The stage of the 2018 Shri Raghukul Ramleela in Chandigarh’s Sector 21 is bigger, the lights brighter, the sound clearer and the sets grander than last year. As D-Day draws closer, the enthusiasm and excitement of the audience and the actors has risen. Children occupy the front rows and many people in the rows behind are sector residents.
Theatre and film actor and singer Chainis Gill, better known as Minka, is getting ready to be Laxman, a role he has been playing since the last nine years. His brother in real life, Amit Gill, a store manager by profession, plays the role of Ram in the Raghukul Ramleela. They call their brother-act a “jodi made by God”, with the audience giving the bothers a thunderous applause whenever they step on stage together.
“It’s tough to step into Laxman’s shoes. I strive to add new dimensions to my acting, drawing inspiration from Parsi theatre and using different body movement and expressions from the plays I perform, with the voice louder, yet in sync with the soft demeanour of Laxman. The comfort level of performing with my brother is for all to see and we wait the entire year for these 10 days, putting our hearts and soul to a tradition that is timeless. The idea is to give something new every year and work on the script and our skills to make it realistic and absorbing,” explains Chainis.
Agreeing, Amit says their effort is to get more and more children to watch Ramleela and in the process create a new audience. “Not just on stage, we have to be role models in real life too and follow the path of truth and integrity,” he says, adding that he cherishes the coordination he and Chainis share.
This year, the costume for both the characters of Ram and Laxman has been customised from Delhi, with Chainis looking at various sources to create the designs. The actor, who plays Sita, does the make-up for both Chainis and Amit.
Chainis looks forward to the scenes where he shares the stage with his brother. “As the audience joins in for the aarti, there is such a beautiful synergy in the air, one that can only be experienced and lived,” he said. Manoj Sharma, the director, has been part of all the action in various capacities for the past 40 years. Every year, he says, is a new and enriching experience.
This year, Vinod Sharma, the pradhan of the Ramleela committee, has added both cosmetic and artistic value to the Ramleela and has got people of the sector involved in the endeavour. “Apart from a new stage, we have special screens and curtains for various scenes, with a new flex to depict the palace and darbar, a grand, temple-like entrance, new mikes and spotlights for actors. We have to be with the times, as our audiences demand it and encouraged by their response, we want our Ramleela to be bigger and better every time, as we compete with television and multiplexes,” says Manoj, who joined the Ramleela when he was 10 years old.
More than 40 people are involved in making this Ramleela a success as they come together from various parts of the city like a family, sharing the special food, which is made here daily for everyone. “As Ram belonged to everyone, so do we. The essence of Ramayana is the values it propagates and so we too promote social causes like ‘Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao’, as well as pay respect to our martyrs and soldiers as part of the show. We want the public to be part of this cause,” says the pradhan.