Nearly four decades after his death, the sound resonating from his Thavil echoes on both sides of Palk Strait. Documentary film maker Amshan Kumar, in his upcoming film on Yazhpanam Dakshinamurthy, shines the spotlight on the legend’s contribution.
Mr. Kumar, who has made documentaries on seasoned writers and musicians, said the idea of making a film on the Thavil artiste came from London-based Sri Lankan publisher Padmanabha Iyer. Now, he has completed shooting a major portion in Tamil Nadu and plans to capture some memories in Sri Lanka. “Though he lived in Tamil Nadu for many years and was close to musicologist B.M. Sundaram, Thavil artiste Thanjavur Govindarajan and many others, I need to talk to his family members and other friends in Sri Lanka,” said Mr. Kumar.
Dakshinamurthy stayed with Mr. Sundaram in Thanjavur for six years, before leaving for Sri Lanka in the 1970s. He came back to India once after that to perform at the Orathanadu float festival, Thanjavur. That became his last-ever performance. “He returned to Sri Lanka soon after and passed away in 1975,” Mr. Sundaram said.
Dakshinamurthy’s style was marked by remarkable clarity, even while he was playing the fastest of rhythmic phrases. His contemporaries marvelled at the ease with which he brought out the finest nuances in Thavil playing, with extraordinary synchronisation between his left and right hands.
It was thavil artiste Needamangalam Shanmugavadivel who brought Dakshinamurthy to Tamil Nadu. He then trained under Natchiyarkoil Raghava Pillai. “But he needed little tutoring. He was a genius. His fingers could instantly execute any idea that his mind conceived. He was to thavil what T.N. Rajarathinam Pillai was to nagaswaram,” said Mr. Sundaram.
Pointing to Dakshinamurthy’s obsession with layam, Thanjavur Govindarajan said: “He would come to my house in a bullock-cart suddenly at night to discuss a new korvai that struck him.”
A handsome man, Dakshinamurthy would ride motorcycles and cars at breakneck speed. “He would light a cigarette in style as if he were a film star. But his life was a roller-coaster ride. The first half of his career was a musician’s envy, but it became a tragedy later,” said Mr. Govindarajan. Dakshinamurthy plunged into depression and was taken to Gunaseelam, where those with mental illness were admitted for treatment.
“From there, I took him with me to Thanjavur. But he was going through a period of great stress,” said Mr. Sundaram. During his time, he mostly paired with Shanmugavadivel and the latter’s untimely death affected him very much.