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a million SITA-s - Response
a Neo Bharatam presentation



'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 refreshing narrative.
- 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 Indian aesthetic.
- 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 narration. Inspiring!

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 storytelling.

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 storytelling.
- Samhita Arni, Feb 8, 2016



Responses - students' feedback to the performance, DANCE KATHA version of a million SITA-s
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



Mythology, like language, is a living a breathing medium.
Every single character ceases to be a mythological one when performed in its multiple reinterpretations.
Every single 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.
Anita ratnam's 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



The performance 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.

The visually 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.
Anita's dance made me think!
- Chitra Mahesh, Cultural Writer, voiceofartists/facebook



Dear Ms. Anita Ratnam,
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...
The questions 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...
Please accept my congratulations on this Truly Heartfelt and Beautiful Performance...
With Best Regards
Lakshmi Sridharan



Hello akka...
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.
I particularly 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 a feeling.
Thank you
Divya Kasturi
(dancer, UK)



Dear Anita,
I really, 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
Love,
Swarna Rajagopalan, Managing Trustee, The Prajnya Trust



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