Nalini Malani’s The Job documents a work of theatre titled Naukari (‘job’ in Hindi). A collaboration with the director Anuradha Kapur, the performance adapts a short story written by the German playwright Bertolt Brecht in the 1930s. The plot centres on a woman caught impersonating her dead husband to keep a job as a factory guard. To sustain the lie, she lives with a ‘wife’ and children. Though her work earns praise, she loses the job when an accident at the factory reveals her identity.
The video opens with a news clipping summarising the premise. A woman occupies the set, interacting with a series of mysterious objects; among these are painted transparent cylinders, a recurring medium in Nalani’s work. The protagonist’s struggles with poverty are narrated in voiceover. She packs a suitcase and at one moment folds herself inside it. Later, dressed in black, with her long hair hidden under a cap, she moves with confidence and experiences a short-lived degree of freedom.
To complement the live action, The Job incorporates excerpts of Malani’s 1996 animation Memory: Record/Erase. These drawings similarly spring from Brecht’s story to explore themes related to women’s labour.
Nalini Malani (b.1946, British India) is a pioneer in video art. Her family’s experience of displacement during the 1947 Partition of India strongly influenced her early life and her later activism. Over her long and prolific career spanning film, installation, and painting, she has continually examined the ways political conflicts and social structures affect women and other marginalised communities.