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Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Riproaring Ramayana


Inspired by Usha's post RAMbles on her blog Agelessbonding about her memories of various versions of Ramayana seen on the screen and small screen over the years, I remembered the early days when I was addicted to any and all movies that had people in period costume.

My dad would take me by scooter to the rickety Shakthi theater at the (then) outskirts of the city to watch the likes of 'Sampoorna Ramayanam' (Tamil B&W version from 1960), with Rama, Seetha, Lakshmana, Vanaras galore, Ravana et al, all suitably attired in glittering costumes and declaiming with all the mellifluence and sonority of their stage drama training.

Recently, the kids in our local Hindu Sunday School classes have been going over the various chapters in the Ramayana, along with worksheets, word searches, quizzes and crafts to keep them engaged. One of the regular monthly highlights is watching the video of a 1971 version of the Sampoorna Ramayana. Originally in Telugu, we run it in Hindi with English subtitles, based on the demographics of the kids. Here are some of their gems of comments:

M: Why is Shoorpanaka turning into a fat lady to dance? (This is after her transformation into a alluring damsel- How do I explain to her that rolls of fat were considered beautiful and de rigueur at that time, unlike today's anorexic size 0 heroines? That's why it's called 'shakin' your booty', I guess!)

D: Why is Hanuman crying all the time when seeing Seetha in Lanka? Isn't he supposed to be strong and fearless?

We thought of having the kids enact a scene from the Ramayana using the script listed helpfully in the workbook we were using. The grand consensus was that it was to be the Final Battle between the army of Rama and Ravana. One of the moms tried her best to dissuade them "Let the girls have a voice in selecting the scene too. Not just you boys who want to fight all the time." Turning to M, she asked "What scene do you like, M?"
M: "I want to do the battle scene!" (Oops... I should have warned her that M has a long-standing battle training arrangement with her elder brother and is unlikely to pick a 'girly' scene, given a choice.)

So, the battle scene it was. Roles were being assigned and with the 'No discrimination' policy and drawing of lots based solely on age/ability to read lots of dialog, the plum roles of Rama and Ravana went to the older girls. M was Sugriva the monkey king, and overjoyed at the prospect of designing a monkey costume to match (I'm thinking monkey mask and princess tiara to accent the look.)

The rehearsals have been going on for the last couple of weeks, and it invariably degenerates into mayhem when the armies fight, followed with dramatic interruptions with Lakshmana, Indrajit and Ravana falling (in that order, I think.)

The final performance is going to be next month. I cannot wait to see what is sure to be a riproaring performance and will be sure to report on it.

1 comment:

One World Girl said...

Hello. I am a teacher and going to tell my students about Ancient India, in addition to telling them the story of Rama and Sita. I see that you had your children perform a play based on this story. Do you happen to have a script that you could lend to me. I'm thinking that I'd like my students to perform the play in January. Thank you for any information.