The air here is charged with festivity and excitement days before the Dussehra festival or Sharad Navratra begins. And the reason is Ramlila, which begins at least four days before the Dussehra, in an open air space in Ramnagar.
The actors, mostly amateurs, wear glittery attires and glossy make-up while enacting the role of Rama, Sita and others characters from the Hindu religious epic Ramayan.
Amidst all the gloss and glitz, there is a lot of hard work which goes into its final presentation. The preparation for the Ramlila begins at least a month before the Dussehra.
What is most interesting is the fact the roles are mainly performed by male actors -- some of whom are school students, office goers or engaged in some other profession. So while they enjoy playing their roles, they face problems in their day-to-day life when they are unable to complete their routine work or reach late for their office because of rehearsals.
The rehearsals are done usually for 2-3 hours daily. The dialogues written in a notebook, have been passed on since ages, said a Ramlila committee member.
Much before the show, which usually begins at 10 pm, the actors wear the make-up and the attire, which takes at least 3 hours.
Costumes play a huge part in making the characters come alive. But the glitzy attire wears them down.
Bharat Sharma, 22, says: “It literally weighs one down while enacting the role of Lord Rama. The dress, the crown, accessories are heavy, especially the gada (club), which alone weighs a few kilos.”
Udit Chaudhry, a high school student, who plays Sita, wears lehenga, which weighs 10 kgs, said Sharma.
These youth have kept the Ramlila tradition alive despite odds and financial crunch. The zeal to perform the Ramlila, which has been continuing for the past 53 years, brings the people, who are part of it, together.
They collect donations from people to buy the dresses and other items. On an average, Ramlila costs at least Rs 3 lakh.
“The head gear (mukut) which I wore while enacting the role of Rama, costs nearly Rs 5000. Taking out procession in the major parts of the city have further escalated the cost of the show. Besides, arranging food for the 25 characters daily for a fortnight costs a lot,” said Sharma. A Ramlila committee member said: “The Ramlila of Ramnagar is very popular because of our imaginative styling and dresses of the characters.”