Anita Ratnam on the role of the art critic in Kalki’s time and now

As a political activist and social reformist, Kalki saw art as a power of dharma and karma. Since art had such tremendous impact on every aspect of individual and public life, he saw art criticism as a crucial necessity. Convinced that the art critic shouldered a crucial responsibility, not only to art but to society, Kalki wrote on music, dance, theatre, cinema, and the folk arts under the pseudonym “Carnatakam”.

Today, in India, when serious art criticism has been ousted from major publications and mostly exists as launder lists and puff pieces, it is difficult to grasp the power that Kalki enjoyed as an opinion maker and opinion changer with his reviews and critiques. In this context, Anita Ratnam shares her thoughts on the role of art criticism as she sees it in the changed world of today.

Anita is best described as a culture intersectionist. She is a dancer trained in the traditional margams who has created her own genre of dancing. Her work on the page and the stage, highlights many subjects including women’s issues, even as it brings together many disciplines from dance and theatre to ritual and performance. As a critic, Anita writes on the arts with inborn grit. She also brings the knowledge and confidence stemming from her exposure to and direct interaction with many performance genres across the world.

Anita has promoted critical writing in her web magazine Narthaki, where she has shown great open-mindedness towards experimental and Avant Garde forms of artistic expression. In this talk, she shares her interesting and intriguing insights with us.

Gowri Ramnarayan