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This year at Delhi’s Ramlila watch politicians don finery to play Angad, Ahilya

Luv Kush Ramlila Committee has roped in Hoshiyapur MP Vijay Sampla to play Nishad Raj and MP from north-east Delhi Manoj Tiwari to play the role of Angad.

delhi Updated: Sep 18, 2017 12:35 IST
Parvez Sultan
Parvez Sultan
Hindustan Times
Delhi news,Ramlila,Luv Kush Ramlila Committee
Ramlilas began in Delhi around 350 years ago, when Mughal king Shahjahan shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi and built Shahjahanabad — today known as Old Delhi.(HT FILE)

In a break with tradition, politicians will share stage with film and televisions actors in Ramlila at Red Fort this year.

One of the oldest Ramlila organisers in the Walled City — Luv Kush Ramlila Committee (LKRC) —has engaged members of Parliament and councillors to play mythological characters in the theatrical enactment of Ramayana.

Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment Vijay Sampla, who is an MP from Hoshiyarpur in Punjab, will portray Nishad Raj. The Bhojpuri actor-turned-politician and Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari will play the role of Angad and Shobha Vijender, BJP leader Vijender Gupta’s wife and a councillor from Rohini central ward, will be seen as Ahilya.

“The organiser approached me with their offer, which I accepted. This is the first time; I am participating in any Ramlila. It is a small role therefore does not require rigorous rehearsal. I am looking forward to my performance,” Sampla told Hindustan Times.

Shobha said with her participation, she wants to convey a message that Ramlila is our cultural heritage and we must preserve it. “Until people from different sections of the society do not come forward, we cannot send the true message of Lord Ram to masses. It was also necessary to bust the myth that Ramlilas only belong to commoners or poor people. I took it as a challenge. As I had been doing theatre during college days, it was not that difficult for me,” she said.

North Delhi mayor Preeti Agarwal and her counterpart in east Delhi Neema Bhagat are also likely to play important characters at LKRC’s event, which is starting from September 21.

LKRC, one of the four big Ramlila organisers in old Delhi, was started in 1988. It soon gained popularity after Bollywood actors and celebrities were invited for the play. Since 2015, films and TV artistes have been acting in LKRC’s Ramlila.

Ramlilas began in Delhi around 350 years ago, when Mughal king Shahjahan shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi and built Shahjahanabad — today known as Old Delhi.

It is believed that last Mughal emperor would fund the celebration, which used to take place at the bank of Yamuna behind Lal Quila. The venue was later shifted to Ramlila Maidan. The event was attended by the British Viceroys and post-independence, Prime Ministers, Presidents, and other dignitaries have been watching the Ramlilas in old Delhi.

“Our motto is that people from every walk of life should contribute to the cause. Their involvement may be in three forms — tann (body), mann (soul / heart), and dhan (wealth). We wanted to take it to the next level so we invited politicians. Participation in Ramlila, which is another form of worship, is contribution through body and soul,” said Ashok Agarwal, president of LKRC.

Around 50 film and television actors are participating in LKRC. To make war scenes impressive and live, the committee has roped in a Lucknow based magician Hasan Kamal Rizvi, who is essaying the role of Narantak.

“Rizvi, a known magician will help create illusion to make the scene lively and more realistic like beheaded demons walking or characters vanishing into thin air,” said Ashok. Apart from Rizvi, a few more Muslim actors — Raza Murad, Shahbaz Khan, and Ali Khan, will be acting in LKRC’s Ramlila.

The organiser has planned various cultural activities such as daily dance performance by a different troupe everyday and is also bringing winners of beauty pageant of more than 56 countries to attract the crowd. Manoj Tiwari has written and composed two new songs for the event.

“Earlier, I would play Kevat but when Ravi Kishen joined, he took the role. This year, he will do Narad. I am appearing as Angad. Acting in Ramlila gives immense pleasure and satisfaction,” said Tiwari.

Vishal Karwal, who is playing Krishna in a TV serial, has been roped to play Ram at LKRC.

One of special features at LKRC is its massive stage (250X40). “The stage will be divided into seven parts, which are basically different sets depicting palace, forest, sea, village, and battlefield. We will create new sets everyday as the story progresses,” Ashok said.

While the LKRC has invited celebrities, the Shri Dharmic Leela Committee (SDLC), established in 1924, has decided to stick to traditional form of Ramlila enactment. It has invited a popular troupe of actors from Moradabad led by Pradeep Sharma this year too. They have been performing at SDLC for more than a decade.

The highlight of this Ramlila is ‘hasya kavi sammelan’, which is held in ‘Janak Bazaar’, where visitors relish traditional old Delhi savories on all 11 days. “We remain with the basic. The emphasis is on the life of Lord Ram and his teachings. We are running the show in original format for decades but keep rotating ‘episodes’ to maintain freshness. We don’t bother about actors. We don’t want whistles but applause,” said Ravi Jain, press secretary, SDLC.

Another group, Nav Shri Dharmik Lila Committee (NSDLC) is one of the oldest organisations as has been doing Ramlila in Old Delhi for decades.

NSDLC president Hari Agrawal said episodes related to birth of Ram and Kaikeyi are enacted only in his Ramlila. “Incidents or scenes, which are not shown by other committees, are performed at our Ramlila. A very few people have knowledge about those episodes. Kaikeyi is always shown in bad light. But it is not like that. We recreate the entire Ramyana beautifully, which leaves an impression on people,” said Hari.

NSDLC has engaged nearly 40 traditional Muradabad artistes, including a few actors from Mumbai. “The actors from Mumbai don’t come because of the publicity or money. They join us because before starting their professional career in Bollywood, they were associated with our Ramlila. It is their way of expressing gratitude,” Hari added.

Apart from the play, ‘Ramlila Savaari’, a procession, is an integral part of the Ramlila held at Ramlila Maidan. The 12 day-long feature begins with first day of the Navratras and continues till Bharat Milap, the day after Dussehra.

Bahadur Shah Zafar started it when he took over the reign of Shahjahanabad. Ever since, the Shri Ramlila Committee (SRC), Ramlila Maidan, has been organising it.

On all 12 evenings, a set of floats ferry artistes dressed as Ram, Lakshman, Sita, and Raavan from Esplanade Road in Chandni Chowk. The three-hour-long journey starts at 6pm, and traverses the lanes of the Walled city—Dariba, Chandni Chowk Main Road, Nai Sadak, Chawri Bazaar, Chowk Hauz Qazi and Ajmeri Gate. It ends at the Ramlila Maidan, where the actors enact crucial scenes from the epic Ramayana.

Want to watch Ramlila?

The groups will enact the play everyday from September 21 to October 1

Luv Kush Ramlila Committee

Timing: 6pm
Venue: Lal Quila Maidan, opposite Jama Masjid

Shri Dharmic Ramlila Committee

Timing: 8pm
Venue: Madhavas Park, Lal Quila, opposite Lajpat Rai Market

Nav Shri Dharmik Lila Committee

Timing: 8pm
Venue: 15 August Park, Lal Quila, opposite Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir

Shri Ramlila Committee

Timing: 8pm
Venue: Ramlila Maidan, opposite Zakir Husain College

First Published: Sep 18, 2017 12:28 IST