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Behind the scenes: Actors from Gurgaon’s Ramlila groups talk about their characters

We speak to some participating residents of the Millennium City who burn the midnight oil to prepare for their roles and make Ramlila the grand spectacle that it is.

gurgaon Updated: Sep 27, 2017 20:55 IST
Naina Arora
Naina Arora
Hindustan Times
Residents share their experiences of playing various characters in Ramlila, held at various venues in Gurgaon.(Manoj Verma/HT Photo)

Ramlila, folk enactment of the life of Lord Rama from the epic Ramayana, is known for its lavish sets, skilled actors and their memorable dialogues — which together make it a grand spectacle. Preparation begins months in advance. Here’s talking to Gurgaon residents from various Ramlila groups, about what it’s like.

‘School kids tease me for playing Sita’

13-year-old Kanishk Saini rehearses his line for the role of Sita. (Manoj Verma/HT)

Kanishk Saini, a 13-year-old boy from Gurgaon, has been playing the role of Sita (Lord Ram’s wife) at Durga Ramlila, Jacobpura, for two years now. He gets mocked for portraying a female character, but that hasn’t deterred Saini’s spirit. “Meri class ke bachche aise hi hai, unko mere Sita ka role karna acha nahi lagta. On how he became a part of the Ramlila celebrations, he shares, “My grandfather urged me to join Ramlila and I readily obliged. I hesitated for the first time, but it (the feeling) vanished eventually.” Saini begins practising his role a month in advance. “I memorise my lines by singing. Bol bol ke yaad nahi hota (It’s difficult to memorise them just by saying them out loud),” he says.

‘One has to mould their nature to play Lord Ram’

Keshav Jalindra preps up for the role, before staing the stage to play Lord Ram.

Arrey, Ramji aagaye (Ramji is here)” — that’s the reaction Keshav Jalindra’s entry as Ram generates. The Gurgaon-based 3D visualiser has been at it for nine years. “I used to do smaller roles initially, and would often observe the performances of my seniors. Lekin mujhe kuch bada hi karna tha (I wanted to do something big). My elder brother would play the role of Ram before me. This Ramlila is famous in Gurgaon, so even my office colleagues understand me taking out time for it. One has to mould their nature for this role. I don’t drink [alcohol] and I am a vegetarian. It’s important to bring the best in one’s performance,” he says.

No Villian, No Ramayan

Ram Kumar Bijli aka Ravana looks for belongings during the dress rehearsal. (Manoj Verma/HT)

Hero is incomplete without the villain, believes Gurgaon resident Raj Kumar Bijli, who began acting in Ramlila with the role of Meghnad (son of Ravana). He has been playing the main villain, Ravana, since 2007, but in parts. “Agar Ravana nahi hota, toh Ram ko bhi dekhne koi nahi aayega (Without Ravana, no one will come to see Ram),” says Bijli, adding that although Ravana is the bad guy in Ramayana, he had many positive qualities. “Aap aaj ke zamaane ko dekhe, toh Ravana zyada acha tha. Uske siddhant aur niyam the (He was disciplined and lived by his rules),” says Bijli.

‘It feels good to be known as Ram’

Sonu Saini reads the Ramayan during the dress rehearsal in sector-12, Gurgaon. (Manoj Verma/HT)

Businessman Sonu Saini has been playing Lord Ram since 1999. The 42-year-old shares, “As a kid, it would’ve meant the world to me had I got a role in Hanuman or Ram’s army. I didn’t get the role then. But when I did, I got the main character.” It was difficult getting into the skin of the character for the first two years. Now, I don’t [have to] rehearse much, as all these years, I have ensured that I’m well versed with Ramayan Chaupaiyan. Saini has gained popularity as Ram. “When people have to visit my house, they often ask at the crossing of Sheetla Mata Mandir for Bhagwandas Ram’s house,” he tells us.

‘My family didn’t recognise me when I first became Raavan’

Harinder Saini scares off kids during the dress rehearsal as Ravana. (Manoj Verma/HT Photo)

Brother of Sonu Saini (who plays Ram), 44-year-old Harinder Saini is his enemy Ravana at the Dronacharya Ramlila club. The real-life brothers are thorough professionals when it comes to bringing the essence of their characters on stage. “We have to do justice to our roles as artists,” says Harinder, who has earlier played Bharat, Meghnad and Angad. He has been Ravana for three years now. Earlier people would say ‘Bharat aa gaya’, ab jahan bhi jaata hoon, bolte hain Raavan aa gaya. Each character’s demands are different. In order to play Laxman, you have to showcase emotions of love and anger. And for Ravana, one has to throw their weight around... My family didn’t recognise me when I first donned the role. The rehearsals are too immensely rigorous, but my colleagues understand my love for acting and hence I mostly train after my shift timings. I hope one day my children carry forward the legacy,” he adds.

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First Published: Sep 27, 2017 20:54 IST