Kathakali buffs were treated to an unabridged, six-and-a-half hour-long performance of ‘Dakshayagam.'
Irayimman Thampi's attakathas such as ‘Utharaswayamvaram,' ‘Keechakavadham,' and ‘Dakshayagam' are good examples of his skill as a dramatist. While ‘Utharaswayamvaram' and ‘Keechakavadham' narrate the life of the Kauravas and the Pandavas, ‘Dakshayagam' depicts the story of Daksha's encounters with Lord Siva. Although the story is around six-and-a-half hours, on account of time constraint, only a few scenes of the play are usually staged. It was thus a rare opportunity for Kathakali enthusiasts to witness an unabridged staging of ‘Dakshayagam' at Zamorin's High School, Thali, Kozhikode.
An insult and its aftermath
The play began with the usual Thodayam and Purappad. ‘Dakshayagam' deals with a father's love for his adopted daughter and how the relationship sours when she marries Siva against her father's wishes.
Daksha conducts a Mahayagam and does not invite his daughter and son-in-law. Nevertheless Sathi goes as an uninvited guest. But she gets insulted by her father. A humilated Sathi kills herself. Siva sends the two ‘Shivabhootams' – Veerabhadra and Bhadrakali – to kill Daksha. The Sivabhootams succeed in cutting Daksha's throat but the latter manages to complete the yagam with a goat's head in place of his own.
Kalamandalam Gopi's performance as Daksha at the beginning of the play was beautifully poised. Neither did the septuagenarian artiste falter at any point of his performance nor did he cut short any attams in lieu of his age. His performance of the padam ‘Poonthen vanee…' in the first scene, was a good example of his commitment towards the art. Contrary to common practice, the artiste performed this padam in slow tempo (pathinja kalam).
The role of Daksha in the latter part of the play was essayed with vigour and skill by Kalamandalam Balasubramanian. His perfect footwork and apt expressions enthralled the audience. Balasubramanian's performance was at its zenith in the fight scene with Veerabhadra. He enacted the emotional turmoil of a father with flair. However, his untimely attam in the middle of the padam ‘Yagasalayil ninnu poka javal…,' all but killed the tempo of the scene.
The roles of Siva and Sathi were skilfully essayed by Kalamandalam Manoj and Kalamandalam Sajan, respectively. Kalamandalam Soman's enactment of the ferocious Veerabhadra was noteworthy, especially for his excellent kalasams. In some scenes he emulated the style of his uncle, the late Vellinezhi Nanu Nair, an expert Chuvannathadi artiste. Kalamandalam Pradeep and Sadanam Krishnadas enacted the roles of Nandikeswara and Bhadrakali with élan. The role of Vedavalli was donned by Sunilkumar.
Musicians and percussionists too played a part in the success of the play. Vocalists Kottakkal Madhu and Nadumpally Rammohan with the support of Kottakkal Narayanan Nambudiri were impressive. Kalamandalam Krishnadas led the percussion. His perfect melam at the fag end of the play was remarkable.
The programme was organised by Navarasam Charitable Trust.