Zakir Hussain’s ‘Dasyam’ was intense and at the same time, dramatic.
To the accompaniment of clanging temple bells and the blowing of the conch, Zakir Hussain tried to whip up the devotional quotient and create a visual spectacle with his latest production, ‘Dasyam,’ which he presented at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. As always, his production focussed on the devotional angle and explored some incidents in which the Lord comes to the rescue of his devotees or rather serves his devotees, as Zakir would like to say.
Zakir has, in recent years, gained recognition for his research into the Vaishnava sampradaya, including the Pancharatra Agama Sastra, the scriptures governing temple construction and worship rituals, and has given religious discourses on Andal’s Nachiyar Tirumozhi.
His Bharatanatyam presentations reflect the same ethos, so he keeps the grammar of the presentation simple, concentrating on the dramatic content. Extend the scope, and they may well become ‘Nrithya Upanyasams’ in future.
‘Dasyam’ was marked for its well-researched lyrics written by actor-musician Revathy Sankaran and enhanced with Peria Azhwar’s Tirupallandu pasuram, Nammazhwar’s ‘Aadip Paadi Arangavo,’ ‘Oraayiramai,’ ‘Kaana vaarai,’ and Andal’s ‘Thammai Uagapparai’ pasurams.
The lyrics had been tuned into a melodious musical opera by vocalist Gomathi Nayakan. Together with devotion-inspired songs such as Bhadrachala Ramdas, ‘O Rama Nee Namam’ in Purvikalyani, and ‘Palluke Bangaramayena’ in Anandabhairavi and Namdev’s abhang, ‘Bhaktha Jana Vatsale’ in Megh, the tenor of the solo dance drama was intense.
Besides the music, Zakir’s good preparation helped make ‘Dasyam’ successful.
His role-play was clear, contained and effective. The best were the stories of Bhadrachala Ramdas, who takes money from the treasury to complete the renovation for a Rama temple and is imprisoned, to be rescued by Ramoji and Lakshmoji 12 years later, who return the money to the sultan. The other was the story of Pundallika, who makes Krishna wait outside while he is serving his parents. Not knowing who is at the door, he throws a brick at the visitor to stand on to avoid the scorching heat, and that’s how Panduranga at Pandharpur is seen even today. Both stories had enough meat to absorb the intensity of emotion and take the audience along. The abhang ending with a namavalli, ‘Vittala, Vittala’ was really the high point of the devotion-filled journey.
Little slips in character portrayals that bestow unnecessary arrogance on the gods and heroes, such as in the Gajendra moksham episode when Vishnu is shown standing smug after killing the crocodile, and Arjuna commanding Krishna to drive the chariot, could have been avoided.
Zakir’s nritta has improved with increased agility and energy in his steps; the jathi korvais especially in the main ‘Paar Kadal Palli Kollum,’ were more demanding in terms of the length, speed and complexities. The flexible leg lifts and muzhu mandis looked so deliberate, especially the arudis that started with a fully-seated position and traversed the stage, one wondered whether the steps were included only to prove a point.
The orchestra lent a soft feel in deference to the bhakti-based presentations. Gomathy Nayakan guided the musicians well, but was not at his best otherwise.
Zakir’s student Lakshmi Venkatesh was diligent with the nattuvangam, while Gajendra Ganesan (mridangam) was responsive to the mood. Nataraj (flute) and Sri Krishna (rhythm pad, etc) embellished the melody and drama respectively.