STONE (2017)

Concept Note
Her birth and marriage were not her decisions. Her life was prescribed by loneliness and solitude. For the one decision she made as a woman, she was shamed into a numbing silence, lawless beauty, discarded wife, shunned woman. AHalya represents the many facets of her gender through centuries of misinterpretation and misogyny. Her enigma endures...her unfinished tale waits to be retold. A performance by Anita Ratnam.

Co Choreography and performance: Anita Ratnam
Choreography: Hari Krishnan 
Costume and Visual design: Rex
Lighting and Sets: Victor Paulraj
Sound Design: Vedanth Bharadwaj at SAMA studios

Calendar of performances:

 Aug 29, 2020: STONE... once again - Digital: Jomba 2020, South Africa (jomba.ukzn.ac.za)

Jan 19, 2018: STONE.. - SNA  Akademi Puraskar 2017 - Meghdoot Theatre, New Delhi

Jan 2, 2018: AH SU RA - Spaces, Besant Nagar, Chennai

Dec 30, 2017: AH SU RA - Gratitude Heritage, 52 Romain Roland St, Pondycherry

Dec 28, 2017: AH SU RA - Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai


Responses to the performance at Digital: Jomba 2020

I recently had the pleasure of watching excerpts from Anita Ratnam's Ma3Ka, a piece I have been hoping to catch on the shores of South Africa at Jomba! this year. Having to watch this share on the digital platform however did not take away from Ratnam's sheer brilliance! In Ma3Ka, as with most of her work, Ratnam's women always deviate from the accepted and expected norms of womanhood, in this case predominantly, Indian/Hindu womanhood. The bold use of her style, Neo-Bharatam, the beautifully woven soundscape and her pointed humour always adds a layer of disruption to both classical dance and also the mythologies that she carefully rewrites and makes present in the contemporary. As always, Ratnam's costume and set perform with and through her. An example of this is how Lakshmi's braid becomes her co-performer and at times suffocates or releases her.

In STONE, Ratnam's use of the metallic cocoon and the haunting soundscape were enough for me to conjure up many thoughts and feeling in my mind and body. The voice over, unnecessary, led the work in a particular direction. However, this did no draw away from the haunting power of the woman's body caught in this chamber, pushing and pulling against it, eventually screaming through and  emerging as if birthed as an emancipated woman. Ratnam's Ahalya speaks to the contemporary in ways that conjure up the darknesses of gender based violence (what I call the real pandemic of our time), that is both particular to the Indian and South African context - and to the context of being and surviving contemporary womanhood. In this way, Ahalya moves beyond her originating story in Ramayana, but still allows for the metaphors of stone to be tied to the original narrative, of always being forced and policed by the hands of a men, this time however, Ahalya seems to free herself, no longer in waiting for the releasing touch of yet another man!

The works are fresh, funny, haunting, beautiful, emancipatory and even present the possibilities of birthing, of new ways of being and enacting the feminine, the goddess, the woman!
- Reshma Chhiba, Creative Director, Sarvavidya Natyaalaya

Anita Ratnamís creative and innovative work as a performing artist was deeply moving at the JOMBA! Digital Dance Festival (Aug-Sept 2020) in Durban, South Africa. Ratnamís work Stone paid tribute to the power and energy that resides in women, despite spoken and unspoken patriarchal controls. Selecting stories of our most revered goddesses, like Lakshmi, Saraswati and Meenakshi, Ratnam recreated the ferocity and resilience of womenís inner strength. I was struck, particularly by Ratnamís use of the golden, metallic-like fabric that enveloped Ahalya, the beautiful, flawless woman, married to the ascetic Gautama who expressed no human passion towards her. When approached by Lord Indra, however, Ahalya breaks free of her imprisonment and expresses deep desire for her lover. For this, Gautama curses her to live like a stone, without feeling. The shifting emotions of despair, struggle, and desire were conveyed by the brilliant choice of the plasticity of the material covering Ratnamís body. Every move was poignant. The grace and beauty of every single movement of breaking out of confinement, was like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, when Ratnamís beautiful face and elegant body emerged.
- Beheroze Shroff, documentary filmmaker

Responses to AH SU RA

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