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Ramleela Actors – Passionate About Their Characters

Ramleela is an important part of Dussehra festivities specially in northern India. Earlier Ramleela was performed in every village. Ramleela, literally “Rama’s play”, is a performance of the Ramayana epic in a series of scenes that include song, narration, recital and dialogue. It is performed across northern India during the festival of Dussehra, held each year according to the ritual calendar in autumn. This staging of the Ramayana is based on the Ram Charit manas, one of the most popular storytelling forms in the north of the country. This sacred text devoted to the glory of Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, was composed by Tulsidas in the sixteenth century in a form of Hindi in order to make the Sanskrit epic available to all. The majority of the Ramleelas recount episodes from the Ramcharitmanas through a series of performances lasting ten to twelve days, but some, such as Ramnagar, may last an entire month. Festivals are organized in hundreds of settlements, towns and villages during the Dussehra festival season celebrating Rama’s return from exile. Ramleela recalls the battle between Rama and Ravana and consists of a series of dialogues between gods, sages and the faithful. Ramleela’s dramatic force stems from the succession of icons representing the climax of each scene. The audience is invited to sing and take part in the narration.

The Ramleela brings the whole population together, without distinction of caste, religion or age. All the villagers participate spontaneously, playing roles or taking part in a variety of related activities, such as mask- and costume making, and preparing make-up, effigies and lights. However, the development of mass media, particularly television soap operas, is leading to a reduction in the audience of the Ramleela plays, which are therefore losing their principal role of bringing people and communities together. In Dwarka, Mukesh Sinha, organiser of Dwarka Dussehra Mahotsav has taken up cudgels to bring communities together. So come September and there is a flurry of activity seen at Dusshera ground, Sector-11 every year. Yes, the preparations of grand Ramleela begins and all Dwarkaites are eagerly awaiting. The 21st Dwarka Ramleela Mahotsav will start from 13th October to 24th October and for the full ten days, the function ground will be abuzz with cries of shrieking children on stage, dialogues of Ramleela artists and chatter of shoppers at stalls. Before Ramleela begins there will be a musical programme and Dandiya night. As in the past years, this year too, the celebrations will be loaded with entertainment and fun activities. There will be a number of stalls for display and sale of handloom and handicraft items from different regions of the country. Not to forget the pampering of the taste buds by the wide array of delicacies. For the children there will be games and activities to keep them fully busy. There will be a large number of rides and swings along with a number of other games. The stall booking has already started. Overall, the organisers expect a record breaking crowd this year from all over the Capital. The Ramleela will conclude with burning of effigies of Raavan, Kumbhkaran and Megnath. Says Mukesh Sinha, “Yes, we have already started making arrangements for the most vibrant Ramleela of the city. This will be one of the most exciting dramatised representations of the epic.” 

Every year Dwarka Ramleela Mahotsav puts on a spectacular show that raises the audience's expectations. From having special effects on stage, to use of technology and to have celebrities attend the events, the organisers leave no stone unturned to outdo the efforts of the preceding year with the magnificent show of present year. Thus, this year too, the magnum opus will be a treat to watch. It is not easy to be a Ramleela actor. There are no cuts and edits. Some dialogues run into pages and are peppered with Sanskrit slokas. Voice modulation is the key to keep them from becoming boring monologues. To play a rakshasa, you need a booming voice that strikes fear in the audience, for a positive role it has to be deep but mellifluous. It is impossible to tell from the effortless scenes how much work has gone into performance. Most artists are not pros. They have day jobs but are passionate about acting.

This year Ramleela is being coordinated and Directed by Sonu Sharma of Natraj Kala Kendra. Amongst the many artistes who are taking part, here are some of the talented and prominent actors whose profile is given below:

Rohita Sharma- Rohita is a Dance Teacher in a reputed school of Delhi. She is Director of Natraj Kala Kendra, Yamuna Vihar, Delhi. After completing his graduation, he trained himself as a dancer in a reputed Dance institute. Currently, he trains young and budding dancers in his school. She has been associated with Ramleela for the last 10 years. As a dancer, he has to portray various emotions and it helps him while enacting the role of Ram. Having an excellent personality and beautiful features, Rohit is the best choice for the role of Ram. She says, “We do Ramlila manchan to send a message to people that Ram was an ideal son who left the kingdom for the sake of parents. Children must watch Ramleela manchan and derive value education from it.”

Nancy – Nancy is a graduate and has been acting in Ramleela for the last 5 years. She stays in Mukundpur, north East Delhi. She loves to act and has done multiple roles in Ramleela. She stays with her parents and is a working woman. In the evening she takes out time to practice her role. She says that Ram has always taught us to take the path of truth. He is my favourite God.

Renu Bala- Renu Bala is martial art trainer in Greenfield Sr. Secondary School, Vivek Vihar. She has been participating in Ramleela for the last 8 years. She does the role of Kekai or Surpanakha. She says that Ramayana is an epic that all must read religiously and follow the values of Ram.

Simran- Simran is an actor par excellence. She is a theatre artist and enacted multiple roles of lead characters. This is her 7th year as a Ramleela actor. She has portrayed the role of Sumitra, Ahilya, Tara. She has been with the team of Natraj Kala Kendra. She has been part of the group for the last seven years and been able to create a niche for herself in acting.

Meenakshi Arora- Meenakshi is an accountant in Shishu Mangal Hospital. She stayed in Bhajanpura, Delhi. She is married and has two children- a son and a daughter. She is an versatile actress and has been doing roles of Parvati, Sumitra, Ahilya, Magarmachini, and Trijata. She has been associated with Natraj Kala Kendra since the last five years. She says, “I am thankful to Rohit Sharma and Sonu ji for giving me this opportunity. I love my work.”

Mohan Gupta- Mohan is post graduate from DU and is presently working as a project manager in an American IT company. But performing in Ramleela is his most revered passion. He has been associated with Ramleela performance for the last 10 years. As he is good looking and handsome, he gets the role of Ram or Bharat. He says that acting in Ramleela is not only his passion but it gives him peace.

Jyoti Kashyap- Jyoti is a law graduate and is pursuing LLM. She is a resident of Durgapuri Nathu Colony. Jyoti is an actor par excellence. She is a theatre artist and enacted multiple roles of lead characters. She is one of the star performers of Sita’s role in Ramleelas of Delhi. She has also played the role of Vedwati and is a front stage director. Jyoti has been associated with Sonu Sharam since 2010 and since last six years she has been overlooking direction with Sonu Sharma. She says, “There are so many values that people learn from Ramleela. How to respect parents, sibling relationships, values and morals are all seen on stage.”

Kuldeep Yadav- Kuldeep is an engineer by profession and works with a vendor of Hero Honda Ltd. Says Kuldeep, “I have been working with Sonu Sharma for the last 5 years. I have learnt a lot from him. I am from Rewari, Haryana. I came and stayed with Sonu Sharma for 10 days and I got a lot of love and respect from him.” Kuldeep plays the role of Ravan.

Mohan Gupta- Mohan is post graduate from DU and is presently working as a project manager in an American IT company. But performing in Ramleela is his most revered passion. He has been associated with Ramleela performance for the last 10 years. As he is good looking and handsome, he gets the role of Ram or Bharat. He says that acting in Ramleela is not only his passion but it gives him peace.

Gautam Verma is a graduate and works in ITL company in Vasant Kunj. He is a back stage director. He says, “I have been associated with Sonu Sharma since 2015. I have learnt a lot from him. We are like family now.”

Virat Basayiya- Virat stays in Raghuvir Nagar and is a devotee of Raghuvir. He runs a medical store with his brother. Though named Raghuvir, he has been doing the role of Laxman for the last three years. He says, “I am working with Sonu Sharma for the first time. He is a very dynamic person and I am learning a lot from him.”

Subhash Kashyap- Subhash is an excellent actor. He realized that he can act while watching Ramleelas in Delhi. His conviction made him join a Ramleela group. Subhash is a resident of Sector-2, Dwarka. He is 12th pass. He has been doing various roles in Ramleela since 2013. He has done the roles of Samunder, Agnidev, Susenved, Marich, Jataun, Sampati, Tamulgosh, mantri, doot, rajgarh and many more. With Sonu Sharma he has been working since last year. He says that he is fortunate to have been working with a great team.

Aman Mangal- Aman Mangal is 20 years old and is a student. He is in second year B.com. A resident of Dashrathpuri, Aman has been playing the role of Hanuman, Sugriv, Makardwaj. The character of Hanumaan is very vibrant and it requires emotional expressions. Hanumaan was the biggest devotee of Ram and could show his love by parting his chest. He says, “I have five years of experience as a Ramleela artist. I have been working with Sonu Sharma for three years. This time I will be playing the role of Hanuman and I am thankful to Sonu sir for giving me this key role.”

Priya Kumari- Priya is doing her graduation from DU and is in third year. She stays in Nathpur, Gurugram. Priya says, “I have been working with Sonu Sharma for the last five years. He is always encouraging new talents and is very supportive. For ten days I stayed with Sonu Sharma and the team. He is a great director and a great person.”

Shanu Khan – Shanu Khan a resident of East Delhi, Shahdara area. He is a graduate from SLC college. Shanu is multilingual and can speak Hindi, English, Punjabi, Urdu, Haryanvi. He has 10 years experience in theatre and acting. He has been playing the role of Meghnath and young Dashrath since the last three years.

Vinod Rai – Vinod is working in a company as a Data operator. He has been associated with Sonu Sharma for the last 7 years. He has played many roles including Angad, Kamdev, Sarvan Kumar, Subahhau, Raksh Devta and Prajavasi. The director found his acting and dialogue delivery most suitable for these characters.

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