Ram with mask, contact-free abduction of Sita may mark Ramlila 2020

A performance of Ramlila in New Delhi.  

The epic battle between good and evil amid the pandemic will be contact-free and unfold between socially-distanced, face-masked Lord Ram and Demon King Ravan, each armed with sanitised weaponry and minimal warriors from their mythical armies during the staging of Delhi’s Ramlilas, if permitted by the Centre.

What all to expect

From off the stage changes — including an audience downsized from thousands to a few hundred — to on-stage tweaks such as drastic reductions in the number of artistes, especially in the vanar(monkey) and rakshas(demon) armies, and the skillful use of collar mics and smoke guns to mask the contact-free abduction of Goddess Sita, are among a slew of suggestions that have poured in from organisers to ensure a COVID-free festival.

Highlights of this year

“Not only in terms of tradition but also given developments related to the Ram Temple, the bhoomi pujan— which was done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself —, make this year doubly significant in terms of staging Ramlilas. We expect the Centre to give a positive decision on the issue and guidelines within this week,” said Leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhuri.

On Monday, Mr. Bidhuri and Ashok Goel Devraha, General Secretary of the Delhi Dharmik Sangh — an umbrella body which facilitates the organisation of Ramlila events in Delhi every year — called on Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy requesting that permission for these be granted.

According to Mr. Goel, an estimated 700 Ramlilas are organised across the city every year of which around a hundred are among the oldest and most popular. Usually, by this time of the year, he said, preparations for various Ramlilas, both big and small, start getting under way but such is not the case this time given the pandemic. “There have been several rounds of discussion between the organising committees and the Delhi Dharmik Sangh about how the events can and should be staged this year. The audience at Ramlila events can be limited to 500 and its members will be sanitised before both entering as well as exiting the venue. Masks will be compulsory both off and on stage,” he said.

‘No-contact battles’

“Similarly, we will limit the number of artists on the stage — for example, smaller armies engaging in battle from either side. There will also be no contact during battle scenes. We will make collar mics mandatory and the conflict will be more audio-based — like it used to be in movies earlier with sound effects connoting punches etc,” he explained.

Given the significance of social distancing due to the circumstances, organisers would also, seemingly, have to rely on their audience’s willing suspension of disbelief as the effectiveness of handheld smoke guns. These would play a crucial role when it came to one of the most significant events in the epic — the abduction of Sita, said Mr. Goel.

“Traditionally, there is slight contact between Ravan and Sita when she is forced onto the Pushpak Viman and flown off to Lanka by him. This time, it has been suggested that we utilise smoke guns to mask a deliberate dash by the artist playing the Goddess onto the Pushpak Viman herself before the smoke clears as part of the abduction scene,” he added.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 12:40:02 PM |

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