Ramlila, with a feminist touch

Ramlila, with a feminist touch

It is that time of the year again. The countdown to Dussehra has started and one of Delhi’s oldest Ramlilas, staged by the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, will begin tonight.

Padma Shri awardee theatre director Shobha Deepak Singh and her troupe, are rendering the timeless story of Lord Ram, from today onwards at the Kendra Lawns in Mandi House. It will go on till November 11 just before Diwali.

The Kendra has been staging Ramlila since 1957 and this is its 56th edition now. It is known for its comprehensive story line, impressive performances, spectacular stage set-up, music and choreography befitting classic ballets. Over the years, it has become an institution in itself attracting guests like Jawaharlal Nehru, Giani Zail Singh, Indira Gandhi, Dr S Radhakrishnan, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Atal Behari !, Rajiv Gandhi, Dr Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, Dr Zakir Hussain, Sanjiva Reddy and many others.

Every year, they make modifications in the ballet to keep it interesting and contemporary for its audience. Sometimes, Ramlila is performed in garba style, while on other occasions Ravan renders his emotions in Kathakali. During another performance, Ram danced to the tunes of Kalaripayatttu – a martial dance art form from Kerala.

This time, however, the Kendra’s Ramlila is set to get a feminist touch. The role of Sita will be more elaborate and nuanced than ever before. Director Shobha Deepak Singh informs us, “In the past, the focus of our Ramlila was only Lord Ram. This time, however, we will emphasise on the pains and sacrifices of Sita. Sequences like Sita spotting the Swarn mareech, Sita haran, her repulsing Ravan in Ashok Vatika, the agni-pareeksha and finally her sad home coming: all will be shown in more detail.”

“The truth is that every woman has to undergo fire ordeals in her life. Sadly, the men are never questioned. It is important that we visit our texts again and again, not only to absorb the good teachings therein but also to question the debatable actions.

Ramayana, with its numerous virtuous traditions of devotion, loyalty, family relationships and respect to elders, has many such questions to ponder upon.”

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