Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Aug 25, 2015

CHENNAI COLORS IV: Inculcate passionate-curiosity to write about art - Dr. Anita Ratnam

 Colour of Chennai is somewhere between red and orange...
(This series is about amazing and creative people of Chennai....)

A refreshing early morning chat with Dr. Anita Ratnam, a highly respected performer, writer, speaker and arts entrepreneur and culture mentor, set the tone of this edition of Chennai Colors, as she picked the color ‘Arakk-Munjal’ – a hue somewhere between ‘Vermillion and Mango Orange’ as the color of Chennai. The spiritual significance of turmeric and vermillion as auspicious, full of reverence and passion is the color of Chennai and I couldn’t agree more as having witnessed, first hand for 2 decades the beautiful temple festivals, the month long Marghazhi cultural events and the fan frenzy for music, theater and movie stars.
It was a pleasure to talk to her, arranged by Ms. Pallavi Gandhi of “Apparao Gallery” which is presenting a lovely series of lectures on “Writing For The Arts”. The series have been conceptualized with an objective to create a group of writers who will support the art, culture and heritage of the country in writing platforms available currently.

The first lecture on the series is by Dr Anita Ratnam on ‘Writing to Promote, Present and Market the Arts’.

Date and Time: 29th Aug, 2015 from 2PM to 5PM
Venue: Apparao Gallery, KNK Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai.
Registration Required to attend
Email: or )
A Brief Note...
Anita Ratnam - Classical and contemporary dancer and choreographer

Dr Anita R Ratnam, based in Chennai (Madras), India, is highly respected as a performer, writer, speaker and arts entrepreneur and culture mentor.  She has been described as an "intersectionist", whose work weaves the many disciplines of dance, theatre, spoken word, ritual, archaeology, dramaturgy and women's issues. For over 40 years, her distinguished career has witnessed over 1300 performances in 37 countries. Her formal training in Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam and Kathakali has given Dr Ratnam a distinctive movement vocabulary that she has named NEO BHARATAM - a contemporary Indian kinetic situated on a mature body. Using voice, singing, Vedic hymns, drumming, contemporary mythology and devised movements, her acclaimed choreographies include GAJAANANA, DAUGHTERS OF THE OCEAN, SEVEN GRACES, MA3KA, A MILLION SITAS and NEELAM.

Dr Ratnam's  background as a television producer in New York City (1980 to 1990) as well as her educational qualifications in Dance, History, Theatre and Women's Studies  (MA and Phd) have made her a popular speaker for diverse audiences.
Curtsy: Anita Ratnam, To read more, please click here…

…and our discussion started with talking about her lecture and the present scenario of writing about Arts. She began with the basic theme of her lecture is writing about the Arts in general, focusing on visual aspect of art in terms of new writers.

“As a society, we do things that are told to us by peers, parents and guru’s. We lack deep engagement with performances that we go to, which do not help. We are groomed in the era of impossible youth and beauty through Movies, Shows and events etc. and do not go beyond that.” – Dr. Anita Ratnam
She says that it’s mostly the looks or what one is wearing impresses the novice in the field. But this ‘Body part syndrome’ as she called the fixation, does not help when we are watching an artist perform. We should go prepared for a performance. One should do a little homework on the background of the artist, the art and the particular performance to understand and appreciate it. In the age of Information and Google, it’s does not even take more than few minutes to do this. Some of the performances do not have the usual entertainment quotient of mega shows and film and star based events, so to do justice to such performances and the performing artists as well as to our own time, we need to have awareness about the art.
“The most important factor in writing about the Art, one has to have a ‘passionate-curiosity” – Dr. Anita Ratnam
For the new artists, performers, writers Dr. Ratnam feels that it is required that we understand our cultural heritage, our roots to understand the nuances of any performing arts and more importantly to enrich our lives. Her own formal training in classical dance forms has helped to bring in new dimension, flow and energy into her productions and performances.

She feels that the new writer should read, read a lot. Get in touch with our heritage and culture as it stretches our imagination. The blockbuster Movies like Bahubali has taken their inspirations from heritage; epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana will never fail to fire up your imaginations. Even Jataka tales, Amar Chitra Katha will give you something to ponder and think about, to work on, to perform. The sense of humor is one aspect that is missing from stage performances and one can very well find it in these stories and be inspired.

Image @
Another source of learning and inspiration cultural reviews and reports on the dance performances, by important foreign publications, see how they are expressed and what makes them beautiful and great in the reviewer’s opinion.

As we moved on to talk about the way people in the western countries discus and promote artists through documentaries, movies etc., she felt that the Artist in India has to become human first. Most of the people show and want to show their perfect side not the ‘chipped – nail – polish’ side. An artist has to expose their vulnerable side to make a worthwhile film or documentary, which does not happen in India. Secondly there is no market for these types of projects in India, so only few do it on their own, which is not sustainable.

“There are no movies or documentaries but hagiographies in India. There are great artists in India but lot of mediocrity too”. – Dr. Anita Ratnam

And then there is the other side, e.g. places like Chennai, which is home to excellent artists but only handful infrastructure available for performing arts in the city. Most of them do not even have necessary or sufficient equipments for a modern production.

This needs to change. Probably the lectures like the one I am going to give at Apparao Gallery, will get more and more people to start writing or talking about the artists and their performances, which will help to bring in the change.

Finally I leave you with an amazing performance from her latest production 'A Million Sitas', from youtube, curtsy Chella Vaithinathan.

Hope you have enjoyed this series of Chennai Colors, please do join in to hear her lecture at Apparao Gallery if you are in Chennai on 29th Aug, 2015.

ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya

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