Friday, 30 August 2013

Theatre Review: Raavanleela

Play : Raavanleela

Director : Om Katare

Duration : 105 minutes

Cast : Om Katare, Ashok Sharma, Sukant Goel and others

Language : Hindi

Rating : ***

Review: Amongst other things, one of the (many) disappointing aspects of living in a metro like Mumbai is that you rarely get to witness a Ramleela (a folk drama, enacted by men, on the life of Lord Ram). And when you do, it rarely has the essence of the Ramleelas in the north, especially those in the interiors of the country. To give you a taste of this nine-day performance of the story that depicts the victory of good over evil, you can now watch the play Raavanleela.

But as the title suggests, it isn't the archetypal Ramleela; it's chaotic, humorous and most importantly, twisted. Written by Dr Kusum Kumar, this is a musical play, which spoofs the original. No wonder, it hasn't gone down with certain political groups with no sense of humour, who have accused the makers of showing Ram and Sita in a bad light. The key to watching the show lies in keeping in mind that it's not just the story of Ramayana that's being acted out — this is also the story of the trials and tribulations faced by scores of people from small towns and villages. It parodies the commercialisation of live dramas: how the organiser has to bend backwards to please sponsors or throw in item numbers to rope in the audiences and moolah!

In this twisted Raavanleela, you have a Punjabi-speaking Raavan, whose main concern is repairing the roof of his house, the rest of the cast who often forget lines, go off-track and argue with one another, front as well as backstage, a displeased audience and lastly, a harrowed organiser, who is doing everything he can, to hold this flailing production from disintegrating. The humour is funny but also loud and you may have to bear overacting in many parts of the play. Though Raavanleela tries to take the form of a social satire, it lacks in being wholly sarcastic. Yet, it's definitely a play worth a watch.



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