Free Press Journal

Ramayana: Rael Padamsee to revisits the iconic epic


Raell Padamsee’s new production looks at the Ramayana from a different perspective. Boski Gupta tries to unravel the purpose behind rediscovering the book

We all have watched Ramayana, if not read it. We know the story, we know the characters, we know the moral; but do we really know what Ramayana truly signifies? While praying and worshiping to gods every day we somewhere ignore the true message that these people in our fables and mythology left for us. And that’s what Raell’s Padamsee’s new production tells us. Rediscover The Epic deals with iconic messages given in the Ramayana while interspersing it with our day-to-day ordeals. “It’s not religious at all,” cautions Padamsee with a chuckle, but then adds on a serious note, “We have been imbibing the worst from the West now whereas our civilisation is one of the oldest and glorious. Why can’t we learn from our past? Here we’re trying to get back to our basics.”

The story goes

“It’s a story of a modern family, and just like any family these members too have their issues and problems. Our play takes this present day family to the Ramayana world which helps them fight their inner turmoil and demons,” explains the director, Karla Singh. Though it is loosely based on the great book by Valmiki, the play essentially is a projection of human behaviour vis-a-vis his environment. “We have tried to see the epic from a different perspective; what it actually conveys and what we have taken from it,” says the writer Krishna Thakkar, adding, “It is unfortunate that even after so many centuries we have not inculcated the true values of the great epic. Look at it this way: Ram was above distinction, he never discriminated between his people. He ate a low caste woman Shabari’s fruits and we even now are marred by caste differences. Our elections are even today won according to caste votes! How do we then inculcate Ramayana when we are not following it? We are just reading and watching these people for entertainment.”

The R&D mode

Thakkar took over the responsibility of writing the play after Padamsee suggested the idea to her. “A lot of research went into the play. I went through both the famous version of Ramayana (Valmiki Ramayana) and Ram Charitmanas,” she says. While Thakkar had already read the version earlier, for Singh it was fairly new experience. “I am an American and not a Hindu so this was a new kind of experience for me. There were so many instances in the play which surprised and awed me at the same time,” she says while Thakkar chips in, “We see our epics differently today. We become blind in faith. Religion doesn’t mean that we close our eyes to injustice around us. We should neither be blind followers nor be blind sceptics. These epics give us new beautiful perspective. Instead of following blindly we need to understand the true essence of these stories.”

The take aways

The play which will be premiered this week will see children, all below 20 of age, from mainstream schools of Mumbai. NGOs like Salaam Baalak Trust, Aseema, Vatsalya Foundation and Seva Sadan among others are also a part of the play. “Children from Campion, Hiranandani, Ambani School and many more schools are participating in the play. These kids will surprise the audiences with their performances for sure,” says Singh. Thakkar says associating with children was the most overwhelming experience in the production. “While being associated with the play, I realised what we are teaching our children nowadays has nothing to do with Ram, and everything to do with Ravana. We are so materialistic and self centred. Ram was minimalist and humanitarian. We have to think if we want to get close to Ram or Ravana. Do we want our children to learn from the dev or asura,” she adds. Padamsee couldn’t agree more. “Our children need a lot more than expensive education and innovative gadgets. Instead of crass and competitive world, we are here trying to be a value-driven society but in an innovative way,” she says.