- Prof. Ramani Ramakrishnan, Toronto
November 3, 2006
I am surprised at the adulation expressed for 'Ekaantha Seetha.' Does true dance criticism exist anywhere among the Indian dance community either in India or outside? I saw the CCA production in Toronto and this is my take on it.
Now to my usual scissored pen! 'Ekaantha Seetha' was a bitter disappointment. Dance was nonexistent with has-been dancers like Shantha Dhananjayan, Rathna Kumar, and Sujatha Srinivasan. The English narration was pathetic - by the way, why do we need narration? My understanding and expectation is that any theatrical presentation has to convey, subtly, to the audience, the happenings, such as dance, on the stage. After living in USA, UK and Canada for the past 40 years and immersed in such beautiful English of the Bard, Keats, Elliot, it was pathetic to hear English of Middle School level. Wow, the rhyming couplets of the narration made me weep with distress. The drunken scene in the third act was crude and even Bollywood would have done a better job of it.
My main criticism is based on my expectation of a performance. I'd like the presenters to live up to the promises they make in their brochures or in their introduction. Uma Ganesan of CCA introduced the production as something to be seen from the eyes of three women. Was this realized in the actual presentation? A fat and loud answer - NO!!!
The production is supposed to present the view points of Seetha, Rani of Jhansi and Aparajita. Was there a dance by any of these three women, alone on stage and presenting a powerful statement - NO!! again. These three women were always surrounded by - you got it - MEN - hordes of them. The whole production was a pastiche of mediocre chronology of events. The only serious attempt, I believe, was to provide a crowd pleaser. Any time an artiste panders to the audience and to the lowest common denominator, she/he loses any creative edge. In such an event, I'd rather see a brain-dead Bollywood movie with Sharukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai with music by the derivative drivel of Rehman.
Even the basic research was non-existent. The English army major's uniform was definitely that of a butler and not that of a Major. I could go on - ad infinitum and ad nauseum.
In conclusion, I used to lament that the four or five senior Toronto Bharatanatyam dance schools do not produce a collaborative program. One of them used to tell me that it is not possible since they all have different styles. 'Ekaantha Seetha' has proved his point! To digress...There was a wonderful Monty Python movie, 'Life of Brian.' A scene with a group of Communists repeats itself six or seven time at different settings throughout the movie. The communist's group is in a meeting and each time they are discussing what the agenda should be. This production of 'Ekaantha Seetha' is reminiscent of that scene. The main group responsible for the creative side seems to be still planning the agenda of the production.
I was told that this production is to be presented in scores of other North American venues. If you are out there in one of those cities and you missed this production of 'Ekaantha Seetha,' you did not miss anything!
Prof. Ramani Ramakrishnan is former Editor, founder of Kala Arts Quarterly.