With blood-shot eyes and a thunderous laugh, Radheshyam Lankesh seems perfect to play the role of the demon-king, Ravana. Hailing from Moradabad, this 69-year old veteran has played Ravana for over three decades at the Shri Dharmic Lila Committee, Subhash Maidan.
"I have always been a follower of Ravana, he was educated and scholarly. I have always wanted to emote his charisma on stage," he says.
Playing Ravana for 13 days a year has become a part of his annual calendar. But playing Ravana isn't easy. "I don't smoke. I don't drink Coke. I don't watch movies," he says.
One year he had to leave his ill wife behind at home. At another time, his blood pressure plummeted. Yet, this retired railway officer has never faltered on stage. Although he says he is not religious, he is spiritual and follows the principles of Ravana. "Like Ravana, I am not scared of anything. I do what I say," he explains while relating tales of his own bravery. The numerous marks on his chest, he says, are testimony to an attack he faced in 1983. Three dacoits stabbed him with knives, but ran off when he shouted back: "They got scared of my voice," he says.
Lankesh's one and a half minute sequence in Rang De Basanti gave him a taste of Bollywood. And he is now preparing to perform in Mauritius.
Ironically, his sons have played the role of Ram in their teens. His favourite part of the Ram Lila? When he confronts Hanuman.