October 16, 2011 3:45:22 am
Why we must watch Ravana before Ra.One
Gyanshyam Khichi is a temperamental villain. He doesnt unleash manic tantrums,nor do glass partitions close and open mysteriously revealing his kingdom of nightmares. Instead,he plays out his wrath and ridicule with little twitches of the nose,the darting of tumultuous eyes and busy fingers that know the intimate but volatile language of gestures as only a dancers can. Khichi is a Kathakali dancer. He plays Ravana in the Shobha Deepak Singh-directed Ramlila at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Mandi House.
One of Delhis oldest dance drama interpretations of the Ramayana,this Ramlila has been the citys cultural staple every year
during festive months. We are told even Jawaharlal Nehru,Lal
Bahadur Shastri,and Dr Radhakrishnan,among a long list of Indian statesmen,have watched and loved it. Now,it is in its 54 th edition.
Even though it tells the same story of good vs evil,perhaps even in the same way as it used to decade
back,it is time to look at it with renewed curiosity.
Surrounded by numerous slick events in the city bridal exhibitions,fashion weeks,fantastically choreographed musicals and technologically enhanced music performances,the Ramlila here is
refreshing because it is non-digital and non-designer. The saris of Sita and her companions are pure Benarasi weaves,a far cry from charmeuse lycra ensembles we see in new musicals. Rams overdone makeup may even look like that of a Geisha to those who breathe in the rarefied air of false eyelashes and bronzers in the fashion backstage. You might say Hanuman urgently needs a Google map to plot his way to Lanka. But it is precisely the absence of slick technology and contemporary makeup and styling that makes Ramlila a treat to watch
especially in these weeks when SRKs Ra.One is creating publicity ripples about a costume worth a crore rupees and digital effects that would send us reeling.
Then,there is Mr Khichi. Though the entire play is seen in Indian classical dances,but interpreting one of mythologys most nuanced characters Ravana through Kathakali takes the production to another level. It brings mystique,leaving the audience charmed,not dulled by a villains horrendous ways. Like Gabbar Singh in Sholay,Khichi plays out the Ravana act in a non-lustful but power-obsessed manner. If Mehbooba Mehbooba sung by Gabbar Singh in Sholay was more about himself than about the sexy Mehbooba,a Gabbar intoxicated with his own power,then Khichi
reminds us of something similar. He isnt a lustful kidnapper. He is too busy enacting a million little slivers of power play to even really notice Sita emotionally or physically. A modern director,concerned with new logic would have changed the course. Singh has refrained from falling into the trap of modernising Ramlila. Thats it why it worth watching her Ravana with his mood swings and moves.
Its Ra.Won season,dont miss it before you swoon for Ra.One.
Ramlila is being held at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra till Oct 24. Time: 6.30 pm
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