When art meets art  
- Preetha  
e-mail: preetha.s@excite.com 
 

October 5, 2005 

In the air-conditioned posh ball room of the Taj Coromandel, Chennai, a magical ambiance was created that enamored all those who were present. I was one of the few lucky ones to be a part of this experience and I felt motivated to write a commentary on it, that very night.

Laghu Bharatham – Vol. I (1991) states that, "There are few people who are privileged to witness a live performance, by an accomplished artiste..."  (p. 7). In this case there were not one but two world renowned artists in the form of a painter and a danseuse who created that inimitable magic. What more could an art lover ask for. The scene that was set up enabled the dancer to use up a fairly large space of the stage, while there was another elevated platform towards the right of the audience where the painter had his canvas and accessories. The overarching theme of the recital was depicting the female facets of the supreme power. An interesting observation was that, at the outset of the recital, dancer Anita Ratnam was clad in a black outfit with gold and pink border, and the painter Suvaprasanna started his work with shades of black. Suvaprasanna is a renowned Bengali painter who specialises in painting icons and this was the first interaction between the two artists. The performance came at the culmination of the week long Bengal painters camp at the Taj Coromandel where ten Bengal painters gathered to paint canvases and then auction them off for charity. 

The dancer had employed an assortment of music, starting with the Dhyana slokam sung by Aruna Sairam, then moved over to an intricate Kali kautuvam, followed by archetypal Tamil folk dance, progressing towards a nritta piece in charukeshi by ghatam Kartik, and summed up by the mangalam, a finale piece. Through the entire progression, Anita and group depicted Devi as slayer of all evil, Devi as healer and giver of joy, Devi the epitome of beauty and Devi as an amalgamation of all the goodness that exist in the Universe.  

The painter on the other had set out painting from the moment the music was played. One should assume that the painter’s strokes were inspired by the danseuse's performance and vice-versa, though the dance piece was a pre choreographed one.  

The whole choreography had even distribution of nritta and nritya, and the painting had shades of red, brown, mustard and black. During the crisp 30 minute recital, Anita depicted the complex patterns and emotions of Devi while Suvaprasanna embodied the Devi in her most dominant form - Kali.  The tempo of the recital (for both the artists) kept increasing at a rapid pace with the song "Jaya Jaya Devi, Durga Devi". This was  succeeded by the most awaited final moment – a moment of triumph when Anita merged with the painting on the canvas at the final stroke.  

I must mention the wow factors of this recital.  
Usage of props by Anita…. in this case the pink shawl was turned into a garland. 
Anitas expertise in makeup (The pottu/bindi helped in making the personality of the danseuse extremely convincing as Devi). 
The alacrity with which, Suvaprasanna painted the complex painting of Kali.  
Usage of black entirely changed the tone of the recital. 
The final merger scene, when Anita stands in front of the painting and becomes unified with it.   

Although this whole experience has been an unparalleled one, one can only wonder how much more impact the artistic synergy would have created, if only it had taken place at a more natural setting.