Reviving belief in mythology

CAPTURING IMAGINATION

The City has over the years seen contemporary frames of Dr Anita Ratnam’s presentations, but she terms this one as ‘traditional’ with a mix of theatre.

‘Neelam- Drowning in Bliss’ a dance concert by Sandhya Raman of Desmania Foundation where Anita recently performed a solo neo-bharatam performance, was inspired by the serene stillness of South Indian Vaishnav
ritual tradition.

The hour-long rendition resonates the many hues of Lord Vishnu and memory of the Ramayana myth that inhabits the imagination of millions around the world. The bhakti element of surrender is very predominant throughout the visual feast of richness of ‘Krishna’ that emotes the love of those immersed in the joy of Vishnu. Anita speaks of a distinction between the dramatic northern sentiment of Shereenathji of Dwarka and Balaji of the South.

Very strong feminine top and masculine bottom form, creates a tension that is at once is exciting and compelling. It continues through the four sequences of the presentation. Anita does a 10-minute Ramayana aalap and makes appropriate and effective use of props with the familiar, heart warming elements of the parrot, garland and Lakshman rekha that enjoy universal appeal with audiences across.

Anita believes this is a perfect way to capture the audience’s undying belief in mythology. She plays on the cultural memory of the audience as she believes not in spoon-feeding but stimulating an intelligent audience’s sentiments and in that including the experimental. Reminiscing, the dancer says, “Everything adds to the patchwork quilt of my personal favourites… going back to my mother’s home, with songs I heard in her home ...my own personal journey”.

Anita has mapped the choreography through her 1971 memory of dancing before MS Subbalakshmi at the opening night of the Madras Music Academy festival. She is an artiste whose work weaves through the many disciplines of dance, theatre, feminist issues and resistance. A PhD in Women’s Studies from the University of Madras, Anita is seriously engaged with the imaging of Indian and Asian women via the prism of
performance.

This interdisciplinary method of working with many artistes has given her productions a unique edge in her performance structures, challenging the role and space, for mature women as performing artistes in a global world, fuelled by youth and celebrity.

Her ability to connect through storytelling, musical theatre and gestures to a wide variety of audiences has enabled international assignments and diverse spaces like Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, Korzo Theatre at The Hague, Substation, Singapore, Newark Museum and Peabody Essex Museum in the USA.

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