The Palakkadu academy presented Dakshayagam.

Beautiful music by singers Sadanam Sivadasan and Sadanam Jyotish Babu and dramatic yet restrained acting by Dr. Sadanam Harikumar (Daksha), Sadanam Vijayan (Sati) and Kalanilayam Balakrishnan (Siva) kept the rasika riveted as ‘Dakshayagam,’ yet another mythological story from Bhagavatha Purana, was enacted at Kalakshetra’s ‘Bhava Bhavanam - Gurustvam’ Festival. The presentation was by Gandhi Seva Sadanam Kathakali Academy, Palakkadu.

Scripted by poet-composer Irayaman Thampi, the story is about the egoistic king, Daksha, who takes a dislike to his son-in-law Siva and insults his daughter Sati for having gone away with him. Shamed, Sati immolates herself, even as Veerabhadra and Bhadrakali, spirits created by Siva and Sati, attack Daksha. Daksha is beheaded but is revived by Siva, so that the yaga could be completed.

The dance-drama was enacted through padams or songs with nritta segments such as kalasams in between, and free-wheeling improvisational passages in which the dancer-actor communicates through gestures to the accompaniment of drums. The improvisations add warmth to the otherwise formal presentation and are always impromptu. They vary from artist to artist.

The most entertaining padam in ‘Dakshayagam’ was the opening ‘Ariyade mamma putri’ (Begada) in which Daksha regrets having allowed his daughter Sati, to marry Siva - the one who has no pride or sense of propriety, no relatives, no clothes… Daksha adds to the list of negatives with every charanam.

The Sadanam Academy’s presentation made space for many improvisational sequences. Daksha’s journey to Mt. Kailash was one of the best, with Dr Harikumar bringing the forest alive, with its vastness, thick vegetation, high mountains, the smell of dead bodies in the burial grounds, the snakes, etc. There was a thread of the comical running through the enactment, as the brave king tried not to be scared. He spots the palace on the mountain top and notices a guard at the gate. His imitates the guard marching up and down to a folk beat provided by Sadanam Ramakrishnan (chenda), and when he realises that the guard has a monkey face (Nandikeswara in Kathakali tradition is supposed to be monkey-faced), he laughs gleefully.

The improvised conversation between Sati and Siva with the former asking permission to attend her father’s yaaga, reflected the comfort of a well-adjusted couple as they communicated with silences in between. Daksha’s silent conversation with Sati was on the other hand, intense. His welcome turns to anger when he recognises his daughter entering the yaagasala. He orders her to leave and recounts the circumstances of her birth in a conch shell in a lily pond and the parental affection showered on her, and tells her that in return for the love, she made him cry when she flew the nest without bidding him goodbye. He goes back to the yaaga with a small but dismissive gesture, meaning to say that, my daughter, she is gone forever.

The music stood out for the slow and melodious rendering - especially the tender, sringaara pieces between Siva and Sati in Yadukulakhambodi (Loka deepa) and Kalyani (Kuvalaya vilochane) ragas, and the soulful 'Thingal moule’ in Mukhari when Sati confirms Siva’s predictions. The additional accompanists were Sadanam Devadas and Sadanam Krishnaprasad (maddalam) and Sadanam Jithin (chenda).