Using separate make-up kits, keeping costumes in the sun for hours and speaking dialogues from a distance– at the Navyug Ramleela, being organised since 1979, the bustle surrounding the re-enactment of the Ramayana epic has been unprecedented this year.
As artistes perform Ramleela in times of Covid-19, they share their experiences about the day one of performing the epic and the uniqueness accompanying it.
Vikas Sood, Assistant Director of the Navyug Ramleela and Dussehra committee, who is also playing the role of Raavan, said that to prevent the spread of the virus, they have made sure that they have separate make up kits. “Even as we are short on funds, we have not compromised on things which one has to ensure to not contract coronavirus. Every artist has been given a separate make-up kit,” he said.
Pradeep Kumar, Director of the committee, added, “Moreover, there is no inter-changing of costumes this time. The artist will take the costume home and keep it out in the sun for some time. The sanitisation is being carried out at his own level.”
Even while speaking the dialogues, artistes make sure that they are at a safe distance and do not go much close to each other.
Besides the risk of contracting the virus, the Ramleela committee is faced with the challenge of an acute shortage of funds.
“Every year, our Ramleela is organised at a cost of about Rs 7.5 lakh-Rs 8 lakh. This time we had to keep the budget Rs 3 lakh because we could not collect funds, which is mainly donations. Till now, out of the tailored budget, we have only been able to collect Rs 1 lakh-Rs 1.5 lakh,” Sood said.
The committee members would collect donations by going house-to-house, but they said that due to the pandemic, the donators have also been facing a shortage of funds. “Everyone is going through a tough time and so is our Ramleela. We do not know how to pay for tent, light and sound, etc and to meet our other expenses. We have asked the tent and light organisers to cooperate with us and not pressurise us for payment, as we are hoping to collect the required funds by the last day of the Ramleela,” he said.
Meanwhile, despite the raging pandemic, city residents’ enthusiasm to watch this Ramleela, organised in a park at Sector 7, has been undaunting. People, including women and children, have been attending the Ramleela.
The organisers said that they have been ensuring distancing among all and that everyone wears a mask, as the UT Administration had said that the onus of ensuring adherence to the Covid-19 protocols lay with the organisers.
The artists said that they had been expecting that such a situation would persist, which is why they started rehearsing for the Ramleela over WhatsApp much earlier. “Even our rehearsals were held in a different way. This time we rehearsed over WhatsApp. Each one of us would practice our dialogue, make a video of the same and post on a common group. That was the only way we could rehearse as gatherings were not allowed,” Sood said.
“Doing rehearsals for Ramleela on our WhatsApp group was a successful idea. The zeal of the artistes motivated us to go ahead with the Ramleela,” said Pradeep Rawat, who is playing the role of Kakeyi.
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