How SBKK Ramlila evolved with time…
Shobha Deepak Singh
Forty years ago, the Kendra was perhaps the only institute to present an aesthetically refined Sampurna Ramayana. Now, it has become imperative for the Kendra to make a departure. This script runs parallel to the show which we have been presenting for the last six decades. What has, however, been done to make a shift to language which is comprehensible by every spectator; without diluting the spirit of the epic. Thereafter, a music score has been devised which provides the backbone to the production; for, it must complement the dance. The sets have been stylised. In costumes and ornaments, a great deal of efforts and research has been put in order to rise above the temporal. The music score was especially hard and has taken a great deal of time, effort and improvisation. Sound itself has gained in stature and texture over the last five years. It, therefore, became imperative to incorporate these changes into our production. The light has been designed to meet the demands of the spectacle that Ramlila is and to add to its universal appeal.
The story of Rama has been handed down to us in a simplistic form of ‘the conquest of good over evil’. Rama’s life consists of a multitude of episodes where his divinity and compassion come forth. Whether it is an Ahilya uddhar, Rama’s obedience to Kaikeyi, Shabari Moksha, the liberation of Bali, his compassion towards Bharata, there is not a single episode in Rama’s life that can be blemished. It is here that the Kendra has dived down into the ocean of words contained in the texts of Valmiki and Tulsidas to present in a comprehensible manner their vision in that everyone could embrace. The story of Rama has provided us with a way of life, exemplary in values, distilled through this production to provide the kind of intoxication that purifies the mind and the soul.
It is time to lift the subtle but impregnable veil that lies between the divine and us, thereby making our own lives more meaningful. There could and should be no language barrier in understanding the accomplishments of the divine. In order to reach Him; it has to be in our very own language. The ideas of the traditional versus modernity have been conflicting and contradictory. To implement fresh ideas through the route of deeply embedded blind faith is formidable and poses the kind of hurdles that could be crossed only with tenacity and persistence.
The creative team consists of persons with a passionate determination to enlighten through this production, the values of Ram. In the realm of the spoken work, a script was specially commissioned and executed by Neelabh and Arvind Kumar; Shanti Sharma and Biswajit Roy Chowdhury as music directors worked against heavy odds to meet up with the challenge thrown up by an already prevalent successful production.
Shashidharan Nair has emerged from the existing choreographic format. He has been ably assisted by Raj Kumar Sharma – the ballet master. Badal and Sudha Jagannath have gone beyond the format of ‘calendar art’ to sophistication. It was steadfast conviction and certitude on the part of the creative team that this production has been made possible. A specially commissioned script has conceptualised each event of Rama’s life in a way that the spectator may imbibe some of these values into their very own lives. Right from the time of decision to make a departure, it has been tight rope walking between the conventional and synchronous.
However, I would like to say that right through the many years of doing this Ramayana, there was only one guiding fact in my mind and it was to uphold the spirit of Maryada Purushottam Rama. It for a long while after the show. My decision lay between falling into the period groove of the epic or being able to rise above it. I opted for the latter.
I decided to match my own perception and give it a quality of effervescence. Being a contemporary person, I have attempted to surmount barriers posed by period-drama and language. I would like the audiences to share my interpretation of mythology today as opposed to decades ago. The underlying theme of the epic rises from the conquest of evil to an all-pervasive quality of omnipresence of divinity which has now become the underlying theme of the presentation.
This year’s production is unprecedented in more ways than one. It has dancers playing the main roles and the chorus by students from the Kendra. This, we hope will infuse into the production a quality of effervescence emanated by the performers who are being premiered in their maiden roles. Also, the Kendra has worked towards bringing out cassettes and CD’s of the highlights of the sound tracks.
While making the sound track, the Kendra has incorporated contemporary sounds which are necessary in our evolving times. The costumes and sets have been designed keeping in mind the contemporary relevance of this evergreen production. An attempt has been made to deviate from ‘Calendar’ type of sets – frequently visible in the electronic media – to stylised iconography. All this has been done with a view to bring the epic closer and more pertinent to our daily lives.
The life of Rama is a medley of allegories which provide the foundation of a metaphysical way of life. Whether it is Rama’s obedience of his father, his unflinching denial in the face of a diversity, the mirage of the golden deer, his ability to transcend barriers of caste and creed by accepting Shabri’s fruits or Hanumana’s determination to make a gigantic focussed leap; these are all emblematic of the way of life which form a part of the viewers subconscious. It is the Kendra’s attempt through this production to excavate the layers and realise the inner meaning of the message of Rama.
As a production, Rama provides perfect opportunities to bring and knit together talents. Nurturing these has become the main intent and concern of unraveling this myth. Working on Rama – a paragon of exemplary virtues has been possessing and exciting, but never exhausting, for here freedom came to life and dreams became a reality.