In Chennai, this t-shirt celebrates the city’s legendary artistes


Anita Ratnam’s ode to the city comes in the form of a black T-shirt this Margazhi season

If there is a thing called wearable art, there is a whole stock waiting to be bought, and worn at the residence of Chennai-based classical-contemporary dancer, Anita Ratnam. With an intent to share her love for Chennai, a city she says has been so “warm and welcoming to her while simultaneously testing her patience and resolve”, every year during the Margazhi season of music and dance in December and January, Ratnam creates things and experiences as an ode to what she considers is the “greatest festival in the world”.

This time, Ratnam created the beautiful black T-shirt that is a tribute, of sorts, to legendary artistes across all the classical styles who have either passed on or are above the age of 80. “You see, in 2017,” says Anita, taking a break from her rehearsals for her performances of Naachiyar Next across different venues in the city, “I visited Stockholm where they have a small and beautiful Ballet Museum. In the gift shop I saw this lovely T-shirt with first names of the famous dancers of ballet and modern dance. I was immediately struck by the idea of creating something similar for Indian dance. Just the first names of all those early great 20th Century performers who carved the present and future of Indian dance history.”

Doing away — despite initial hesitation — with prefixes and suffixes like ji, didi, akka, that we in India usually use to refer to artistes, Ratnam went ahead with the names of 17 dancers: Balasaraswati, Yamini, Indrani, Chandralekha, Vyjayanthimala, Kelucharan, Vempatti, just to name a few.

“The names,” she says, “were all tested on a small group of dancers and dance rasikas and still I am surprised that so many young millennials know so little about some of the artistes. Kamala, who was the reason that my generation of young girls took to dance... Indrani, who pioneered the international face of Indian dance. I hope that by wearing this T-shirt, this current generation can also get to learn about our dance history.”

The T-shirt is priced at ₹500 and is available at Ratnam’s residence on 10, Cenotaph Road.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 5:11:24 AM |

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