MA3KA – Majestic Theatre of Dance
Clad in gorgeous Green costume, Anita Ratnam depicts Meenakshi as a warrior woman who transforms into a woman in love with Sundareswarar. Ratnam’s latest production MA3KA stood out amongst various programmes and events I attended this December Season in Chennai. Ma3ka a celebration of women gives human faces to goddesses combining Humanity and Divinity. Anita Ratnam beautifully interwove her life experience and the training she had undertaken in various art forms (Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Mohiniyattom, Kalaripayattu) in this production. MA3KA in Anita Ratnam’s usual yet unusual way ‘margam’ brings out her distinctive flair & creativity. Many critics and other well recognized stalwarts of Bharathanatyam were present on the night of the performance besides the followers of Anita Ratnam. With her innovative approach to dance Anita Ratnam today has created her own audience and followers.
In Ma3ka Anita explores a woman’s achievements, challenges and longings through the three Supreme Goddesses: Lakshmi, Saraswati and with a twist the Goddess Meenakshi instead of the choice by default Shakti. Adding a bit of reality into these Mythological goddess theme Anita beautifully blends in the women in her family; her 95-year-old grandmother as Saraswati, who even at this age, continues to influence Anita with her traditional wisdom & life experiences; her late mother Leela who lived a prosperous & lively life as Goddess Lakshmi, a symbol of Prosperity. Lastly, Anita portrayed her daughter, Aryambika, who is fiercely independent, one of the other influencing factors in her life.
There is no set storyline as such in this production, but Anita takes us on a journey through her thoughts & reflections. Profoundly vibrant emotional at times with the fabulous seduction of costume colours and music the production is shown in three segments. Anita enacted the dance/music saga of her art life tailored by discussions between mother and grandmother. This segment was very unique with the fusion of old with new.
As Lakshmi she performed to “Paarkadalil Udittha Tirumaniye,” [Rising out of the Milky Ocean] & “Lakshmi Rave ma intiki” [enter my humble abode o goddess] gorgeously dressed in red and gold, Anita appeared with her back to the audience, slowly entering the devotee’s home, as Sridevi & her shadow Moodevi. She was sporting a splendidly decorated long plait in the Kuchipudi Satyabhama style, while enacting this. Using the braid in different movements she beautifully depicted the Ashta Lakshmi, while gradually transforming to a real life woman by wearing short hair tied up in a knot, sporting oversized dark glasses and paraded as a ramp model. For this, she was very innovative and used old Tamil movie songs.
In the last segment, she depicted Meenakshi enacting how Kumaragurubarar who was dumb, was asked to sing in praise of the Goddess by Raja Thirumalai Nayakar. On hearing this, Meenakshi appeared as a four-year old girl, climbed on Raja’s lap, removed his pearl necklace and placed it round the neck of Kumaragurubarar.
Revathy Sankkaran’s interesting & unique way of involving the audience with her beautiful narration on the Supreme Triad was very novel. Anil Srinivasan, along with Viji Krishnan & K.S.R. Anirudha immersed the audience with new sounds. Rex provided the elaborate and imaginative costumes designed by him, along with Make-up, interesting hairdo, that were visually appealing & a treat.
With many creative minds contributing to this production, it was a grand success. For someone who has been following Bharatanatyam with a very traditional outlook, I thoroughly enjoyed Anita’s performance. It was well worth attending! [Interview with Anita Ratnam here]