It’s called ‘Ayodhya ki Ramleela’ but this annual enactment of the Ramayan story does not take place in that city. This year, the theatrical production, managed by a committee of the UP government, will be staged on the holy ghats of Varanasi and will be telecast live from 25 September to 5 October.
Last year, more than 22 crore viewers watched the performance drama, up from 16 crore in the year 2020.
This time, the star cast boasts of two Bhojpuri actors turned Parliamentarians: BJP MPs Manoj Tiwari playing Parshuram and Ravi Kishan as Kewat Nishad. The first represents North-east Delhi and the second Gorakhpur, UP.
Manoj Tiwari, who achieved fame in the Bhojpuri film industry, has acted in films such as Bhole Shankar, Deshdrohi and Ganga. He is also a singer, television presenter and director. Earlier he performed Angad’s role in Ramleela.
Actor Ravi Kishan’s real name is Ravindra Shyamnarayan Shukla. It was his popularity in Bhojpuri films that led to his success in the hustings. He has also acted in Hindi and Telugu films. In the upcoming Ramleela, he plays the important role of Kewat Nishad, who follows Ram to safety in his boat.
Delhi-based Rahul Bhuchar, who has 12 years of acting experience, is playing Ram, his most significant role to date. Asked about the challenge of sharing the stage with such stalwarts, he said, “Lord Ram will give me energy and the will power to act as Ram. I feel fortunate to be a part of this huge celebration and grateful to God for getting more energy to play this role.”
Bhuchar, who has a studio in the Mandi House area, is also the producer of the TV serial Wrong Number starring Rakesh Bedi. While he is playing this role, most of his relatives and friends respect him as they feel it’s auspicious to see him as lord Ram. “That’s my biggest satisfaction as an actor,” he adds.
Hanuman will be played by Vindu Dara Singh, who has already essayed the title role in the TV serial Jai Shri Hanuman, much like his father, the late wrestler Dara Singh did in the blockbuster Ramayan telecast on Doordarshan in 1987-88 (and rerun in 2020).
Vindu made his debut in the Hindi film Karan (1994) and acted in Rab Dian Rakhan (1996), a Punjabi film directed by his late father. After that, he played significant roles in films and TV series and was a participant in Big Boss season 3.
Recalling his debut, ‘I did my first Ramlila at Red Fort. Subhash Malik offered me the role of Lord Hanuman. Now, I have been doing this role for the last 30 years. I have been getting many offers for other projects but am not keen on those. I would be happy to perform this role forever.”
Vindu is keen to tell people about his special diet for the role. “Whenever I have to serve Lord Hanuman, I prefer having milk, ghee, curd and butter. As my butter intake goes up, my routine exercises get harder.”
That’s not all. “During the days of my performance, I try that my mind and body should be pious, no bad feelings inside me, be an absolute vegetarian and no alcohol at all. I like to rehearse my lines and prepare for my role so that there will be no stress at that time. Ramayan is a part of our Indian culture and it’s entrenched into our family values. As you know, India is a land of the Gods and I feel blessed.”
Another actor of Delhi origin is Gajendra Chauhan who will play Raja Janak. With a 35-year career behind him, Chauhan’s main claim to fame still remains his role as Yudhishtir in DD serial Mahabharat. He was also the director of FTII-Pune from 2015-17.
The role of Sita will be played by Diksha Raina, who bagged the best actress award at the Udaan Festival. “I am excited to play Sita Mata’s role, as mother of Luv- Kush. I feel as energised and blessed to be part of Ayodhya Ki Ram Leela”, says Jammu-born Raina, who has acted in more than 300 stage plays with noted actors such as Rakesh Bedi and Puneet Issar.
Indore-born TV actor Shahbaz Khan will play other prominent roles as Ravan, and Manisha Priyadarshi as both Sumitra and Vaidehi. She has been doing theatre for the past 10 years, and in 2016, got a chance to play Sita.
Full marks for the star cast to Subhash Malik (Bobby) who has done tremendous work in putting together the ensemble.
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