Even as prices soar,various Ramlila committees across the Capital have revamped their budgets to add more glitz and drama to the spectacle.
On Dussehra today,as Ravan towers over the crowds and the fatal arrow pierces him,his eyes will brim with repentance,tears will flow and fire will emanate from his mouth. Welcome to Ramlila 2012,where a helicopter is used to shower flower petals on the day Ram and Sitas swayamvar,where celebrities take the stage and where giant LED screens telecast the divine episode to the crowd. This,however,comes at a price running into lakhs.
Suresh Bindal,President of Shri Ramlila Committee Indraprastha Vistar,which organises the event at Ramlila Maidan every year,says,Each years budget depends on the kind of donation we are able to collect. This year,its around Rs 60 lakh. We have invested especially on costumes,stage decorations,lighting and seating arrangements. They also have two giant screens at the venue one inside and one outside to make sure every visitor gets to see the performance.
Many Ramlila committees have notched up their expenses and resorted to technological advancements and special effects to create a larger-than-life experience of the Ramayana. Thus,while Hema Malini was invited to perform at the Red Fort by the Luv-Kush Ramlila Committee,Nav Shri Dharmik Lila Committee in Chandni Chowks Cloth Market has installed projectors and visual aides to recreate background scenes from Ramanand Sagars Ramayana that was telecast on Doordarshan in the 80s. When the abducted Sita is being taken away in Ravans flying chariot,the special effects make it look as if they are flying, says Hari Chand Agarwal,president of the committee. He adds that visual effects,apart from installing giant LED screens at the grounds,cost them Rs 10 lakh extra. This years production cost is around Rs 50 lakh, he says.
Another major expense for these committees is the costumes that the artistes wear. This year,we have invested heavily on the costumes of Ram,Sita and Ravan, says Arjun Kumar,president of Luv-Kush Ramlila Committee. The sari and jewellery that Sita wears for the coronation,for example,costs above Rs 2 lakh, says Kumar,adding that they have even purchased silver crowns for the royal cast. Agarwal,on the other hand,takes pride in the authentic jewellery that they have retained for over 50 years. Our thrones for the kings and queens are laminated in gold and the crowns and other jewellery is in pure silver. We even have our own zari costumes. Every year,we make minor alterations according to the requirements, he says.
Some committees,however,believe in keeping the drama low and retaining the essence. Pradeep Sharan,who is the third generation in his family to be running Dharmik Lila Committee in Subhash Maidan,says,We concentrate heavily on the correct depiction of the story,which is full of sentiments and less theatrics. One of the older committees in Delhi this year being their 89th production they have nonetheless introduced green effigies,in which they use eco-friendly material to reduce pollution.
Interestingly,a smaller Ramlila in the Capital,organised by Durga Ramlila in Jacombpura,Gurgaon,does not boast of big budgets. When asked about the latest additions,Banwari Lal Saini,its president,who,incidently,has also been playing the role of Ravan for the last 32 years,replies,If we keep on changing and adding new things to the Ramlila,it wont retain its sanskriti. But he does say that this year,they have made battery-operated bow and arrows that rotate,blink and produce thunderous noises as they fly about on the stage.