January 23, 2020
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Anita Ratnam

On Mad & Divine, a world dance conference, part of the Margazhi festival in Chennai

Anita Ratnam
Anita Ratnam

What inspired Mad & Divine?

I’ve been preoccupied with populating my performing and academic space with inspirational women. A conclave to converge my interests with my love of dance seemed interesting.

What’s different about Mad & Divine?

It’s an attempt to dispel the myth that divine inspiration is akin to submissive feminism.

Do conferences like these really cut teeth?

It’s curated to bring both research and rigour. It provides a template for academics, writers, poets and artistes to engage, discuss and offer an array of sensibilities and points of view.

Dancer, curator, activist. The most exciting?

Whichever hat I am wearing at that moment. I have an innate ability to multi-task. I like the idea of holding many strings.

But the most exciting?

When I’m on stage as a dancer.

Do you recall your first Margazhi season?

In 1970, when I was 15, I opened the Margazhi festival at the Music Academy. Important because for years, dance hadn’t opened.

Do you remember who watched you?

M.S. Subbulakshmi and Balasaraswati were in the audience. A teenager, I didn’t realise how big a deal it was. That’ll always remain special.

Margazhi is touted as a global fest. Agree?

Indians the world over make their way to it. Dancers and musicians have also started travelling and become global in their niche. But is it publicised as other cultural festivals? No.

Your own performances this season?

For years, I have premiered my work in Chennai. I like the honesty with which the city responds. This year, I perform one thematic concert: Andal Andal, with my sister, Pritha.

Working with Pritha again. Thoughts?

We’re collaborating after 15 years. It is exciting, challenging and emotional. Andal Andal is our way of remembering our mother, our 96-year-old grandmother and our gurus.

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