Responses to
Earnest Clowns…media and arts reporting by Anita Ratnam

I understand why you'd be upset at it, and sympathize. It is a mean and deliberately cruel title and it's a cheap shot. The article itself is innocuous. Most readers will see through the mean-ness of the title and it will backfire. Before giving a interview, I think you should read some of the writer's previous reviews and see if you like them. Ask the journalist to send you others articles they've written, or links to them. If you don't like the tone of the articles, don't give an in-person interview. Simply give them a very simple, condensed fact sheet, written for a high school student. Nothing complex or layered. don't worry about it, try to just shrug it off if you can. Remember that most rasikas are not going to respond to your pieces based on some article in the press.
- Arul Francis
(May 14, 2008)


Dear Anita Madam,
After reading the thread of discussions, one tends to go back to the basic difference between a review and an opinion. The former, in my humble opinion, has three key implicit connotations to it -
a) An authority – A credibility established by expertise in the field rather than self-proclamation.
b) A responsibility - Towards both the person/object of review in terms of offering advice/constructive criticism and towards the audience who may base their opinions, judgments and decisions on the review.
c) An Objectivity - The maturity to steer clear of double entendres / repartees, to avoid generalizations and to be unbiased by personal impressions or prior experiences. I guess a review where verbiage takes precedence over objectivity is reflective of lack of credibility of the reviewer and stems from the insecurities of the reviewer.

In a nutshell, while there are good and bad reviewers in this world, an opinion masquerading as a review (irrespective of whether it is blemishing or blandishing) is unforgivable since it is equally demeaning to the creation and damaging for the conceiver of any piece of creativity.
- Posted by Prakruthi L.S in the Narthaki Discussion Forum
(April 29, 2008)
    Dear Prakruthi
    well said
    thanks for taking the time to post your opinions
    - Posted by Anita R Ratnam in reply to Prakruthi
    (May 3, 2008)

Anita-ji, I appreciate your offer of the (free?) workshop for the reporters. I am sure if Nandini Ramani offered such a workshop, all the juniors like Sharanya would surely attend?
- Posted by Amrita in the Narthaki Discussion Forum
(April 16, 2008)


Anita-ji - I read today's article in NIE. Were you interviewed again by Sharanya for this article? There are many quotes attributed to you, and as you pointed out, there were no notes taken during your meeting. I wish the article was not about trying to flatter you but an article that focused on why you were angry about the first article. Seems like a missed learning opportunity for NIE.

By the way, your workshop idea is a really good one and I think you (and other senior dancers) need to use your clout with folks in the arts criticism field to encourage them to participate. It really is time for more meaningful reviews.

I think you also should set up a workshop for young dancers on how to deal with the press as well as give advice on self-promotion and navigating the sabha scene. Learning from dancers like you who have experienced so much would be invaluable.
- Posted by Rasika in the Narthaki Discussion Forum
(April 16, 2008)


All too often, reporters/reviewers do not seem to understand just how important their job is! I have seen critics/reviewers attend just part of a program and then proceed to write a report about the entire program! Recently, a friend of mine told me that she was featured in an article about birdwatching - this was about a walk that she and her two friends had had in Lalbagh, specifically to watch and note down about the birds there. The reporter had neither walked along with them nor spoken to all three of them, but the next day, out came an article about them and the walk!
Writing a review for a dance/music program is not easy and that is something critics/reviewers need to understand - they need to prepare themselves for it - and that cannot be done overnight!
In this case, I suppose the editor thought it was a rather smart/attractive/funny title to the article! He/she did not realize it was in bad taste!
Anitaji, you were right to write to them.
And thank God for democracy!
- Posted by Manvantara in the Narthaki Discussion Forum
(April 15, 2008)
    Well said Manavantara
    Today, April 16, NIE has a feature on me.. perhaps the residue of all that I spoke to young Sharanya. It is a flattering profile compressed into about 300 words.
    What I wish for is a short workshop for dance and theatre writers. Padma Subrahmanyan and I have devised a 7 day course to help young writers understand the salient points of classical and contemporary dance. Guess what? There were no takers. Ah, but then we must not give up. If I am still able to perform today it is also because perhaps I still have something to say through my dance. I would also like to mentor young dancers as to how they should prepare their press kits and how they should announce during their shows. The quality is apalling.
    I know.. I know.. thare is a lot to be done besides the dancing itself. But then.. that is why I started narthaki.com 9 years ago... and look how much all of you are enjoying it... although it does become an excuse to vent one's innner frustrations to the point of "taking a crap" on the net!
    - Posted by Anita R Ratnam in reply to Manavantara
    (April 16, 2008)

How can it be the responsibility of senior dancers to speak up and work towards cleaning up this corrupt system if it is thanks to this system that the senior dancers occupy all the space in the press????? After all, it is exactly thanks to this system that some dancers became "senior" (so to say!)!!!
Show me at least one senior dancer who would say that she does not want her reviews published every week.
- Posted by Anjana in the Narthaki Discussion Forum
(April 15, 2008)
    I HAVE NO WISH TO HAVE MY REVIEW PUBLISHED IN THE PAPER EVERY WEEK. IN FACT, ONE SENIOR DANCER HAS BEEN BLACKLISTED IN DELHI PAPERS FOR THRUSTING HER MUG ONTO THE MEDIA RELENTLESSLY BY A FAMILY MEMBER. NOW NOBODY WANTS TO FEATURE HER AT ALL.. THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS WITH OVERKILL.. GIVE ME ONE DECENT REVIEW OF MY WORK.. DONT OCCUPY SPACE UNNECESSARILY.. I WOULD LOVE TO ENCOURAGE YOUNGER DANCERS BUT THEY ARE SO ARROGANT AND DONT WANT ANY ADVICE OR MENTORING FROM SOMEONE LIKE ME OR ANYONE ELSE.. THAT IS THE STATE OF OUR DANCE ..AT LEAST IN MY HOMETOWN.
    - Posted by Anita R Ratnam in reply to Anjana
    (April 15, 2008)

Dear Anita Madam
I visit regularly your web site. Very recently I happened to read your outburst against Saranya who reviewed your performance titled Faces. It appears that you do not have the level of tolerance expected of a self proclaimed Senior Artiste like you and swallow criticisms. Your performance is a public performance and ticketed. When you invite print media for your performance you cannot expect them to play cymbals. It is unfortunate that I was not a critic employed by the NIE. You English speaking dancers produce anything and everything in the name performing Bharatanatyam and call it contemporary! You accuse Saranya/NIE youth with greed etc. You said the same thing about your supporting artistes. You said that they are people with uncontrolled greed and you choose to dispense with them when you go abroad for performances. Luckily they do not have resources to claim royalty as it happened recently in the production Jaya Jaya Devi. Do not forget that you performed before an audience, who had no clue about nuances of Bharatanatyam embedded with jewels like Bhavam and Talam. Do not dilute the tradition you learnt from Nattuvanars. You people dig the grave to give quite burial for this wonderful art form. But I tend to appreciate your naming of your pieces neo Bharatnatyam. This is what Uday Sankar did in the sixties and called it Oriental dances!
cc to Ms Saranya of the NIE
- R Sundararajan
(April 14, 2008)
    Dear Sir
    Thank you for the response. I spoke about the spurious and inappropriate title given by the page editor as well as the wrong facts quoted by the writer who did not take notes while interviewing me. In fact, the NIE has printed my response in today's edition, Monday April 14.
    The program was not ticketed. It was for a private women's organisation in the city.
    We live in a free country and you are free to express your opinion. But facts quoted incorrectly after a long personal interview in a major daily cannot be ignored. It is thanks to critics like you that I am convinced that my path is the right one. After all, true change is confronted with the most resistance.
    Incidentally, my style is called NEO BHARATAM... and you are free to like or dislike it.
    As I said, we are in a free country - are we not?
    Best wishes
    Anita R Ratnam
    (April 14, 2008)

Anita-ji, I'm not sure I understand what you are angry about. If it is about the title, I can maybe see your point about it being an afront to you since your work has never been about disrespecting Bharatanatyam. But, how is the title an afront to Bharatanatyam itself?
The review itself seems inoffensive and very complimentary. It would be very helpful for you to lay out exactly what it was in the review that created such a strong reaction from you.
- Posted by Rasika in the Narthaki Discussion Forum
(April 14, 2008)
    Where do I begin?
    1. Sharanya is NOT responsible for the awful title of the article. It is the responsibility, and in this case, the fault of the COPY/PAGE EDITOR of NIE.
    2. Sharanya is a young 22 year old trying to cover the arts. She is eager but did not take a single note while talking to me for 20 minutes after the show. That is why the grammatical and factual errors ( about using live music when I specifically stated that I only use commissioned recorded music)
    3. The outrageous title does not serve the serious practitioners of art - classical or contemporary.
    4.FACES:BLESSED UNREST is the complete title of the work which contains traditional songs like Annapoorne, Ayigir Nandinin, A meera Bhaja, extracts of Aasai Mugam, a Meera bhajan by OS Arun and a ragam alapana by Sikkil Gurucharan. The approach is from modern theatre while the treatment of the traditional well loved compositions are also with poetic prose interspersed.
    5. Programme notes, choreographer, director, dramaturg and composer notes were also provided in the press kit.
    6. Writers are helpless after they submit the copy to the page editor. They can only hope that their work will not be manipulated or twisted. In this case, the article was not too bad, although it did not say anything except some bland generalisations. It was the TITLE of the piece that reflects an endemic malaise that permeates all arts reporting and coverage.
    7. NIE published my letter on Monday April 10. Since then i have received more than 30 sms messages and phone calls from senior dancers congratulating me on the response. Even the staff of THE HINDU and DECCAN CHRONICLE telephoned me.
    8. Should I react so strongly? Why not? Why should I remain silent and just complain? Does this make me sound shirll and angry? So what? What does one achieve by remaining submissive.
    9. Thanks for the response
    My fiercest critics are the men.. expectedly
    - Posted by Anita R Ratnam in reply to Rasika
    (April 14, 2008)
Anita-ji, thank you for your detailed response. It makes your point of view more clear. I think you need to take this discussion one step further - someone needs to address the corruption and nepotism that's running rampant in the newspaper scene in Chennai. The process of getting a review by the esteemed newspapers is so unseemly and an insult to the arts. It's a sad state of affairs when only money and influence carry the day. How are upcoming dancers without deep pockets and important pals supposed to get any attention from the press? It is the responsibility of senior dancers to speak up and work towards cleaning up this corrupt system.
- Posted by Rasika in the Narthaki Discussion Forum
(April 15, 2008)



The title, whether the author understands its English meaning or not, could be a highlight of Sharanya's opinion that Anita's dance was perceived as just a light clownage/pantomime which was a parody (parody is also an art genre) on the traditional Bharatanatyam.
While the journalist was obviously trying to write a pleasing review, she did not know that Anita did not want her style to be portrayed as a parody or merely facial exercises on the stage meant for a light entertainment.

- Posted by Prof in the Narthaki Discussion Forum
(April 14, 2008)