Ramleela comes to Hyderabad
This past weekend saw Hyderabad’s first ever ‘Ramleela’ at one of the city’s premier cultural centres – Phoenix Arena. The play was being put up by...
This past weekend saw Hyderabad’s first ever ‘Ramleela’ at one of the city’s premier cultural centres – Phoenix Arena. The play was being put up by Rangeen Sapney Productions and written and directed by Surender Sahil Verma.
Verma condensed the 45 hours of the Ramayan into a three-hour long performance. However, it still maintained the integrity of the story and themes of family ties, courage, selflessness and pretty much everything that the ‘Ramleela’ stands for, beyond the overarching “good v/s evil” theme, came through.
Surender Sahil Verma says, “The biggest challenge was to edit the script and make it short but effective. The original story of the ‘Radheshyam Ramayan’ was approximately 45 hours and is showcased over a period of 15 days during the Vijayadashmi. Editing the script took almost seven months and then we started the auditions.”
Avinash Agarwal, who essayed the role of Ram says, “What is unique about this play is that this is the first time it is being performed in a single play format which is especially good for this generation who don’t have the patience to watch a play spread over 15 days.”
The play, written in rhyming verse style and delivered as such according to Ambuj Chaturvedi, who essayed the role of Lakshman, are same dialogues from the Ramleela plays that are performed in North India over a span of two weeks.
‘Ramleela’ had over 30 actors and musicians most of whom were new to the theatre industry, which presented its own set of challenges. “The other challenge was to train approximately 30 new actors. It required a rigorous workshop/rehearsals of two months,” says Verma.
The play also managed to bring in a lot more than just the story of Ram in terms of giving depth and dimensions to the characters. Ramleela included Ravan’s back-story, instead of just portraying him as the larger-than-life, ultimate villain that we have seen in various other adaptations of the Ramayan.
Captain Ahmed, who played Ravan in the play says, “I was initially sceptical about essaying the role of Ravan because he is conventionally portrayed as a loud character and I am not that loud. But while researching, I found that he was one of the best men of his time. He was well-read and an ardent Shiv Bhakth. We tried to bring those aspects of his character into the play as well.”
Another surprise element in the Ramleela was how the character of Lakshman seemed to be an audience favourite. In most other renditions, this particular character is highly devoted to his elder brother, Ram and is pretty much overshadowed by him throughout the epic. In Verma’s Ramleela, though, Lakshman, portrayed by Ambuj Chaturvedi, was more of the hot-headed, sarcastic, younger brother who dotes on his elder brother and tries to be him.
It was a far more relatable portrayal of the sibling bond shared by Ram and Lakshman and was also quite refreshing to watch from the one-dimensional portrayals of him as the docile gentleman. On playing this character and bringing a new angle to him, actor Ambuj Chaturvedi says, “I am a new actor so I could bring a fresh perspective to the character.
One thing about myself is that I have very good observation powers and I could observe what worked and what the audience like so I stressed more on those bits. I tried to bring more fun into the character and did what came naturally to me as the character. After the show, when children came to me and said, ‘You are my hero now’, it was a nice feeling because I managed to make the character stand out.”
Verma and his team’s motive behind the play was to bring something new to Hyderabad in terms of culture and make young children acquainted without mythology and culture and give them our own superheroes to look upto which they seem to have accomplished.
On future endeavours, Avinash says, “We plan on taking this further. We are collaborating with Telangana Tourism and we want to tour with this play all over the state and the country as well.”