your PhD thesis.
A: It’s titled ‘Genius and Muses in Film.’ You have to understand that traditionally most movies used to be shot from the point of view of a man. Of course, it all depends on where you put the camera and how you do the editing. And for my thesis, I wrote 500 pages and use 6 big movies to show what happens if you shoot it from a different angle? What happens if a woman looks a certain way? How often is a woman in a European movie naked? The first movie is ‘Der blaue Engel,’ starring Marlene Dietrich. Then I have two films of Leni Riefenstahl’s: one was before she became Hitler’s big director i.e. ‘The Blue Light’ and the other was ‘Triumph of the Will,’ which is a very horrible work, through which Riefenstahl gloried the Nazis. But, in my thesis, I switched the positions around. It’s not Hitler who’s the genius. She was the genius who made Hitler so big. The next movie is Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘Blowup,’ followed by Carlos Saura’s ‘Carmen’ and Jacques Rivette’s ‘La Belle Noiseuse.’