Ongoing pandemic halts the iconic Ramleela celebrations in Lucknow this year

Much more than the sadness of missing out on performing this year, what is worrying the actors is the focus on virtual Ramleela by the state government.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic raging through the nation, Navratra celebrations have been muted this year. The annual prime attraction of this season, Ramleela, might not see the light of day in most quarters. The main artistes of this programme have returned back to their original occupations and most of the crew members have been left without any solid jobs at hand.

'Sita' is working at a salon; 'Ravan' is managing his garment business

"Since there will be no Ramleela this year due to the pandemic, we have no work to do. It does seem odd because for years, we have spent these months preparing for the shows," Sangeeta who plays the role of Sita, was quoted saying. Further, she mentioned, "I work in Ramleela and for the remaining time, I hold theatre workshops for children. But, now with the Covid scare, children are not coming so I have started working in the salon to keep things rolling and bring food to the table."

So Sangeeta is now working at her sister's salon, to get by. Rakesh Kumar aka 'Angad', is trying to get his gym back to business after a prolonged closure while 'Ravan' is managing his garment business along with his sons.

Speaking about the situation, Kumar stated, "We have reopened after almost six and a half months and I am working overtime to get the customers back. We have new packages, lower rates and timing relaxations to suit the convenience of customers. I do feel bad that I am not getting to play my role in the Ramleela this year- it was a small role but there was a great sense of involvement."

"The make-up artists, the costume houses and the light men have no work this year and they have not found another profession as yet. We are trying to get some work for them but these are difficult times," Rakesh said in a statement, who has employed two of his Ramleela co-actors in his gym.

Mohd Ashraf, who has been playing the role of Ravan for almost 12 years now, is equally disheartened. "It is almost like a part of my life has been put into a suspension, something missing. I have looked forward to bringing Ravan alive on stage, interacting with co-actors and learning up the lines. Suddenly, there is this vacuum because there is no Ramleela," Ashraf explained.

Much more than the sadness of missing out on performing this year, what is worrying the actors is the focus on virtual Ramleela by the state government. "If this trend catches on, then we will be out of jobs in the coming years too. A virtual enactment of Ramleela cannot replace the joy of performing in front of a live audience," says Ashraf.

This iconic ramleela event which has been happening at Daliganj area in Lucknow for years now, has left a gap in the lives of many, this season. Usually this time of the year is spent in rehearsals by the performers for this epic drama on stage, across the Hindi heartland as well as in the southern expanse.

With inputs from IANS

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