That time, when a Ramlila would be staged or screened at every neighbourhood park or community centre during Diwali, may be gone; but if you crave for a similar visual-spiritual experience even now, then Shri Ram Bharatiya Kala Kendra’s Ramlila is being held specifically for you.
Held at the Kendra’s lawns on Copernicus Marg for a month till Diwali, it is conducted in the same traditional manner, albeit, with much more polished performances and presentation.
Rows of chairs are set for people to enjoy the show before a stage that is essentially a rectangular frame. It begins with the four brothers Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrugan being sent to sage Vishwamitra’s ashram to learn warfare. After freeing the ashram of the terror of demons, in Kerala martial dance Kalaripayattu style, they proceed to Sita’s swayamvar in Mithila. Ram breaks lord Shiva’s dhanush and wins Sita’s hand in marriage. They now come back to Ayodhya where Manthra poisons queen Kaikeyi’s mind resulting in king Dashrath banishing Ram.
It is beautiful how the ballet’s director Shobha Deepak Singh has used minimal setting to create different scenes. Beautiful paintings depict the royal palace while a single bell hanging from the roof turns the stage into a temple like setting. The natural foliage in the background gives the look of a forest as and when demanded by the story.
Many a years are spent in Panchvati by Ram, Sita and Lakshman before trouble arrives as Surpnakha. Angered by her lustful approach, Lakshman cuts off her nose, depicted in an elegant dance. The audience is now introduced to Ravan, in his traditional Kathakali attire and exquisite lustful expressions, arriving in Panchvati to take his sister’s revenge.
Then come the foreign dancers who do an excellent job as Mareech’s deer form. Their acrobatic flying jumps perfectly imitate the moves of a deer. Ram goes to fetch the deer and Sita is taken by Ravan as history says.
In this three hours of show, Shobha Deepak Singh has taken care to include every small story knitted in the epic – Jatayu dying trying to save Sita, Ram slaying Bali to befriend Sugriva and even his encounter with Shabri - the so called low-caste woman.
After prayers to the sea God and a path of stones built across the ocean, Ram finally arrives at Lanka, depicted with a screen showing waves. The big battle ensues and Ram slays Ravan to recover Sita. In his last breath, Ravan says, “Even in my defeat, I have won. I will reach your kingdom in heaven much ahead of you.”
After a sad episode of Agnee Pareeksha, the three reach Ayodhya and celebrations ensue. The dancers come into their own and the stage lights up like at no other time in the ballet.
Shobha says, “It is a challenge for us to do something different every year, and we do it to keep the enthusiasm alive. Like every year, this season has also been an astounding success.”