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Versatility is her middle name

She is confluence of beauty, intelligence, talent and creativity. Meet Anita R. Ratnam, danseuse, choreographer, cultural commentator, actor-producer, writer and publisher.

Her journey to the creative realms started early under the tutelage of Rajee Narayan and Adyar K. Lakshmanan in Bharatanatyam and later enriched her dance vocabulary at the renowned Kalakshetra Dance Academy, under path breaking teachers like S.Sarada and Sarada Hoffman. Having mastered Bharatanatyam, Anita became an exponent in the Kerala dance traditions of Kathakali and Mohiniattam.

Theatre and performing arts always fascinated her from an early age and to learn more about this form of art she completed her Masters in Theatre and Television from the University of New Orleans. Thereafter, she worked as TV feature producer and commentator for ten years.

During this period Anita established herself as a cultural commentator of repute and her Festival of India TV series were highly acclaimed. She was also nominated twice for the Emmy awards.

After ten years of successful TV career she moved down to her native soil in Chennai with the vision for doing something for the children of the country. She set up the Arangham Trust in 1992 to promote dance and its interaction with visual and performing arts.

As founder- director of the trust, her productions reflect her unique ability to combine the classical and contemporary, presenting Indian traditions in new avatars of modern audiences. "The artiste is not merely an instrument for the choreographer's vision, but a source of creative light in his or her own right," says Anita.

In quest of universal harmony, she explored the full range of classical and contemporary dance, spanning east to west rhythms, purity and promiscuity, space-time equations and gender issues.

Her fluid choreography and repertoire of solo and group performances reflect both her Indian heritage and cross cultural experimentations. Among her noted classical and contemporary productions in the dance-theatre genre are: `Paanchajanyam', `Poems for the Eye'- (inspired by the Tamil Sangam love poetry), `Gajanana', the story of Ganesa, `Adhirohana' based on Adi Sankara's `Soundarya Lahari', `Daughters of the Ocean', inspired by a book written by Shobita Punja and `Nachiyaar' based on the 9th century mystic Andal. Currently she is working on a play based on her research on the Vedic literature, titled "Journey of the Soul after Death".

She has received many awards and the noted among them are the Nritya Choodamani, Kalaimamani and the Sankaracharya award. She has also been conferred the Mahatma Gandhi Award for Cultural Harmony by the American Biographical Institute.

"Children have always been my first love and that is one of the reason I left behind a lucrative career in the US and returned to India. I have committed myself to build a young and informed audience by using proactive tools to educate the young minds of my country about their rich cultural heritage. This idea prompted me to float Arangham Interactive and I have been actively conducting workshops in various schools and colleges," says Anita.

In this connection she was in Vizag as part of THE HINDU sponsored Newspaper in Education (NIE) programme recently.

She has authored `Narthaki', considered to be the "Bible of Indian dance". The same has also been simultaneously hosted in the web and the latest can be browsed at www.narthaki.com.

That was Anita Ratnam, an ambassador of art and culture, an articulate advocate for women's rights with a versatile personality.

S.B.

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