Bhopal: Ravana not villain for us but we don’t take sides

Sri Lankan artistes say they have deep connect with India, its culture.

SmitaUpdated: Tuesday, October 18, 2022, 12:28 PM IST
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Sri Lankan artistes staging a dance drama ‘Sri Rama Raajyam,’ at an open-air auditorium Ravindra Bhavan on Monday evening. |

BHOPAL (Madhya Pradesh): Ravana is not the villain-in-chief of the Sri Lankan version of the story of Rama. He is a great scholar and an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, who is forced to abduct Seetha due to what happens with his sister Surpanakha. 

Artistes of the Natya Kala Mandhir Group from Sri Lanka told Free Press that in their productions, they present Ravana’s side of the story. The troupe was in the city to perform a dance drama ‘Sri Rama Raajyam’ at open-air auditorium Ravindra Bhavan on Monday.  

“We rely more on the Kamba Ramayana,” Tharmalingam, who plays the role of Ravana and also teaches Drama and Theatre Arts at Eastern University, Sri Lanka, said.

However, Thiruchelwam, coordinator of the troupe, clarified that they were not judgmental. “We don’t declare that Rama was right and Ravana was wrong or vice versa. We just narrate the story,” he said. 

Being Ravana-centric, the dance drama begins not with the birth of Rama but with Seetha a Harnam and ends with the anointment of Rama as the king of Ayodhya. After a brief description of the cultural and natural richness of Sri Lanka, the dance drama opens with a scene of Ravana’s court. 

The troupe has performed at Delhi, Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Ayodhya in the past. “We have been staging this show since 2018. The music is a mix of Carnatic and Hindustani, the dance form is Bharatnatyam and the narration is in the English language,” Kalasuri Vasugy Jagadheeswaran, 60, the director of the show said. 

Vasugy said that Indian films enjoy great popularity in Sri Lanka. “People in my country love Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aiswarya Rai,” she said. Vasugy, whose mother is a classical dance exponent from Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu) and father is from Sri Lanka, said that she is a great fan of Lata Mangeshkar and Shreya Ghoshal.

“I love the art-culture of Inida. In our country, art-culture is not promoted like it is done in India,” said Tharmalingam.

Interestingly, women play the role of male characters in the production. “That is because in Sri Lanka, men mainly learn Kandayan dance while we need Bharatanatyam dancers,” explains Vasugy.   

Mirunaaliny, 33, who plays Rama said that she feels a deep connect with India as her grandparents were from peninsular India. “I am a vegetarian and I love India because you can easily get vegetarian food here,” she said. In the past, she has played Arjuna and Shiva, among other characters. 

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