It was a non-linear weave centred round the Woman.
Myth and life with autobiographical strands make the warp and weft of the performance tapestry of Ma3ka presented at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
Man makes myth but myth becomes the role model for man. It is this cross-pollination that Anita Ratnam's concept of Woman as Ma3ka centres round. Embracing the supreme triad embodying Knowledge, Prosperity and Warrior Mother, divinised in Saraswati, Lakshmi and Meenakshi respectively, Ma3ka becomes a unique non-linear dance weave of myth crossing over to real life images.
Strong feminine influences
Brush strokes of autobiographical strands locate the Goddess types in the strong feminine influences in Anita's own life, her 95-year old wise grandmother who continues to guide her, her recently departed brave and bold Mother Leelavati the symbol of prosperity and her own daughter, the fiercely independent Aryambika. A collaborative effort involving Hari Krishnan's choreographic direction and visual and costume designing by Rex with Anil Srinivasan as music director, what comes across is the almost effortless crossovers from life to myth.
The sound tape integrates myriad ingredients such as English narration by Anita, music comprising kavutvam, kriti, jati compositions, multi percussions – all of which would have come to naught without the live enactment of the Tamil Story Teller by Revathy Sankkaran. Her silken way of intimately drawing the audience into her narration on the Goddesses had viewers eating out of her hands, making Anita's task much easier with minds already open to whatever she had to offer by way of dance theatre.
Designed in three segments, a white clad Anita enacted the dance/music saga of her art life tailored by discussions between mother and grandmother. As the resplendent Lakshmi “Paarkadalil Udittha Tirumani,” whom every devotee earnestly entreats to visit her/his home (“Rave ma intiki”) gorgeously attired in red and gold, Anita appears with her back to the audience slowly entering the bhakta's home, sporting a splendidly decorated long plait in the Kuchipudi Satyabhama mode. Using the braid in different movements to depict the Ashta Lakshmi-s, the narration gradually transformed to real life woman. A repetitive line in a slow twirling movement signified the march of time with vibrant Jatis composed by mridangist Aniruddha interspersed as punctuation points - taking the narration from one idea to the next. With moving Time woman undergoes a change discarding all the finery, donning short hair in a top knot, wearing oversized dark glasses and parading as a ramp model.
The Meenakshi segment was ushered in by Revathy narrating the miracle of how Kumaraguru who could not speak, one fine moment bursts into song in praise of the Goddess, following which a four-year old girl suddenly appears from nowhere, sits on Raja Tirumala Nayak's lap to remove his pearl necklace and place it round the neck of Kumaraguru. Different from the earlier segments with Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi movements, the dance then took on the aggressive colours of Kalari and Kathakali, for here it was a martial woman occupying centre stage.
But what happens to the fiercely independent warrior when she loses her heart to Sundareswarar? The act of removing the headgear, a symbol of authority and draping it round one of the tridents on the side of the stage was very potent. Had love clipped the wings of authority? Did it signify a willingness to share power? Or did it acknowledge entering the new domain of marriage and what it entails? Green was the costume colour for this segment. Simple props of musical instruments on the one side, with spears decorating the opposite side and ceramic vases with flowers arranged in a row at the rear symbolised the three tones of the Goddesses.
Subhiksha Rangarajan's singing, Revathy Sankkaran's kavutuvam/vocal recitations and Hari Krishnan's Jati recitation were all of a piece. The costume for Lakshmi could do with some loosening below the waist. An amalgam of many creative minds, this production with repeat performances should develop new resonances.