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a million SITA-s - Critics Speak
a Neo Bharatam presentation

When Sita truly arrived
- Shankaran Malini, Express News Service, February 2, 2011

At times we get so used to things, be it mundane assumptions or mythological tales, that when we get a fresh perspective on them, we are left wondering in awe. In other words, it gives us a different approach to the truth by applying lateral thinking. 'A Million Sita-s' by Anita Ratnam, in Neo Bharatam style was one such eye-opener. It offered a refraction to the popular notion we have about many women, without whose interventions the crucial events in Adi Kavya, Ramayana would not have occurred - Manthara, Surpanakha, Ahalya and Sabari.

Sita's image always rests in one's mind as that of a beautiful, demure, quiet, ideal icon of a dutiful wife of none other than the Maryada Purushottam Ram himself; a woman who was muchwronged in her lifetime, but stayed unswerving in her loyalty and righteousness. One always tends to sympathise with Sita who is so forlorn.

But Anita Ratnam's Sita shatters this notion and challenges the myth a million times. One need not pity her, or shower sympathies on her, but simply empathise with her.

Sita is the epitome of confidence and inner strength, who says, "I chose Rama before He chose me. I chose to marry him, before he chose to marry me. I chose to go with him to the forest, and not follow him to the forest. I chose not to go with Hanuman, but stay in Lanka till Ram came to fetch me. I chose to bathe in fire because I know I am pure." Sita is still hopelessly in love with Ram, and her love is true. And when love for somebody is unstirred, unchanged, consistent and true for years, decades, ages together, it is more than just mature love. Sita for instance empathises with Surpanakaha, who fell for Ram who spurned her advances saying that he was devoted to Sita.

Sita empathises with Manthara, the old servant of Kaikeyi with a hunchback, who convinced the queen to send Ram on exile. She is awed by Sabari's devotion who waits for Ram, and Ahalya who freed from the curse, becomes a woman again from the stone that she was. So why is Sita, the auspicious one who is always invoked at a girl's wedding, seldom the name of a girl child? These are the myths that Anita Ratnam's 'A Million Sita-s' dealt with - myths that her Sita broke free from.

The performance that took place at Amethyst's new space on Whites Road, saw a great turnout of cultural enthusiasts with Kiran Rao playing the perfect host. The research and text for this production was by Anita Ratnam and Rex. Vocals were by Lakshmi and Subhiksha Rangarajan; Viji Krishnan was on the violin; NK Kesavan on the multi-percussion. The man behind the choreography and direction was Hari Krishnan.

The costume and visual design was by Rex while the lighting design was taken care of by Victor Paulraj. The music consultants included Anil Srinivasan and Vedanth Bharadwaj.

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