Journey of the Indian Woman
Daayinee showcased her highs and lows from the Vedic period to the present day.
Eulogy to Womanhood: ‘Daayinee – The Eternal Giver.’
As the curtain rose with the “Daayinee Overture” played in the background, a statement from the ancient work of Hindu Law, the Manu Smriti, was recited, “Where women are honoured, there the Gods are pleased. Where they are not honou
red, all work becomes fruitless.”
This eulogy set the tone for the dance presentation “Daayinee, The Eternal Giver,” conceptualised by social-activist Radha Sridhar and choreographed by dancer Revathi Ramachandran for the Joint Action Council for Women, Chennai.
The 75-minute production followed the Indian woman chronologically from the Vedic period to the present day, showcasing her highs and lows in a clinical yet not fully detached manner.
Rich and bright
It was a colourful show with sumptuous all-white costumes, rich lighting and a menu of well-rehearsed rhythm-dominated group dances. It was also well-researched with quotations from many sources including the Sanskrit Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, traditional Vivaha Mantras, Tamil quotes of Thiru Vi Ka and Subramanya Bharati and English verses from Zoya Zaidi’s “Woman Burning Bright.” If it craved more creative imagination, its simple and unfussy approach worked to its advantage.
“Daayinee…” also had the benefit of dramatic, in-your-face poetry about the ‘burning’ Indian woman. Sample this: “My forehead, Vermillion-dyed, In bright-red flames, a Burning-Bride.” And another, a translation from Meera Bai’s poem, “Wood burns to coal, coal to ashes, I burn so, neither coal nor ashes.”
Powerful punches these, but the trick always lies in their handling; it needs silence and restraint that the five mature dancers who mimed each verse alternately understood well.
The element of restraint made the visual journey representative without overplaying the histrionic quotient. It was a fine balance to achieve considering that the production was otherwise dominated by rhythm - a rhythm for happiness, a rhythm for the representation of the Goddesses, one for spiritual pursuits and one for sadness. Just when the alternating orchestration and dance sequences got a bit tiresome, the pace changed to the wedding vows — what they actually mean and how they were misinterpreted by society.
The subsequent oppression of women followed by her eventual triumph conveyed through Bharatiar’s “Pudumai Penn,” etc formed the rest of the story.
The eclectic extracts were recited and not set to music, so the music composition (B.V.Balasai) was largely orchestral mood music with a large dose of percussion (N.K.Kesavan). While the kanjira and tabla interludes in the Kummi and in the Bharatiar songs were enjoyable, the electronic sounds elsewhere felt intrusive. On the choreographic angle, Revathi would do well to include movement choreography in group dances in addition to the adavu or dance-step choreography.
The participating dancers were: Revathi, Kavitha Ramu, Lavanya Sankar, Sujatha Mohan, Saradha Sethuraman and students from Kala Sadhanalaya. The credits: for costumes, Jaya Venkataraman and for lighting, Murugan.
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