An artistic inclination and the aspiration to further their career in theatre is attracting more women towards acting in Ramlila,a proposition which was looked down upon until a few years ago.
The directors call it the demand for the female characters that are best being portrayed by women on the stage,a portrayal which has long been given undertones of humour to make up for the awkward body language of male artists playing the overtly melodramatic and aggressive,often negative female characters,in the play.
Due to it being no more forbidden for women to perform in front of an audience and the changing perception towards religion taboos,it has led to more women taking up the stage from the young generation.
Most of the women artists in Ramlila in the city have a background in theatre or any other performing art because of which the apprehension of presenting themselves to an audience is no longer an issue with them or their families, says Mukesh Sharma,Director at the Garhwal Ramleela Mandal Bijli Board,Sector 28.
He says that the first time they proposed that women perform here in 2005,they faced stiff opposition from the management. However the mentality of the audience has broadened over the years. We modified the script a bit and the roles were scrutinized to make the characters closer to real life,as well as keeping in mind the stage presence of female characters, says Sharma.
He says that the practical problems of having women in the group that essentially practices at late hours was taken care of by shifting the practice hours to the evening and having separate green rooms in one of the houses in the locality for the women to dress up.
Initially my family was very apprehensive with the offer as they thought that this was a low platform. For me no platform is low if done in a dignified way and being able to spread the message of Ramlila is a great satisfaction, says Navneet Kaur,who holds a PhD in Theatre and is performing for the first time here in the roles of Kekai and Mandodari.
Neha,who is portraying Kekai with the Azad Dramatic Club in Sector 20 says that she wants to pursue television acting professionally and that performing here will give her more exposure and add work experience to her portfolio.
We are here to set a precedent that women have the physical prowess to match upto men in the exaggerated portrayal of the characters in this kind of Parsi theatre. As for the popular perception of women not participating for religious reasons,if I have no qualms in performing,I do not think the audience should either, she says.