Samskriti to Present Award-Winning Documentary, Cosmic Connection

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HOUSTON: COSMIC CONNECTION is not just a run-of-the-mill documentary, but a labor of love, conceived and directed with meticulous care by Seetha Ratnakar, a freelance film director and artistic consultant for dance productions, and former Assistant Station Director, Doordarshan (Indian Television Network). COSMIC CONNECTION won a Golden Remi (Ethnic/Culture) Award at the 2014 WorldFest International Film Festival, Houston.

COSMIC CONNECTION explores the correlation between the Cosmos, the Cosmic Dancer, and the Dance. Shiva is Nataraja, the Supreme Dancer, whose dance symbolizes the eternal cycles of life and death. The exquisite postures of His elegant dance have been immortalized in the stone sculptures of Sri Sabanayagar temple at Chidambaram. The divine art of dance offered in temples as one of the sixteen rituals of worship was abolished in the early twentieth century. In 1981 a group of visionaries started the first Natyanjali Dance Festival in Chidambaram, to bring back dance to the temples where it belonged. This has evolved into a five day annual event commencing on the auspicious day of Mahasivaratri. Drawing from this example, many other Shiva temples in Tamil Nadu have started conducting similar dance festivals, making Natyanjali a glorious paean to the Lord of the Dance by dancers who come from all over the world to make their humble offerings (anjali) to Nataraja through their dance (natya). COSMIC CONNECTION captures the vibrant ambiance of the temple dance festivals and the spiritual experience of the dancers.

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Seetha Ratnakar

Seetha Ratnakar has over forty years of experience in media, starting her career as a copywriter in an advertising agency before moving on to directing programs for Doordarshan, from 1975. Seetha is a trained classical dancer, having studied Bharatanatyam under Guru “Kalaimamani” K. J. Sarasa and Kuchipudi from Padma Bhushan Dr.Vempati Chinna Satyam, and  had performed all over India and abroad for over a decade, before switching gears and transitioning into dance programming. At Doordarshan, she had the privilege of directing the performances of almost all the leading dancers of India and these recordings have been preserved in the Doordarshan Archives.  She has also directed several dance ballets for Television, notable among them being “Rasavrishti”, a thematic dance picturisation on the many facets of Lord Krishna, which was India’s official entry at the Golden Prague Festival in 1985. A true testament to her artistic vision is the documentary “A Tryst with Tradition”, about the iconic founder-director of Kalakshetra, the legendary dancer Rukmini Arundale. During her career span at the Doordarshan, Seetha has contributed greatly to the development and preservation of dance through aesthetically designed recordings and in-depth coverages of dance festivals, among them the famed Natyanjali Festival of Chidambaram, which she covered for twenty-five years. Her most memorable experience was the millennium celebration of the Brahadeeswara temple in Thanjavur, Tamilnadu in 2011, where over a thousand dancers performed together in glorious harmony. Spending long hours admiring the majestic architecture of the temple and watching dancers perform with single minded devotion had a profound influence on her.  “Cosmic Connection” is her homage to Lord Nataraja, for being her guiding force as a dancer and director and keeping her connected with amazing art and culture all these years.

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Shanmuga Sundaram

Following the screening of the documentary, there will be a short Bharatanatyam performance by visiting artist K. Shanmugam, Director, Sarasalaya, Chennai, and a featured performer in the film. Shanmugam, originally from Malaysia, moved to Chennai to study Bharatanatyam in the graceful and dynamic Vazhuvoor baani under one of its most famous teachers, Kalaimamani K. J. Sarasa. A brilliant and insightful dancer with a tremendous flair for rhythm as well as expression, Shanmugam has made a name for himself as one of the leading male dancers in India. Teaming with Odissi dancer Ramli Ibrahim, Artistic Director of Sutra Dance Theatre, Malaysia, Shanmugam has conducted the much touted “Narthaka Festival”, specially geared towards male dancers practicing different forms of Indian classical dance. Shanmugam has performed all over the world, at prestigious dance festivals and venues, and regularly conducts workshops in Bharatanatyam in Germany, San Francisco and Houston. He is currently the Director of his Guru’s dance institute, Sarasalaya, in Chennai.

THIS EVENT IS FREE to the public and will take place from 4 – 6 pm, Sunday, June 28, at the Kaplan Theater, Evelyn Rubinstein Jewish Community Center, 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd, Houston, TX 77096. For further information, please call 832 275 9658.

This program is funded in part by grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and through a generous donation from Schlumberger.