Breaking the glass ceiling, Jourian Bhattian Royal Youth Club has for the first time given opportunity to as many as 10 female artistes to perform in Ramlila in the royal city.
The dramatic enactment of Lord Rama’s life has a rich history in the city. Raghomajra Ram Lila Manch started performing here in 1947, the celebrations coinciding with India’s independence. However, it is for the first time that important female characters will be essayed by as many as 10 women and girls.
“Many organisers still think that presence of women will affect sanctity of the religious event. That is why men are chosen to portray female roles. But we don’t believe in this approach anymore,” says club president Varun Jindal.
Jindal says the experiment was mooted last year and around four female artistes were hired to perform a few roles. After receiving a positive response, the club decided to allow women to take over all characters meant for them.
“There is a need to revive old art forms with modern sensitivities, so that tradition keeps travelling from one generation to the other smoothly,” he says.
The oldest female member in the troupe is 55-year-old Karamjeet Kaur, who essays the role of Lord Rama’s mother, while the youngest is 14-year-old Jagriti. Other women in the troupe are Charvi Sharma, Rajinder Walia, Geetika Batra, Anjali Sharma, Bhavna, Manisha Sodhi, Eisha Gupta Tamna Gupta and Geeta Batra.
“There may be historical reasons for keeping women out of Ramlila for so many centuries, but why should we stick to it at a time when women have entered every profession,” says director Mohan Kamboj.
Anjali Sharma, who portrays Sita, says all her female colleagues perform their roles with such dignity and conviction that it shows how wrong society was to keep them away from this tradition.
“When no one objects to women entering other maledominated professions, then why can’t similar changes take place in matters of faith?” she questions, while echoing the feelings of other female artistes too, who want to challenge the age-old tradition skewed against them.
“The epic Ramayana is seen by many as a sign of injustice to women, whether it is was the character of Surpanakha or Sita. In this context, participation of women becomes even more important,” says Kamboj.