New age theatrics add flavour to Ramlila

New age theatrics add flavour to Ramlila

About Ram not only retold Bhavabhuti’s Ramayan, but highlighted the different mediums through which a play can be staged. Directed by Anurupa Roy, About Ram took more than a year to be made. It won the Best Director and Best Ensemble prize at the International Children's Theatre Festival of Subotica, Serbia. The show has toured Spain, Austria, France, Turkey, Germany and various parts of India.

The play uses animation, masks, chaau, shadow puppets and rod puppets. Roy tells Metrolife, “Bhavabhuti’s Ramayan is about Ram, which looks internal journey of Ram. He focuses on Ram leaving Sita behind to rule his kingdom. But Bhavabhuti, doesn’t judge Ram. He talks of difficult choices any man has to make — that each human being is ultimately alone. The last lines of the poem say ‘he ruled for ten thousand years alone’.”

“It is like the beginning of the end, when Sita is held captive by Ravan, because Ram and Sita don’t really reunite after that. After winning over Ravan, Sita returns to Ayodhya with Ram, but he is so suspicious that she is still thinking of Ravan. He put her through agnipariksha and other tests. But he chooses duty over love and Sita returns to the earth, where she came from,” says Roy. About Ram is non verbal and based on Uttararamacharita by Bhavabhuti. The style of puppetry is a version of Bunraku, which is from Japan, where three people move one puppet. “But the Japanese grammar is completely different, the grammar of this show is Mayurbhanj Chhau, where the puppet is doing Mayurbhanj Chhau,” says Roy.

The play took on animation, which also used puppets (leather shadow puppets). The puppeteers supplied a lot of emotions, they also acted as Ram in parts, therefore, not overtly, but for example when Ram is emoting, the feeling gets exemplified by their facial expressions as well.

With minimalistic arrangement Katkatha, Roy’s organisation, created a grand show. It was a Ramlila for those who have a penchant for art, and children were all the more excited to see the lighting and new age stage theatrics. It was a stirring look at Ram’s inner journey using puppetry, animation and dance.

Shadow puppets design : Tolu Bombalattam master Chidambara Rao,
n Animation: Vishal K Dar
n Music: Abhijit Bannerji.
n Direction: Anurupa Roy