The detailed essay by Poorna Vaidyanathan on one of the most outstanding Carnatic vidushis, D.K. Pattammmal – her rare manodharma and also how she successfully broke the barriers of the male dominated rendering of ragam-tanam-pallavi – was indeed praiseworthy.
I had the wonderful opportunity to discuss and learn a ragam-tanam-pallavi from her, to be able to adapt the same format to my Bharatanatyam dance form for the first time. (I was an ardent devotee and a humble sishya of D.K. Pattammal who was more than a mother to me (I used to call her Amma). She got interested when I told her that it was a thematic concept based on Srimad Bhagavatam. I requested her to compose the music for Sri Krishna Jananam – the title of the theme.
The raga alapana was to be sung in the pattern of a sloka with sahitya in ragamalika, explaining the advent of Krishna. Amma smiled with approval. For the tanam in which I wanted to express Vasudeva’s astonishment on seeing the Lord’s Visvaroopam, she suggested that I set it in raga Nata and also encouraged me to work on the talamalika segment.
Only Amma could guide me in faithfully following the pallavi format with no element of ambiguity. She was patience personified; she listened to all that I said, smiled and asked me what particular raga and tala would I prefer? Promptly I replied “Kharaharapriya and Khanda Triputa tala”. She nodded approvingly and wanted the verses from Srimad Bhagavatam to set the music for the raga. Amma liked the pallavi verse “Go dhooli dhusarita komala kuntalaagram? Govardhanodharana keli krita prayaasam”, and said she would happily compose the music for my ambitious project.
Within a couple of days, she called me home to listen to what she had composed. She had set five different verses in five different ragas, I was dumbfounded. They merged so well with the sahitya and mood. “Now do you want to hear the pallavi?” she asked. I could have shouted in joy as I was waiting for just that.
Amma began to sing the first verse “Go dhooli....” in Kharaharapriya raga, khanda Triputa tala. It was mesmerising listening to “Pallavi Pattammal”! She sang the pallavi niraval to accommodate my sanchari bhava – then pallavi trikalam (in three speeds), followed by pallavi swaras (in vilamba and madhyama speeds). Amma asked me naughtily, “Did you like it or would you like me to change anything?” I was too awestruck for words, it was just perfect.
Amma told me that I should now set the adavu korvais – movements, wherever required. Once I was ready, she wanted to see the progress. It was an emotional moment. With tears in my eyes, I was thankful and fell at her feet. She blessed me profusely. I reached home and started working on it right away, getting my musicians prepared. My first presentation of Sri Krishna Jananam based on the ragam-tanam-pallavi had DKP Amma and Mama to applaud me. What more could I have asked for!
Dr. Vyjayantimala Bali