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Traditions? What are you talking about?

‘Telescope’ is a column primarily meant to channelise our thoughts in order to reach a common conclusion which could be acceptable to all of us. Thus I always appreciate the enthusiasm with which the readers react to the ideas put forward by me. You all are lovely people who understand the value of dialogue but that doesn’t mean you are not free to send me hate mails, it’s just that one should be careful about the language. See, I am not here to promote any certain kind of ideology, in fact I would love it if we reach to a common consensus through each other’s conviction. No, no, don’t think somebody has scolded me for being oblivious towards different notions. It was just that I want you to know the motive of ‘Telescope’ and ‘My Theatre Cafe’.

Anyway, normally my daily life gives me themes to write on, and so I was waiting for another idea when I fell asleep last night. I wake up in the middle of night to realise that it’s still 3-4 hours to dawn. There was no craving for going back to sleep and that prompted me to switch on the TV. A local channel was broadcasting Ramlila that took place some days back at a park near my residence.

The actors were unpolished and ill prepared. Plus, their local accent had over-powered the characters’ lingo they were playing. It was funny to say the least. Ram was threatening the devils in such a weird tone that it seemed he wants to sell sweets to the children. Devils, on the other hand, looked more like confused gods as their use of Sanskrit was much more sophisticated than their opponents. Lighting was not vey fancy, neither was the make-up, but the zeal was there. The realisation of doing something important was there, and probably the spectators knew it because they kept showering their blessings on the actors. Every now and then, the announcer took someone’s name who had just given Rs 10 or 20 to an actor.

The atmosphere was amazing, it was full of energy and festivity. Though I was watching everything on TV but there were no second thoughts about the vibrant mood of the park ground.

These actors don’t get paid much, in fact most of them don’t get paid at all but they don’t hesitate in sacrificing their time for such Ramlilas. Of course, most of them are bad actors but stage is also about the connectivity with the audience. I guess this was the success of connectivity which drew money from the audience’s pocket. They, despite knowing the quality of the product, felt the need to patronise an art form.

This is something which the big corporate houses are required to understand. A traditional art form doesn’t survive in absence of powerful patrons. From Ramlila ground in Delhi to a small street in Ujjain, Ramlilas get staged throughout the country at various levels, but a closer look will reveal that they are decreasing in number. The high inflation rates have forces the height of Raavana to remain under 15 feet.

How can anyone expect a society to support and preserve a conventional art form in such depravity?

I was engrossed in my own thoughts when azaan broke out from a nearby mosque. I began to prepare for jogging but that thought remained with me. Later, I decided to put the question in front of you. So, you tell, what do we do in this scenario? Should we leave the traditions behind and march forward or do we need to preserve them by taking new initiatives?

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