Anita Ratnam loves every moment on stage and has redefined dance in more ways than one
Turning points came very early in my life — the first one probably the day that I was born. My extended family was hoping for a baby boy but a girl was born instead. Though my father was extremely happy to have a baby girl, it was a huge setback for the rest of the family as all first born children in our family were boys. As I grew up and learnt of this, it taught me a great lesson in life that gender should not define who you are.
I was born into a family of businessmen and grew up in Chennai where I still live. I studied in Ethiraj College for Women where I ran for the post of general secretary for my college — and lost. My teachers gave me no reasons for my losing out except to say that I was blessed with everything in life and someone else who did not have as much as me deserved a chance. I felt that in our country things can be tough for people who are talented.
I started dancing at a very young age and trained in Bharatanatyam under Adyar K. Lakshman and went to Kalakshetra for advanced training in Bharatanatyam. I also trained in Mohiniattam and Kathakali. There were many professional turning points like getting the opportunity to work with top professionals in theatre, dance and music.
I went to the US and studied TV and theatre at the University of New Orleans. In the US I felt that I was free from the confines of a golden cage and was able to excel. That was a turning point in itself.
I completed my Master’s degree from the University of New Orleans and started hosting the television show, Cinema Cinema in the US in 1981 and, subsequently, Indigo - The Colours of India in 1984. The birth of my two children, running my TV shows and meeting deadlines shaped me as a person and made me fearless.
When I came back to Chennai in the 1990s, I launched Narthaki — a one-stop phone directory which gave information on the cultural programmes in Chennai. In 2000 it went online and today it is one of the largest Indian cultural information portals going.
I bring the richness of my experience whenever I am on stage and enjoy myself each time I dance.
(As told to Treena Mukherjee)