Amid lines of hangers displaying drapes and stacks of designer wear, renowned dancer Anita Ratnam will gracefully perform A Million Sitas — a dance production that has travelled to several places like Kolkata, Delhi, Malaysia, New York and California. While the audience will get to see the story of the various characters in Ramayana unfold, they will also see the genius work of designer Tarun Tahiliani in her costumes.
“This is not the first time I am performing in a retail store. Performing in avenues like this takes the art to people who restrict themselves to just shopping and dining,” says Anita. Her costumes will include a big flowy coral skirt which she will pair with different jackets — all designed by Tarun — to suit each character in her 25-minute performance. “To depict Sita, I will be wearing a shade of orange, yellow and coral to suggest a light, cheerful and youthful character. For Sita in her bridal avatar, I will wear a green shade. In South India, the word Pachai is not just for lush abundant foliage, but also for a young girl. For Manthara, I chose a faded dupatta and use a prop for the hunch back. For Shoorpanakha, I chose black-printed palazzos and a beautiful black embroidered jacket, and a gold metallic sash,” says Anita. “I have my own costume jewellery to add to it. That apart, a special crown from Malaysia, a crystal glass bowl from Canada and two beautiful installations of Ram and Ravana made by a Bengal artist,” she adds.
While the dance production is five years-old, it is only last year that Anita adopted a change in the costume. “I used to wear Benaras silk for the dance, but last October, while I was shopping at Collage, I happened to see the coral flowing skirt. It was the time I was starting my tour of the show for theatre audiences. I wanted to tone everything down and use a North Indian style wear,” she says. “I bought the skirt and picked up jackets and waist coats. I realised that as I was evolving my own fashion story, I was also weaving an apparel story of Tarun’s works through the dance. So, I suggested to Latha Madhu (owner of Collage) why don’t we have it at the store. This will also mark the culmination of our 10 years of friendship,” she adds.
Anita says that for the last 25 years, even as she travelled places to perform, she has been working towards the idea of creating costumes that she can walk off the stage and go out for a party in. “I want to bring art and life together. I want my costumes to be a little informal and accessible. I didn’t want the traditional bharathanatyam costume. That is not who I am. Most designers create costumes that are not suitable for the bent-knee posture in bharathanatyam. I will have to demonstrate the moves to them at times,” she says. “Besides that, many designers do not understand an Indian woman’s body, but Tarun, like designers Ritu Kumar and Rohit Bal, understands the various changes that a woman’s body undergoes as she ages. And one doesn’t have to be size zero or a 22-year-old to wear their dresses,” she adds. A Million Sitas will be performed at Collage Store, Greams Road, at 5 pm on Thursday.