CURTAINS UP ON EPIC DRAMA.
THE TOUGH reality of competition -- where individuals fight not just for a share in the pie but for the very right to fight -- is not just the preserve of high profile professions. Even at the annual Ram Lila, with which the actors are associated for decades, the competition is as tough as it must be in Bollywood.
A few outings as a lead actor and the face is rendered stale, forcing the organisers to run to the catchment area of Ramlila actors -- Bareilly and Moradabad being the most prominent providers -- scouting for fresh faces.
Visitors to the oldest Ramlila in the city, the one staged by the Shree Dharmik Leela Committee at the Red Fort grounds, opposite Lajpat Rai Market, will get to see a new Sita this time. The role being played by Divya Saxena of Bareilly for the past three years has now gone to Himanshi Sharma, a 19-year-old B.Com first-year student from Rampu
Brahma Dev Soni, the 'Leela Mantri' of the Committee, who has been superintending this Ram Lila for the past 40 years, says, "It's about how fresh a face is. The role of Sitaji is important and we cannot take it lightly. Whatever gets stale has to be replaced."
The Ram Lila, which is in its 86th year now, has been traditionally held at the Subhash Maidan opposite the Red Fort but as the area has been taken over by the MCD to construct a parking lot, it has been moved to the Red Fort grounds this year.
While it's a new girl essaying the role of Sita, the artistes playing Ram and Laxman remain the same -- Anuj Sharma and Krishna Sharma respectively, both hailing from Moradabad.
Traditionally, the actors in this Ram Lila have come from the cultural organisations of these two bustling western UP towns, and Soni continues to head to these places whenever he has to hunt for fresh faces.
Many youngsters, indeed, use the Ram Lila experience as a test ride for a possible entry into the world of professional acting.
For instance, 24-year-old Pradeep Sagar, who is getting on the stage for the first time in the role of Bharat, says that he would wait for the Ram Lila to get over and then decide if he really wants to go any further in the field. He is otherwise employed with a mutual fund company. SAXENA, who played Sita till last year but is now appearing in the role of Kaushalya, has always been interested in stage outings and says that she will hone her skills at the Ramlila and then take a call after she gets her Bachelor's degree.
She is presently a first-year B.Sc. student at a college in her native Bareilly. The fresh factor at the Ram Lila is not just restricted to the lead faces but also to the dresses worn by them. Soni, a dealer in electronics goods who shuts down his business for the one-month that he devotes to the Ram Lila annually, treats the job as sacred, even referring to the characters with the respectful ji at the end of their names.
"When we can't wear our own clothes for more than one year, can one make the lords wear the same stuff year after year?" he asks. The director of the Ram Lila, Amitosh Sharma, in the meanwhile, sticks post-its on the dresses of the actors and places them in the sequence in which they are to be worn in the evening. Balancing the paraphernalia of the Ram Lila is a humongous exercise and may be, it's Soni's devotion that sees the project through each year without any glitches.
This year promises to be no different. -- The Ram Lila is on till October 18, from 7.30 p.m. Entry is through free passes available at the venue.
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