Ramlila, all the way from Delhi

Ramlila, all the way from DelhiRamlila, all the way from Delhi

Come Dussehra, a few designated open grounds turn into auditoriums with huge stages and stage settings of varied kinds, and people come in large...

Come Dussehra, a few designated open grounds turn into auditoriums with huge stages and stage settings of varied kinds, and people come in large numbers to witness the story of Ram enacted live.

The entire epic unfolds in precision acquired with years of practice, as the actors get transformed into the characters of much revered Ram, Sita, the feisty Lakshman, the ferocious Ravan.

The tradition of staging Ramlila has been happening since decades, and over the years the devout visit the grounds where these magnus opuses of another kind are stages for a good two hours and more. They come with their families watch Ramayan being enacted yet again, dwell in the experience, before going home with a promise of coming back the next year.

While the story is a familiar one, each of the groups performing Ramlila has a distinct quality or introduce a special attraction that marks them from the rest. One group has celebrity actors on stage along with them; having popular actors as part of the cast is surely a major draw.

One of the groups had the likes of Puneet Issar, the Bhishma Pitamah of television series Mahabharat of the yore to play the role of Ravan. A few introduce special effects to add the appeal. Elaborate stage props are the hallmark of what makes a good Ramlila even while many, off late use computer graphics to add the ambience.

One such theatre company specialising in Ramlila – Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra from New Delhi goes back to 60 years. The company has chosen to evolve over the years, have introduced music, verses from Tulsi Das Ramayan and Valmiki Ramayana, songs and dialogues and have created a spectacular dance drama that has travelled the world and gained much acclaim.

Music drawn from folk traditions and classical music, using various dance forms of India including Kathak, Kathakali and Kalaripayattu for the action sequences, garba and such other forms to add to the vibrancy, verses from Tulsidas and Valmiki Ramayans adapted on to the stage recreated a visual splendor. 'Sriram' – the world famous Ramlila from New Delhi was witnessed by all Presidents and Prime Ministers till date, and was also recorded by Doordarshan during the early years.

Director Shobha Deepak Singh says that it is important to upgrade the production every year if only to keep the repeat audience entertained and the show vibrant. One of the important reasons for the popularity of the show is its cast, all of them dancers, extremely energetic in rendering the chakkars of Kathak, the grace of the dandiya and garba dances or the acrobatics of the Rajasthani folk dancers amongst many other influences.

For the action sequences like the one towards the end between Ram and Ravan was from the fighting dance of Kerala – Kalaripayattu. The introduction of Ravan is majestic and he comes dancing in his Kathakali attire, and this scene has become iconic over the years. The cast that has grown into their characters went about the drama like clockwork sans even a moment of slack or misstep.

The credit goes back to the director, the practice and the workshops that precede the performances of the Kala Kendra. The beautiful costumes, good sound system and lights also give an edge to this Ramlila that has served as a showcase of cultural richness of India, all over the world.

While one did miss the charm of open-air performance, and the live drama, this version of Ramlila enthralled the audience of Hyderabad recently at Shilpakalavedika. For the stage props the production uses graphics and this year they have also introduced animation to explain a few scenes like Hanuman flying with Sanjeevani.

Whether this has added or taken away from the aesthetics of the otherwise brilliant dance drama is difficult to say. The success of the event can be measured with the endless cheers emanating from the children's stands.

Sriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra performed for a charity event organised in support of 'Art for Causes', an initiative under the aegis of Amita Talwar, that among many other social causes, works towards providing education to the underprivileged children.

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