Actor Gajendra Chauhan, who was at the centre of a controversy over his appointment as the FTII chairman , essayed the role of mythical character Ravana during the Dussehra celebrations here on Tuesday.
He was earlier supposed to play a minor role — that of the Nishadraj — and actor Puneet Issar was to don the mantle of the Lanka king.
The 60-year-old actor was chosen by the city-based Lav Kush Ramlila Committee, one of the oldest in Delhi, which held massive ‘Vijaydashmi’ festivities at the grounds adjoining the Red Fort.
Dressed in a traditional black costume embroidered with golden linings, the actor’s thespian skills was literally heightened by a hydraulic lift that was part of the stagecraft.
“Chauhan was earlier supposed to play the minor role of Nishadraj and Puneet Issar was to assume the character of Ravana. But, at the last moment Issar sustained some injury and so we offered the role of the Lanka king to Chauhan,” an official of the committee said.
Chauhan and Issar are best known for playing the role of ‘Yudhishthir’ and ‘Duryodhan’ respectively in the classic TV epic ‘Mahabharat’.
“About 45 actors participated in the Ramlila celebrations over the last few days that culminated in the grand Dussehra festivities. TV actors Gurleen Chopra on previous Ramlila days performed the role of Sita. Hollywood’s Sofia Hayat and Claudia had played Surpnakha and Apsara Rati respectively,” another official of the committee said.
Chauhan’s appointment as the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) chief met with strong resistance from the student community and several rounds of protest had led to a crisis on its campus, prompting the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to intervene.
The stage was 200 ft-long with a digital background, which lent a monumental appeal to the sets.
The towering effigies of Ravan, Kumbhakaran and Meghnad went up in flames in spectacular display, as the crowd enjoyed both on and off the stage.
Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn, who joined the celebrations, when asked which character from Ramayan he would like to play in Ramlila, said, “Whatever the people want me to, Ram or Hanuman.”
“The festival gives is the message of triumph of good over evil. We should first introspect and find the evil inside and then look for getting rid of the ones outside,” he said.