It’s an epic telling. Every time The Ramayana will be told, it will hold a sanctity synonymous with its honour. When the original one-woman version of late thespian Gopal Sharman’s The Ramayana was performed on Broadway, it left a legacy that couldn’t ever be replicated.
Yet, years later, even though the man who conceived it — Sharman — has passed on, his version of the story is being retold through his students who pay tribute every year to the man who created this acclaimed play. The iconic presentation is back this year at Akshara Theatre as a retrospective has been performed over 2,000 times in India.
Sharman’s script was written to showcase Rama and Sita in the shadow of war and how uncertainty and violence impacted their relationship. This is a modern version, wherein Sita is not depicted as a meek and gullible woman who reconciles to her fate. She is what Sharman used to call a ‘thinking woman’ who puts up a brave front against Ravana.
While the one-woman version performed on Broadway in New York, London’s West End, the Smithsonian Institution, United Nations Headquarters and more than 35 cities and towns in India, had senior artist and director Jalabala Vaidya at its helm, the present play has been taken over by the next generation of artists, two of who are the family’s protégés, namely Nisa Shetty and Dhruv Shetty.
Others include Vikalp Mudgal, Vidur Mohan, Vipul Yadav, RS Raghu, Vidya Partasarathy, Shobhit Balwani and others, not to mention Vaidya herself, who will perform the opening and closing acts of the play.
For the Akshara family, The Ramayana is not just a play that remains a bold narration of a popular story. It also serves as a happy memory of their beloved Sharman, who had the audacity at the time, in the 60s, to attempt the re-telling of a tale that no one dared to interpret. Well, he had no qualms because Sharman was always one to break rules, never to conform to them.