They say a call can be life changing. Dancer Anita Ratnam resonates with it. After all, it was a call only that led her to start Narthaki, a first-of-a-kind phone directory for dancers. We spoke to this dance entrepreneur to learn more about her venture.
Thirty-two years ago, when Anita Ratnam received a call from the American Broadcasting Company, she didn’t know that it will bring along a business opportunity. The company asked her to seek the contact details of Yamini Krishnamurthy for an interview. Though her maternal aunt in Delhi shared the renowned dancer’s phone number but she also learnt an important lesson. She realised that there weren’t enough sources available in dance for people to contact each other.
So, in 1992, she took a leap of faith. She started Narthaki, a phone book (like a directory) that provides the single largest and most comprehensive source of all information about Indian dance and dancers.
Explaining the idea behind her venture, she says, “Narthaki provides information about different genres of Indian dance. There are news, interviews, profiles, reviews and previews of performances on the website. There are also columns for dancers on health and nutrition. I also express my opinions through forums and writings.”
In 1997, she launched the second phone book. Since India was also transitioning from landline to mobile phones and emails, Anita realised that the time was right to take Narthaki from an offline platform to a portal. In 2000, she launched www.Narthaki.com .
The website now also helps discover and nurture new talent in the world of dance through curated commissions. Narthaki has so far propelled several proprieties. These include Boxed (dancers creating in isolation), Andal’s Garden (a celebration of female Tamil mystic poet), Taalam Talkies (the connection between South Indian cinema and Bharatanatyam), A-Nidra (all night marker for Shivaratri) and Epic Women (a series of mentored commissions for dancers across genres), to name a few.
Even during the pandemic, Narthaki produced virtual dance festivals on digital platforms setting up standards for production details via its large presence on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
Besides this, there is a comprehensive address bank of practitioners and teachers of Indian classical dances worldwide, dance musicians, dance festivals, dance spaces, etc on the website. It also features profiles of legendary dancers, special columns and news about upcoming dance workshops, among other information.
Anita is trained in Bharatnatyam, Mohiniyattam and Kathakali. She feels that it was her knowledge in different art forms that propelled her to start a common platform for dancers to connect. But was that enough for her to convince her parents?
Anita clarifies that her parents supported her decision to be a dance entrepreneur. “My parents told me to pursue dance to the best of my abilities and as a professional. My father asked me to give a structure to my dance entrepreneurship in such a way that I could understand how much money am I spending. He helped me in the early years to plan and supported my decision to be a dance entrepreneur. I am very grateful to him,” she shares.
Besides being a dancer, Anita has knowledge in different fields. She completed a bachelor’s degree in English literature and went on to pursue a diploma from Kalakshetra dance academy in Chennai. Later, she also completed a master’s degree in theatre and TV in the US and a PhD in women studies in India. She also worked as a TV producer in New York.