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SITA-s - Response
a Neo Bharatam
'A Million Sitas' by Dr. Anita Ratnam
Kampni Kutcheri Chamber Concert Series
- K Shridhar Hegde, narthaki.com, 15 Jan 2018
It is at once easy and difficult to choreograph an interpretation of the
Ramayana. Easy, as the epic lends itself to so many interesting
perspectives, difficult, as they all tend to ring similar beyond a
point. 'A Million Sitas' by Anita Ratnam stood out from the many
offshoots of the epic.
The production was cutting edge in many ways. Best among them was the
narrative, the non-compulsiveness to keep dance at the centre of the
production and the intelligent selection and use of music. The
Jugalbandhi between the 'Thaalaattu' and the 'Oppari' (or the Rudhali),
that she later shared was an inspiration from the Brad Pitt movie
'Troy', did not stop ringing in my ears even after the show. That Sita
decided to make the choices and was not deemed to do so, was a
- Kumudha BharathRam, Dancer
"Art they say is a representation of our
thoughts, desires the way we have experienced the world. So
the world is an eye opener for us. Very few artists
give us such unique experience. One such
experience was watching "A Million Sitas" in many ways. All aspects of
our classical dance Angika, Aharya, Vaachika & Satvika were
beautifully brought out in this intelligently scripted production by
Dr.Anita ratnam. With vast experience in varied art
forms, travel & studying different countries cultures &
traditions, one could see how an artist can intelligently
put across a subject which is thought provoking & make
us feel proud of our ART."
- Praveen Kumar
Cognoscenti- Anita Ratnam's multifarious attributes as a
consummate raconteur, an evolved performer and adroit improviser come
across vividly in this choreographic work.
Mythical tales of valour, deceit and poignance collide & merge with a
powerful imagery that resonates feminism and dissent , explored
through a distinctively crafted movement vocabulary.
Judicious use of stage space, a definitive soundscape and properties
collected from various parts of the globe add to this retelling of
India's favourite epic with a quirky, modern day ingenuity, seen through
the eyes of a mature Sita, Anita and most of us women in today's times.
A Million Sitas will remain etched in my memory for its impeccable
production design, one that reiterates the potency of a contemporary
- Madhu Natraj, Performer, choreographer & educator
The richly nuanced performance of ďA Million SitasĒ by the acclaimed
dance artist and contemporary Ďintersectionistí , Anita Ratnam was a
highlight of the recent Confluences 9: Deciphering Decolonisation in
Dance Pedagogy in the 21st century conference in South Africa. This 3
day international Dance conference was hosted by the University of Cape
Town, School of Dance in Cape Town in July 2017. Ratnamís stellar
performance was not only for a sophisticated few who may have grasped
the tensions, intrigues and subtleties of the epic tale of the Ramayana,
but for young Southern African student audiences who were as riveted as
I was by Ratnamís powerful execution and journey in contemporary Dance.
The tale was shared with the greatest ease which in itself is the mark
of her very refined quality and depth of performance experience.
Ratnamís revelation of her Sitas as universal or every-woman was
provocative, particularly in the context of the far flung desi community
and is to be admired for its simplicity ( which is not be confused with
ordinariness) , in a word Ė accessible dance-theatre. She explored
iconic , though perhaps lesser known aspects of other Ďsilentí heroines
in her topical rendition and boldly suggests the manner in which these
figures propel the story to its inevitatble conclusion. Ratnamís deft
code-switching between Kathakali, Bharatanatyam and Mohiniattam was so
impressive as to leave her audience spell bound. She gracefully
interspersed her performance: dances with singing and a richly peppered
It is little wonder that Dr. Anita Ratnam has been awarded the highest
accolade from her peers in the country of her birth. The fiery
warrior, astute princess and hobbling servant all feature in Anita
Ratnamís repertoire and is a Ďmust- seeí for both seasoned and
uninitiated dance audiences of the Indian arts.
- Dr. Gerard M. Samuel, Chair of Confluences 9
Senior Lecturer, School of Dance, University of Cape Town
July 28, 2017
For years, Iíve wanted to watch Anita Ratnamís A Million Sitas, and I finally got the chance to at the Kolkata Lit Festival.
Part dance, part poetry, part spoken word, part song; at times comic, at
times dramatic, and heart-breaking - A Million Sitas is all of this.
Ratnam exhibits sheer brilliance in effortlessly, seamlessly
transitioning from one character to another, from comedy to tragedy.
With a flick of the wrist, through gesture she transforms into a Stone,
into a Frog, into a Princess.
An enormous amount of research has gone into the making of A Million
Sitas, and yet Ratnamís performance, although it is grounded in many
retellings and much academic research, is - and this is truly admirable -
never didactic or pedantic. This is, at all times, an alive,
entertaining, and incredibly emotional work of creative, performative
What Ratnamís powerful, brilliant performance offers us is an opening
into the story, much in the way that the epic tradition has always
enfolded itís audience into the tale being told. At the end of the
performance, I had chills rushing down my spine, and found myself
breaking into tears - along with the rest of the audience, men and women
both. More than anything else, A Million Sitas testifies to the deeply
moving, cathartic - and above all - healing power of art and
- Samhita Arni, Feb 8, 2016
Responses - students' feedback to the performance, DANCE KATHA version of a million
on May 3, 2015 at the NYU Steinhardt School, Provincetown Playhouse at 133 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village
Storytelling in the Classroom, Spring 2015
Thank you very much for your beautiful exposition of "A Million
Sitas". Your lecture-demonstration was erudite, creative and a
visual treat, as you used simple but exquisite props. You brought
to life the butterfly as Manthara; the frog Mandodari and the grand princess
Shoorpanakha who did not conform to the expected standards of female
behavior. It was a wonderful exposition of the many aspects of a woman,
with very creative interpretations.
- Nanditha Krishna, Director, The CP Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation (February 10, 2013)
"In a unique blend of word, music and movement, Anita brought to us
Sita's hidden experiences and also her relationship with some characters
of the Ramayana hitherto unexplored by any dancer. A MILLION SITA's was
a soul searching moment for me"
- Guru Maya Rao, Natya Institute of Kathak, Bengaluru
like language, is a living a breathing medium.
character ceases to be a mythological one when performed in its multiple
female character in the Ramayana are the lifeline and backbone of that
story. Collecting and retelling them is not just an act of performance
but an attempt in discovering social reality.
production of a million sita-s was a strong attempt at rejuvenating urban
mythologies and restructuring one's thoughts at the innumerable performance
possibilities of india's rich mythological canvas
- Veejay Sai,
Cultural writer, Bengaluru
is a clarion call for dance. It shows how one can raise the bar of performance,
how boundaries can be pushed and how exploring an artist's mind can yield
such great results.
stunning production had many outstanding elements in Lakshmi and Subhiksha
Rangarajan's music, Viji Krishnan's violin, Priya Murle's narration, Kesvan's
multi percussion, visual design by Rex and choreography inputs from Hari
Krishnan. Each of the women portrayed - Ahalya, Surpanakha, Manthara, Sabari
and Sita - raised many questions that are relevant even today.
made me think!
- Chitra Mahesh,
Cultural Writer, voiceofartists/facebook
Dear Ms. Anita
I had the
wonderful opportunity to view "A Million Sitas" last week in Karthik Fine
Arts. The performance was really beautiful...Especially the act of Sabari
was truly heart felt.. The devotion of Sabari towards Lord Rama was shown
with so much purity of mind that automatically tears came out...
The act of
Mantara was also very powerful...The body language of Mantara as a hunchback
who loved her Bharata and was angry with Rama as He made fun of her in
His childhood was remarkable...
raised by Sita in Her prologue were also very thought provoking.. Especially
when She asks people that if She is so auspicious then why do people hesitate
to keep Her name for their daughters...Also the strength of Her character
was shown very beautifully in the end when She tells that She acts out
of Her Will...
my congratulations on this Truly Heartfelt and Beautiful Performance...
I am writing
after witnessing your performance at the Bhavan. I thoroughly enjoyed your
brave attempt (as always) in projecting a strong contemporary idea to our
dear Chennaites & more so the conservative Mylaporeans!! It was very
refreshing to see a production with bold feminist ideals. I admire the
technical perfection you were able to achieve in terms of lightning design,
musician set-up, most captivating props and most importantly, the way in
which everything was weaved into the fabric of dance presentation.
enjoyed your portrayal of Surpanaka and the innovative way of introducing
mantra in that hunch-back rhythmic section! I loved the final frame wherein
you were using your two feet and their interplay-conversation to depict
the underlying thoughts. I thought that was a brilliant way to express
really loved it, and I am not just saying that to please you. It was so
beautiful. It was a visual treat, it was a musical treat, you were amazing
in all five roles and while the narrative (correct word?) was very simply
written, it said so much! It was really good writing.
I want to
thank you for reminding me of how wonderful creative arts can be. Yesterday's
performance made me feel so alive and made me want to place those parts
of my life front and centre again. Thank you for that!
I just wanted
to write to you about it but although I feel like I have so much to say
I wasn't sure I could find the vocabulary, so I blogged instead, and want
to share that with you now: http://justswarna.blogspot.com/2010/12/million-sita-s-and-remembering-joy-of.html
Managing Trustee, The Prajnya Trust