The divine bow of lord Shankar lay broken on the stage as the scene depicting the Sita Swayamvar ended. The audience at the Nav Shri Manav Dharm Ramlila in Model Town now awaited the appearance of the star performer, actor-turned-politician Manoj Tiwari, on stage.
Tiwari, playing Parashurama, arrived dressed in a leopard skin vest, clutching an axe. In the half hour that followed, the MP from North East Delhi and Delhi BJP chief delivered a performance that kept the audience hooked, with dialogues peppered with political overtones.
“Ye sab kahan se aaye hain, ye koi videshi ghuspaithiye hain ya tumne bulaya hai (Where have they come from; are they illegal immigrants or have you called them)?,” he said, addressing Vishwamitra about the crowd gathered for Sita’s Swayamvar.
In another scene with Lakshman, he referred angrily to “aatankvaadis (terrorists)”. “My axe has spilled rivers of blood, and in this land of the Aryans, several terrorists have been sent to the graveyard,” he said.
Hours before he got on stage, Tiwari sat with Bollywood actor Shahbaz Khan, who played Ravana, rehearsing his lines in a vanity van. Trying to squeeze his feet into shoes one size too small, he said: “Recent political developments have kept me busy; I started rehearsing the script when I was in car… but I do modifications in the script to suit the present context.”
“I am not going to use the word Kshatriya which is in the script; I have changed it to Raja kul because when Parshurama said Kshatriya, he meant kings and not just any caste,” he said.
This is the fourth time Tiwari has acted in the Ramlila — previously, he has twice played Angad and once played Kewat.
Tiwari’s vanity van is rarely ever empty — from children of organisers itching for a selfie to people trying to break into politics to fellow Ramlila actors, someone’s always knocking on the door.
At one point, he tells the organisers, “Please call Ram and Lakshman, I have the most scenes with them.”
“It is important to make juniors comfortable; they should not be in awe else it will affect their performance… this is an art I have learnt from Amitabh Bachchan ji, who called me to his vanity and made me comfortable before we started the shoot of the movie Ganga,” he said.
Asked how he made time when assembly polls are drawing close, he said: “This is far more important than any election in the country. We do politics so we can do some good for the people… here, they are already doing good things.”