Photos & text: Qazi Danish Nazir
Ramlila is a folk play on the life of Lord Rama, and is derived essentially from the stories in Ramayana. It is usually played for ten nights straight in this season, culminating on the day of Dussehra when the demon king Raawan is set on fire. The Ramlila affects an entire population and has a dramatic and enduring effect on the lives of the poorest as well as the richest.
I was already fascinated by the socio-cultural importance of the tradition of Ramlila when I decided to visit the Ramlila Sabha at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, Delhi. I spent a few days with the theatre artists of this particular Ramlila to get an idea of the training and production they go through. I wanted to understand the physical, emotional and intellectual demands made of such actors playing characters who are regarded by the general public as gods.