Now, Ramayana tunes into jazz and blues

Experimental Staging

The epic story of Ramayana is being staged and appreciated since ages. Ram, the hero, defeats Ravan, the baddie, and rescues Sita, the damsel in distress. But, this two-hour Ramayana is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Using tunes of jazz and blues, moves of salsa and Chhau, modern lighting techniques, countless instruments like violins, saxophones, trumpets, electric guitars and, most importantly English compositions, the ageless story of good over bad comes live to the audiences as an English rock musical! You could read that again and it will still be here.

Conceived and composed by Manoj Pant, who teaches Economics at JNU, the entire narration of Kumaoni Ramayana will be through music and dance but without any dialogues. The lyrics for all compositions have been penned by the professor, who belongs to Uttarakhand, where Kumaoni Ramayana has been staged since decades.

“In the Kumaoni version, Ravana was capable of breaking Shiva’s bow at Sita’s swyamvar but he kidnaps Sita instead because his arrogance does not allow for the fact that she has an option of choosing her partner. So, he decides to kidnap her over marrying her. Kumaoni Ramayana depicts Ravana as a very good king and efficient administrator but his arrogance leads to his destruction,” Manoj shares his Metrolife.

The professor has chosen to present the story in a new format, targeting youngsters and since there is a lack of good English rock musicals on Indian themes, he feels that this Ramayana will fill the gap.

“I have observed that people attend English rock musicals thinking that they are only music shows because they don’t understand the theme. There are no rock musicals based on Indian themes either. So, I decided to do it. I have put the Kumaoni Ramayana in a modern way. I have put it in English which will be suitable for the younger audiences,” he says.

This ‘Story of Ram and Sita’ will neither have Ravana with 10 heads nor will characters wear loud makeup. The actors will sing live with recorded music being played in the background. The entire story, starting from the swayamvar till the welcoming of Ram, Sita and Lakshman in Ayodhya, will be told through 22 songs.

The dance pieces have been choreographed by Delhi-based French dancer Gilles Chuyen. The clothes and dresses have been picked from various cultures and traditions. So while you will see the traditional dhoti-sari-anga vasthram combination, you will also see the characters in cloaks, Greek style flowing gowns, Rajasthani folk dresses, tribal wear etc.

Unlike regular Ramayana, this narration will be free of big sets too. “It is a very small-budget staging. Along with the emotions, sets will also be created with the help of music and lighting,” says Manoj.

The production was done last year too, only that it was in Hindi. An MBBS doctor and singer, Manvi Gupta, who will play Sita, says, “I had never heard of Ramayana as musical. So, when I was given the chance to play Sita in this production, I agreed. The characterisation has to be deeper when there are no dialogues.”

Watch the epic story of Ramayana with a twist on October 24; 6 pm onwards at Plaza, Select CityWalk.


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