Plays, politics coalesce at Delhi’s Ramlila
Lavkush Ramlila is Delhi’s biggest and the grandest, which has over the years seen the prime ministers and chief ministers as chief guests on Dussehra day
Brajesh Goyal, an Aam Aadmi Party leader, who fought the Lok Sabha Election from the New Delhi Lok Sabha Constituency in 2019, is busy these days memorising a 25-page script on an episode in the Ramayana.
“It’s poetry. I am spending at least two hours a day learning it by heart. I want to ensure that my dialogue delivery is flawless during my performance,” says Goyal, who will be playing Angad at Lavkush Ramlila at Red Fort grounds starting from September 26.
Goyal has also been called for a rehearsal.
Goyal is among several Delhi politicians who will play a role at the Lavkush Ramlila. Among those who will be seen on the stage are Union minister of state for rural development Faggan Singh Kulaste, Union minister of state for consumer affairs Ashwini Kumar Choubey and minister for state for parliamentary affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal. In the past, former Union ministers Harsh Vardhan and Vijay Sampla, and Delhi BJP leaders Vijender Gupta, Vijay Jolly have also performed at the Ramlila.
Lavkush Ramlila is Delhi’s biggest and the grandest, which has over the years seen the prime ministers and chief ministers as chief guests on Dussehra day. While a battery of Bollywood stars such as Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, John Abraham and Bhumi Pednakar have also attended as guests, of late it is the participation of top politicians, including serving union ministers as actors which has pulled in audiences.
This year, Kulaste will be playing Nishad Raj. In 2019, he played the role of Agastya Muni, who meets Lord Rama during his exile and gives him a powerful bow and arrow.
“ When I was invited I could not say no and decided to give it a shot. But acting is a different ball game and I need to train for a few days. This year, I am not getting time to prepare because of many election-related programmes and other official engagements. But I hope to pull it off, ” says Kulaste. In 2019, wearing a saffron robe and Rudraksha beads bracelet and mala, the BJP minister delivered a performance peppered with well-prepared dialogues, enthralling the audiences.
Arjun Kumar, president of Lavkush Ramlila Committee says the organisers invite the politicians, assigns them roles based on their personalities and voice, and trains them both at their homes and at the Ramlila ground.“They have long been invited as guests at Ramlila, but we thought we could also invite them as actors. It is hard to convince them, but eventually, most agree. They take their roles seriously and take a lot of interest in training. Their performances have been appreciated by everyone,” says Kumar.
Goyal says that he also takes acting lessons and advice from the TV actors whom he knows personally. “I want to ensure that when I perform, I am as good an actor as any, and people see Angad, not the politician on the stage. I learned a lot watching Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana on television, ” says Goyal.
He says he wishes to play Bharat. “I love Bharat for his devotion to his elder brother Rama. I find his life very inspiring.”
Vijay Sampla, chairman, National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), was the first minister to perform at the Ramlila in 2017, when he played the role of Nishad Raj. “There was a lot of curiosity about a minister performing at Ramlila. In fact, a lot of people from Punjab, including my constituency came to see me perform,” says Sampla, who represented Hoshiarpur in Punjab in the 16th Lok Sabha.
“When I was offered the role, I accepted it out of my devotion to the lord Rama. I did not take any acting lessons from anyone. A lot of people appreciated my performance on stage,” he says.
Harsh Vardhan, who played Janak, the king of Mithila and father of Sita, in 2018, says he too did not take any training as he had watched Ramlila since childhood, and understood the character well. On the stage, the minister was almost unrecognisable with an imperial moustache, make-up and royal attire. As he delivered his dialogues, Vardhan, who was the then Union environment minister slipped in the message about a clean environment. In a conversation with Lord Rama, his character said, “I know you wish to live in a natural environment. And, if air remains clean and pure, it will lead to a healthy life, he said.
Sampla who also played Himavat in 2018, Parvati’s father, his second appearance on the Ramlila stage, says long years in public life gave him the confidence to perform on the stage “Politicians have to speak before thousands of people all the time . They are used to the stage, ” says Sampla.
But another politician, who also performed at Ramlila , and does not wish to be named puts it more succinctly. “Politics do require acting skills, and no, I am not talking about pretensions and or deceptions often associated with politics,” he says. “In fact, the politicians are the fine actors Bollywood will never have,” he quips.