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Tale of two Delhi Ramlilas: One that went ahead, one where Covid took centrestage

Written by Yashee
| New Delhi |

October 22, 2020 10:51:35 am

The dance-drama ‘Shri Ram’, being staged at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra Lawns from October 17 to October 27. (The Press Reporter picture: Amit Mehra)

On stage at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra Lawns –– one of many few Delhi venues staging a dwell Ramlila this yr –– an irate Kaikeyi is dancing. Incensed on the prospect of being second to Kausalya, she rips off a baajuband and tosses it away. Subsequent to go is a necklace. The ornaments fall off the stage, the place somebody discreetly picks them up.

Within the Covid-conscious viewers, there are gasps. It’s tough to not consider the contact this has resulted in –– dancer to ground to another person’s arms. Related discomfort is palpable when Bharat slides throughout the stage to fall at Ram’s ft.

Additionally Learn | From the banks of Yamuna, socially distanced Ramlila premieres on YouTube

The performers and the present’s director-choreographer, nevertheless, preserve they took all precautions.

Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK) has been staging its dance-drama ‘Shri Ram’ for 64 years now. This time, whereas Covid-19 put a query mark on the dwell occasion, the institute’s director and choreographer of the drama, Padma Shri Shobha Deepak Singh, was sure the present should go on. “Rehearsals started in July, on-line. We determined if we don’t get permission to stage it, we’ll put the Ramlila on YouTube,” Singh says.

Permission got here simply days earlier than the precise occasion. By now, the performers had rehearsed to perfection. What does it take to place up a play throughout a pandemic? Was there any worry, panic?

Singh says: “We will’t let worry put our lives on maintain. I used to be sure we might take all precautions and nonetheless put up the present. We’ve got our personal costumes and the stage is throughout the institute’s premises, so these had been benefits. However after all some issues had been totally different. I don’t like our performances recorded. This time, three cameras would movie every performer.”

All of the costumes, jewelry, props –– crowns, swords, Jatayu’s wings –– had been santised earlier than and after use. Everybody linked with the dance had Covid exams completed, in September, and once more simply earlier than the dwell occasion began on the primary day of Navratri.

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For the viewers, face masks and temperature screening are obligatory. Two seats are vacant between every viewer, with a cap at 100 folks. The present is gorgeous. As Ram breaks the dhanush and marries Sita, an viewers member grips her chair. As soon as the spell breaks, she shortly sanitises her arms.

Between Ram’s exile and the start of vanvaas, there’s a break. Within the inexperienced rooms, performers busily change for the subsequent act. Aren’t they afraid, sharing house like this?

“Whereas we had been on stage, each merchandise in right here was sanitised,” says Madhvi Mohanta, who performs Sita. “We’re performers, we had been lacking the stage. Additionally, we will rely on one another to take precautions. We’ve got been college students collectively at SBKK, so there’s a consolation stage.”

“Yeah, Kaikeyi right here is from Bangladesh. However she got here to SBKK, and now she is married to Raavan,” one of many dancers affords.

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It wasn’t simply the performers who needed to take precautions. The individual answerable for the superbly lit stage, Gyandev Singh, ensured additional care. “All our gear was sanitised. We labored with fewer folks to minimise danger. It was tough.”

So why did he do it?

Gyandev, recipient of the Sangeet Natak Academy’s Bismillah Khan Yuva Award, says he had good purpose. “The pandemic is a darkish and tough time. Artwork brings mild. We hope the profitable, secure run of this present will set the ball rolling for cultural occasions to renew within the capital.”

“Oh, there’s yet another distinction the pandemic brought on,” laughs Singh. “We had been in a position to afford Gyandev.”

Mehrauli misses the bonding of Ramlila

Removed from SBKK’s lawns in Copernicus Marg is Ward No.1 of Mehrauli, the place Traditional Ramlila, the annual Dussehra occasion, has been cancelled. This implies loss in additional methods than one: a teenaged boy has misplaced the possibility to magically acquire top. “We decide a boy with a small construct to play Sita. However whoever performs the position turns into impressively tall inside a couple of years,” says Neeraj, in control of the actors’ make-up.

The Traditional Ramlila has been carried out for the reason that early 1990s. It was stopped for a couple of years after the Delhi blasts in 1997, however resumed once more on well-liked demand. Nevertheless, this yr, say the Ramlila members, the chance was simply too nice.

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“Permission to carry out was arduous to return by this yr. However then once more, there was no manner we might assure that solely 100 folks would flip up at a time. Or that everybody would put on masks. One can’t guarantee such issues in previous neighbourhoods like ours,” says Bharat Kumar, who performs Ram.

Traditional Ramlila is a labour of affection, says Kumar. The performers all maintain different jobs, however throughout Navratri, their lives revolve across the Ramlila, cleansing the stage within the afternoon, organsing Mata ki aarti, after which staging the present, that goes on until late within the night time. There are not any ticket costs, contributions are voluntary. “Guaranteeing litres of sanitisers and temperature screening gadgets was not a sensible proposition for us,” says Paras, who performs Kevat, Shravan Kumar, and Vibhishan too, if the scenario so calls for.

Additionally, the Ramlila right here includes social contact totally different from the extra formal set-up at SBKK. “When Hanuman jee destroys Lanka’s Ashok Vatika, he throws the fruits to the viewers (precise fruits are purchased for this). When Taraka come on stage, she pretends to grab kids from among the many viewers,” says Jitendra Kumar, who performs Taraka and different demons, as wanted.

Might they’ve opted for a extra restrained present this time? “The place’s the enjoyable in that?” questions Lokesh Dutt, the Ramlila supervisor.

The members take pleasure of their Ramlila. It’s so well-liked, they aver, that folks come to look at this over the larger, fancier present within the space. Ramji’s son, the Class three scholar Shreyansh, affords proof. “Even folks my age stay awake until the present is over. It’s so good our dad and mom enable us to remain out.”

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This yr, the performers are unhappy they gained’t be capable to show their prowess. “We, after all, miss being on stage, the preparations, the on-spot improvisations. However greater than that, we miss the bonding competition the Ramlila finally turns into. Individuals from all faiths are welcome. All yr lengthy, we’re busy with our lives. However throughout navratri, the entire neighbourhood comes out, folks meet up with one another. Relationships are refreshed,” says Bharat Kumar.

Covid precautions would have meant limiting all this. Additionally, the Ramlila is a neighborhood financial system booster, with tea and snack sellers doing good enterprise. Coronavirus security pointers would require all that completed away with. “The Ramlila could be rendered lackluster, whereas the chance would have been monumental. It was higher to not go forward in any respect,” says Paras.

“The saving grace is that IPL is on,” says Lokesh Dutt. “Keep dwelling and watch gamers behind the display screen. The one leisure we will safely afford with this yr’s Raavan, the pandemic.”

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