When it comes to stage appearances and shows by Bollywood divas, there is never lack of fascinating and sizzling visuals equally blended with great dance, costume, makeup, hair and drama.
Recently, the Dream Girl of Indian Cinema Hema Malini presented her stunning daughter Esha Deol on stage with a fabulous production Ramayana choreographed by amazingly talented and highly creative Bhushan Lakhandari.
Ramayana is one story which has been performed by many artistes through numerous dance styles. But Hema Malini’s Ramayana was class apart, it had the ancient epic story told in a beautifully put musical dance drama format, with perfectly choreographed dance moves that brought alive each character aptly by Bhushanji.
As we all know, Ramayana is an ancient Indian epic poem which narrates the struggle of the divine prince Rama to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana. Along with the Mahabharata, it forms the Hindu itihaasa. The epic, traditionally ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki, narrates the life of Rama. It follows his 14-year exile to the forest from the kingdom by his father King Dasharatha on request of his wife, Kaikeyi. His travels across forests in India with his Sita and brother Lakshmana, the kidnapping of his wife by Ravana, resulting in war and his eventual return to Ayodhya to be crowned the king.
Ramayana takes place during a period of time known as Treta Yuga. It is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature and consists of nearly 24,000 verses which are mostly set in the shloka meter, divided into seven kandas (episodes) and about 500 sargas (chapters). In Hindu tradition, it is considered to be the adi-kavya (first poem). It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal husband and the ideal king.
Ramayana was an important influence on later Sanskrit poetry and Hindu life and culture. Like Mahabharata, Ramayana is not just a story. It presents the teachings of ancient Hindu sages in narrative allegory, interspersing philosophical and ethical elements.
The characters — Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanumana, Shatrughana and Ravana — are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and south-east Asian countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. There are many versions of Ramayana in Indian languages besides Buddhist, Sikh and Jain adaptations. There are also Cambodian, Indonesian, Filipino, Thai, Lao, Burmese and Malaysian versions of the tale.
As a director, Hemaji presented important episodes from the Bala Kanda (marriage of Rama and Sita), Ayodhya Kanda (Rama leaving for exile), Aranya Kanda (kidnapping of Sita), Kishkindha Kanda (Rama meeting Hanumana and their journey to find Sita), Sundara Kanda (Hanumana meeting Sita) and Yuddha Kanda (victory of Rama over Ravana).
When I asked our Dream Girl how she felt while directing Esha as Sita, Hemaji laughed and said, “As a kid, Esha was naughty and would rarely listen to me. Finally, I am glad I could have my way at least on stage.”
Bhushan sir choreographed and executed each part of the dance drama so perfectly that it looked as if it was not Esha Deol telling us the story of Ramayana but it was Sita herself talking to the audience in regards to all that happened in her life with the ultimate man Rama played beautifully by super-talented and handsome Mithun Shyam.
Happy and contented Bhushanji praised Esha work and said, “Esha has completely taken after her mother. She is a very fine dancer and a performer, she emotes brilliantly and understands the nuances of the character very well. I was glad to choreograph Esha as Sita.”
Talking about dancing on stage, Esha said, “From a very young age, Ahaana and me would see our mother practise and rehearse tirelessly so dance is something that came naturally to both of us.” Explaining further about how she felt while playing the complex role of Sita, Esha said, “Playing Sita is a big responsibility and I am glad it came to me at this stage of my life when I am a mother, more mature and responsible as a human being so I feel I could do justice to playing such a beautiful character.”
Mithun Shyam who played calm and composed character of Lord Rama was super-excited about this role. An overwhelmed Mithun said, “I consider it a huge learning curve working with Bhushanji. He is a very learned and experienced master. I got the opportunity to watch a video of his performance recorded over three decades ago. I practiced based on the choreography. It was a challenge to justify such a role. Bhushanji himself guided and gave me some valuable suggestions to enhance my performance. On the other hand, Esha is a pleasure to work with. She is extremely professional and carries herself with amazing grace and dignity.”
So did Bengaluru-based Mithun’s dream come true meeting the Dream Girl, thrilled with joy Shyama further added, “To meet Hemaji was indeed a dream come true. When I was called for an audition, I was truly stunned. I wasn’t apprehensive about being selected for the role but thrilled beyond words that I would be meeting The Hema Malini herself. Initially when she spoke to me, I was too tongue-tied and I told her I was unable to speak. She in her diva style laughed and spoke about dance and asked me about my training etc. Then she told me about her expectations for the role, she gave me the exact image she wanted me to portray. Later, Hemaji herself attended, checked and directed us, a dream coming true for me indeed.”
Every performer has a bit of nervousness before a show so did our gorgeous Sita felt butterflies in her stomach too. An excited Esha replied, “Well, yes before every show one is nervous and so was I, but all the dancers, my co actors and we all bonded well so the anxiousness was settled.”
After Sita what role would Esha be keen to play was something that was running on my mind and when I asked her about the next character she would want to portray, she gave me a very spiritual answer. “I have always believed that we do not choose what characters we want to showcase, it is the divine energy up there that chooses us to tell their stories, we are just a medium which the divine uses to narrate their life and reach out to the audience,” she said.
But still there must be some character that fascinates her and it would be a blessing to play that part, when quizzed about it an emotional Esha answered, “When my mother use to play Meera, I would always play the young Meera. Now that I am grown up, I hope I am sanctified to play the mature Meera one day.”
Ramayana directed by Hema Malini and choreographed by Bhushan Lakahdari is a visual treat. I suggest if you hear that this show is in your city or is coming to your city then please remove time and go and see the ultimate epic presented glamorously and alluringly by the team that is known to bring alive our Indian Gods and Goddess like no one else does.
Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore, is a World Book Record holder, a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with three National Excellence awards and one National Achievement Award by the Government of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]