Anita Ratnam presents
RR Sabha, 4pm
July 7, 2019 Chennai
June 10, 2019
Concept, Choreography and Performance: Dr. Anita Ratnam
Research and Text: Dr. Anita Ratnam
Lighting: Victor Paulraj
Costumes: Sandhya Raman
Re-telling is like a translation. Rather a trans-creation. A remarkable life, saturated with emotion, passion and poetry lived over 1000 years ago - where the landscape of devotion and personal worship were forbidden for women- is a challenge. Even more so, when her words have already been seen, heard, experienced through generations of artistes and philosophers. ANDAL aka GODA, is a phenomenon, whose allure and appeal do not dim through the vagaries of time.
As among the very early feminist voices whose searing love and devotion to her Ranganatha/Krishna made the heavens tremor and the Lord Himself surrender to her will, ANDAL remains an enigma and a beloved icon of the Tamil imagination.
I performed ANDAL for my arangetram in 1965. From that time, she has been my companion, shadowing my life through continents and across seas. To date, I have produced or performed in 5 full length dance-theatre evenings on her singular story. So why another?
In 2003, I attempted an ambitious presentation with 12 dancers and 6 musicians. In this, there was ANDAL (played by myself) and her alter ego/unconscious mind (acted by Revathy Sankkaran). This template was a device I used to cross illuminate the darker shades of her later years in which the words of her searing passion turn to thoughts of self-mutilation and a final dissolve into her beloved. NAACHIYAAR was very well received by the audiences in several Indian cities with positive reviews.
Soon after, I embarked on my PhD and dissolved my dance company, preferring to concentrate on solo evenings which could quilt my many interests in movement, theatre, voice, chanting and sound.
Now 17 years later, I have returned to ANDAL's allure. She has become a teen icon for stubborn passion, poetic brilliance and an intensity of ideology that tore apart her conservative community in Sri Villiputtur. Her poems have been translated, discussed and argued upon. She is a continuing flashpoint for female desire, personal BHAKTI and a daring transgression across borders of conformity and decorum.
I do not play ANDAL in this version. Her life was dissolved even before she turned 20 and so I have chosen a talented young dancer for the part. I am stepping into the very large shoes of Revathy Sankkaran who created an indelible impression with her presence almost 2 decades ago.
I have incorporated some aspects of her poetry that have rarely been touched upon before. The annual ritual of the KURATHI/GYPSY soothsayer, which is a practice in the Sri Villiputtur temple has been incorporated. Ritual celebrations like a temple procession have been retained from the original version as have some aspects of the choreography.
A new group of dancers from Bengaluru, New Delhi and Chennai have assembled as co-creators in my vision. I have my trusted core team of technical support and musical inputs. As familiar and beloved ANDAL's words are to me, she challenges me each time - daring me to make newer discoveries.
Will I make Her smile?
Dr. Anita R Ratnam
Girl. Poet. Goddess