Raavan vs Raavan

Updated: Oct 06, 2019, 07:58 IST | Krutika Behrawala | Mumbai

Pure evil or a raakshas with redeeming qualities? The artistes, who're currently enthralling audiences as the 10-headed supervillain at Mumbai's Ramleelas, debate the mythological character with Krutika Behrawala

Advocate Shardendu Singh who plays Raavan at the Ramleela at Cross Maidan, Dhobi Talao. Pic/Ashish Raje
Advocate Shardendu Singh who plays Raavan at the Ramleela at Cross Maidan, Dhobi Talao. Pic/Ashish Raje

'There was no better king than raavan'

Pics/ Bipin Kokate

Balmukund Chaturvedi
Playing Raavan for: 40 years

"People often greet me with 'Lankesh ki jai'," says Chaturvedi, 60, easily slipping into Raavan's character during a chat and roaring with laughter. "There was no better king than him. He protected his people fiercely and showered them with riches. Who would do that for the common public today?" retorts the artiste, who is part of a 40-member team from Mathura that performs at Adarsh Ramleela Mandal (in its 56th year).

"Many believe that Raavan's 10 heads represent negative traits but they symbolise his mastery over the six shastras and four vedas of Hinduism. Like we receive a doctorate with PhD, he was crowned for his proficiency in music," adds Chaturvedi, who also refers to Acharya Chatursen Shastri's novel Vayam Rakshamah (with Raavan as the protagonist) to enhance his role.

Next week, the organisers will stage the Ramleela at Cotton Green and rope in another team for the event at Borivali (both from October 11 to 20).

Till: October 8, 7 pm to 10 pm
At: Girgaum Chowpatty, Charni Road

'He did regret his mistakes'

Pics/ Ashish Raje

Shardendu Singh
Playing Raavan for: 4 years

An advocate by profession, Singh has learnt an important lesson from Raavan: to focus on the positives. "As Raavan lay dying, he shared his wisdom with Laxman. In his lifetime, he wanted to sweeten the ocean and build a stairway to heaven to benefit people. These tasks remained unfulfilled because he focused on the negative. He did regret his mistakes and said that one should complete good deeds as soon as possible and delay the bad ones," says Singh, 51.

He is part of a 40-member team of men and women, all working professionals, associated with Shri Shiv Shakti Kala Mandal, an arts wing of the Ramleela Seva Kendra that has been organising this event for over 50 years.

Till: October 8, 7 pm to 10 pm
At: Cross Maidan, Dhobi Talao

'He was too free-spirited for his own good'

Pics/ Satej Shinde

Rambabu Sharma
Playing Raavan for: 15 years

Sharma, 65, believes that Raavan's evil intentions and insolence rightly make him the villain. "One version of Ramayana narrates that he visited Sita in disguise as Ram. In that avatar, he saw a mother in her and his desire to abduct her disappeared. He could have turned over a new leaf but he didn't. He misused his power. He was anti-religion and too free-spirited for his own good."
Sharma, along with other male artistes from Mathura district, is part of the Ramleela directed by Hari Vallabh Sharma and presented by the 24-year-old Shri Shakti Foundation.

Till: October 8, 8 pm to 10 pm
At: Mahatma Phule ground, New Link Road, opposite DN Nagar Police Station, Andheri West

'He was neither pure evil nor ideal'

Pics/ Bipin Kokate

Kamlesh Pathak
Playing Raavan for: 15 years

In 1993, Pathak quit his job in Mumbai and returned to Ayodhya because he missed watching the Ramleela in his home city. Soon, he became a part of it by enacting roles of Hanuman, Vishvamitra and then the main villain. "I've played every role sincerely. Raavan wasn't pure evil but he wasn't an ideal character either. Born to a great sage, he had Brahminical roots. His sole objective was to attain salvation but he chose malevolent ways to attain it. How is it right when such a knowledgeable person hurts others intentionally, even if it's for salvation?" says Pathak, 43.

The 25-member team from Ayodhya is performing at Maharashtra Ramleela Mandal, founded by Pandit Shobhnath Mishra. He was credited for presenting Mumbai's first Ramleela in 1953 at Goa Street in Fort.

Till: October 8, 6 pm to 10 pm
At: Azad Maidan, Mumbai Metro Rail Compound, opposite Home Guard

'Raavan didn't even touch Sita'

Rajesh Rastogi
Playing Raavan for: 38 years

"Unlike popular perception, Raavan wasn't an out-and-out villain. He was a great scholar and Shiva's devotee," says Rastogi, 60, who performs with a team of 55 artistes from Moradabad at Shri Ramlila Prachar Samiti's event, known for its larger-than-life props (this time, a 20-feet-tall bow) and acts by Bollywood choreographer Sumit Khetan.

Rastogi, who also directs the Ramleela, suggests that Raavan valued consent. "Today, if a man kidnaps a woman, he will surely misbehave with her. When Raavan abducted Sita, he didn't even touch her."

Till: October 8, 7.30 pm to 10 pm
At: Shahaji Raje Kridangan, Shivaji Chowk, Haji Zakeria Road, Mamledar Wadi, Malad West

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