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Earnest Clowns and arts reporting

April 14, 2008
All dancers love to see their pics in the media. Photos, rapturous or positive comments. But rarely does a dancer actually REGRET having invited a media person to her show. This happened to me last week at a recent performance of my new work FACES... Blessed Unrest.

The work was premiered last December season at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, the venue that has been witness to most of my successful solo and group works. FACES had only one show and I had planned to stage it two more times before beginning to change it somewhat. When the invitation came from IWA (International Women's Association), I readily agreed since the audience mix of urban and highly sophisticated women would be a good counterfoil to the serious sabha rasikas I am normally faced with.

My director, Mithran Devanesen, suggested that we should invite some young members of the print media since many were struggling to cover the arts in an intelligent way. He made the call to invite Sharanya, a 22-year young college graduate, currently working as arts reporter for THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS. This publication, alongside all other Chennai dailies are currently gearing up for the splashy debut of TIMES OF INDIA which has changed the way information and brand marketing are related. All the dailies are trying to jazz up, spice up and sex up their pages.

It was in this atmosphere of total mayhem that young Sharanya came to watch FACES. We had major technical glitches on that day. The hall was not given to us in time since the keeper of the keys decided to take an unannounced holiday: the lights did not work with the generator... and so on... so on... so on... We in India, and specially Chennai, are getting used to useless support from the auditoriums and battle just to present a modicum of a professional program every time.

The purpose of this article is to react to the outrageous article that appeared about my show two days later. I am less concerned about the grammatical mistakes and the wrong reproduction of comments from young Sharanya. I am reacting to the stupid and insensitive title given by the page editor to the show. Twisting the title to mean something quite insulting, I open the paper on Thursday, April 10, to read MAKING 'FACES' AT BHARATANATYAM.

Is this anything that can be allowed to happen? I sent off a letter to the editor of THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS and am waiting for it to be printed.

How insulting it is to the art and the artiste to have one's work titled so blithely by some young thing, who does not care about anything except provocation?

I am sharing this comment with readers of for reactions to this and more comments about how dumb arts reporting has become. We rely on previews and glam photos rather than any objective criticism. In fact, I have not had the benefit of a truly objective critical response to my work for several years. There is nobody to write it and nobody to read it. Even Malavika Sarukkai has been photographed very badly in a recent Saturday HINDU feature, wearing unflattering clothes and speaking about nothing new. Is this what we dancers should be doing now?

I am angry and questioning. readers... read and respond... please...

Anita R Ratnam

Link to article - Making 'Faces' at Bharatanatyam

Anita's letter to the Editor, City Express, The New Indian Express


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