In a backyard...
- Akhila Krishnamurthy, Chennai

September 19, 2012

I was a little late for the performance; the only spot available for me, was on stage; on the floor. And that, in many ways, dictated my response to Anita Ratnam’s Avani, a Handful of Dust that was presented at the Alliance Francaise of Madras, for two days in a row, on September 15 and 16, 2012. In proximity with the performers, I found accessibility; in accessibility, a sense of familiarity; in familiarity, a discovery.

In many ways, Avani was all of that; it was the collaborative creation of an experience in which Rabindranath Tagore, man and poet, versatile, emerged as a subject of conversation among an intimate group of performers who soaked and shared in the power and passion of his words and philosophy. 

Anita is known for her adherence to aesthetics. Needless to say, Avani’s set sparkled in a sense of classic simplicity. It was also the idea that made the performance literally a talking point, and placed Tagore as its subject. Against the backdrop of a clothes line that emerged as a metaphor for womanhood and sharing and intimacy in some sense, two women, seated interestingly on two ends of the stage in the front, discussed Tagore, the man and his work in a way that Tagore came alive in all his intellectual charm.

Where the words ended, movement began. Anita stepped in, and her choreography, drawn from a slew of dance styles, exuded a quiet sense of poignancy and elegance, befitting the man. Equally interesting was the juxtaposition of words and movements; the dancer seamlessly merged with the women in conversation and a musician, and together the stage became a happy, recognizable backyard of sorts.

I remember somewhere, in the middle of their conversation, Akhila Ramnarayan, one of the women, gushed about Tagore and his eclectic choice of music. Avani, for me, was in many ways like that; it was an eclectic coming together of different strands to weave a pattern that makes a man we’ve known and read, a little more familiar.

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Photos: Chella and Sam Kumar