Why I walked out of an Excellent Ramlila show last weekend

Last weekend, I went to see this Ramlila being enacted by the local group.  They are all busy professionals in their daily lives and had – with love and sincerity – given so much of their lives in the last 10 months or so to stage the show.  It was beautiful although there were some hiccups and directorial inefficiencies.  But what they were attempting, given what they had with them in terms of time and resources – their effort was superhuman-like.

Yet, I couldn’t hold my attention for more than an hour, and I left.  I have wondered why?

Ramayana has been staged so many times and we have seen it so many times that it is part of almost every Indian’s DNA.  We know stories of Ram, Sita and Ravan.  The anger of Lakshman, the lust of Shoorpanakha for him which gave the inroads to Ravan into Sita’s life, and so on.  We know the story of Luv and Kush and Sita’s leaving Ram or rather Ram leaving Sita.

Based on these stories, and their modern interpretation, people have interwoven modern day emotions and created a helluva jigsaw puzzle which has led some people to demonize Ram and eulogize Ravan and side with Sita in a feminist way.

I have not read Ramayan, but I have “heard” and “known” Ram from Yoga Vashishta, where he spends time as a 16 year old with his Guru Sage Vashishta.  Ram there is a compassionate, very wise and amazingly sharp being, who is reprimanded as well as revered by Sage Vashishta.

In the various TV soaps and the Ramlilas that are done across India and indeed the world, Ram is unfortunately approached only with strong faith.  And, that obviates one’s ability to look at Ram for what he was and learn from his amazing being.

Guru Nanak and Kabir were two amazingly sharp enlightened beings.  They were iconoclastic in their own ways and weren’t what they were because of their beliefs.  In fact, they were wont to break down beliefs of people around them.  And, both these Masters were Ram devotees in their own ways, notwithstanding what their “followers” say for their “differentiation” reasons.  Nanak and Kabir saw in Ram something that a religious person with his strong “belief” will not.  Ram, in their eyes, passed through some fairly tough Spiritual reasoning.

I want to know what that was.  My dream is that one day, we will have the spiritual maturity to look at the life of Ram, his love for Sita and his duty to his Raj-dharma in terms of why is he revered the way he is.

For Ram to be “useful” in spiritual and REAL terms, he has to be approached differently.  Belief driven and faith based walk up to Ram will put him in a position that will not do his work and life any justice.

The way Ram is being portrayed, I am convinced is like making a caricature of him.  We are trivializing him.  We are putting him on a pedestal and singing songs in his glory with no understanding of WHY is he on that pedestal at all?

Ram CANNOT be great because he is called “Bhagwan Ram” or Lord Ram.  He is CALLED “Bhagwan Ram” BECAUSE he was great in dimensions that are rarely achieved by ordinary people.  Those who understand and have tread on those paths and road, like Nanak or Kabir, knew what they were dealing with.

The reason why I walked off the Ramlila show last weekend was because to me Ram was being trivialized in front of me.  And no, it wasn’t because the organizers did not respect Ram.  They did.  They have a very high regard for him and love for him I am sure.  But they haven’t searched for him from their inner longing.  They portrayed Ram as is done by all others – which is a tough thing in its own way when you are doing a production of that magnitude – but is grossly insufficient for someone like Ram.

Because, Ram deserves more work internally.  We need to sit “with him” and listen to him.  We need to sit with Kabir and listen to him for his take or with Nanak and listen to him.  We need THEM to speak to us and not us to interpret them.  It takes a lot of courage and lot of “listening up”.

Otherwise, the Ram of our generation, created out of our own beliefs – however strong and passionate they may be, will not survive for very long.  Specially for our younger generation.  Ram, the eternally revered Ram, has to be approached from dimensions that have stood the test of time of many millenia.

 

  • Makbeth

    To depict the life story of a Raghu Ram in 2-3 hours itself is a phenomenal task. Most of the Indians have only “heard” and “understood” the Ramayana like a story. Reading the Ramayana and understanding the essence of the Ramayana, by questioning why certain things happened in a certain way never happens.
    Ramleela depicts a story, so does a an enactment this sort. It sometimes does pave way for thought provoking mentality amongst the audiences. It depends on the audiences if they patiently sit through the entire enactment and gather reasoning or impatiently leave the hall. Time and again such enactments, have only served as an eyeopener, no different than what the “trivialty” of this Rama has done to you.

    • admin

      Thanks, Makbeth! Ram here is not trivial, please understand. Ram is fine. It is the way we approach him. I can call him God and approach him and expect nothing but miracles from him.. etc. But that trivializes his real dimension. His compassion, his vision, his wisdom, his Grace… I am saying Ram has to be comprehensively looked at and understood in his entirety.

      It is like understanding Krishna. You cannot read Shrimad Bhagavatam and skip Bhagwad Geeta and say you have understood Krishna’s being, however good Shrimad Bhagavatam is in itself. I am suggesting you cannot completely comment on Ram by just looking at Ramayan. You HAVE to look at him via his “Bhagwad Geeta” – aka Yoga Vashishta. Otherwise, the profound and wise Ram will not show up in your work.


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