The Ravan at the Ramlila in the famed Chinhat grounds of the city has the characteristic thunder missing in his laugh this time. It’s least because the artiste playing the Lankan king is an octogenarian.
Devendra Kumar Pandey’s dialogues always bore a royal majesty and verve typical of the Ramayan anti-hero he has been playing at the venue for the past 35 years. This Navratri, dengue is failing him in flaunting his trademark mannerisms.
The vector-borne disease has robbed not just Pandey of his charm. The veteran, who is just back from hospital, bemoans that quite a few of his fellow artistes in the troupe that customarily performs the folksy theatre at the venue in Lucknow are down such ailments or just about recovering from them.
In fact, the artistes originally slotted to play key mythological characters such as Janak, Taadka and Kevat at the 80-year-old Chinhat Ramlila, too, are down with dengue. Some are battling for lives.
“Dengue has become an epidemic in our area. Many people have been hit,” says Pandey, who is also the president of the Jeewan Sudhar Ramayani Sabha that organises the Ramlila each year in Chinhat. “This is the first time that so many of our Ramlila characters will not be able to participate.”
“I have been fighting dengue for days; am yet to regain complete fitness,” he shrugs “But then the show has to go on. For, Ramlila is a tradition.”
Thus, the members this year roped in actors outside of the troupe. “It was short notice for them,” Pandey admits. “Yet they have now rehearsed the roles well.”
The ten-day show at Chinhat Ramlila grounds started on Sunday and would continue till Dussehra.
The problem isn’t limited to just actors this season, according to members of the Ramlila committee. Such is the filth around that many in the locality have fallen ill.
“The ground where the Dussehra fair is hosted every year has become a garbage dumping ground,” points out Pandey. “There is water-logging on the ground; it is in bad shape. We have informed the municipal authorities…nothing has been done.”
People in the vicinity allege that authorities were yet to carry out a cleanliness drive. “If this continues,” laments Pandey, “not many will turn up at the Ramlila and the Dussehra fair.”