As a number of people sit in the open-air lawns of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra—following COVID protocols—awaiting the tale of the gods to commence, Rajkumar Sharma, who portrays the character of Lord Rama, experiences the same jitters he did before his first performance 25 years ago.
This year marks the 65th year of Shri Ram, a dance drama directed by Padma Shri awardee Shobha Deepak Singh. Performed annually, the epic was first staged in 1967.
Over the last six decades, it has evolved as an assortment of multiple dance styles, Hindustani classical ragas, and teachings from the tale.
“I have grown up with this Ramlila,” shares Shobha Deepak Singh.
Every year, several new dancers, mostly students, perform in this dance drama. “In my country, we do not have shows like the Ramayana. When I first got to know about this in 2018, I was in awe. I am glad to have gotten a chance to perform here,” says Turkan Sadigzade (31), who originally hails from Azerbaijan and has been performing in the Ramlila since 2018.
Another performer, Diksha Chauhan (27) says, "A musical on the Ramayana is not very common. To keep your audience entertained through music and dance is a testing job. But our production manages to create a thrilling experience for them.”
Keeping in mind the threat of COVID-19, this event is being carried out in the open lawns. The seating capacity has been brought down to 200 and strict COVID norms such as social distancing and proper sanitation are being followed.
CREATING AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE
"I have been portraying the role of Lord Rama for the last 25 years. We try to incorporate new elements every year, so that the audience has a different experience every time they watch the show. This year, we have re-introduced the music and the sets from the older versions of our performances to create a seamless experience for everyone," says actor Rajkumar Sharma, who plays the character of Lord Rama in this show.
ON HOME GROUND
"I am back here after 14 years to play the role of Sita. For an artist, the stage is indispensable. Last year, despite the performances, it was very challenging. But I am glad we are performing at such a scale this year," says Purnima Roy, who portrays the character of Sita.
THE LEARNING CONTINUES
"My first performance in this Ramlila was in 1995. Over the years, this platform has taught me a sense of rhythm that has become a part of my life. My guru has taught me that an artist is like a beggar when learning and like a king when performing. My only aim before every performance is to be on stage and convince my audience that I am Ravana," says Swapan Mazumdar, who plays the character of Ravana.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
"While the world came to a standstill, we ensured that Shri Ram continued. We are geared up to ensure the safety of our audiences and artists with the help of proper sanitisation and other rules. The whole team is vaccinated and we intend to perform in open air to avoid any health hazards. COVID-19 is far from over but all we need is to act wisely and co-exist with the virus observing precautions. But I strongly believe that the show must go on because we can’t stay cooped up forever!" says Shobha Deepak Singh.