The robust heart of Delhi’s secularism shows in the fact that many Muslims are playing key roles in the city’s Ramlilas
In Delhi preparations for the Ramlila festival have started after bhumipoojan. Durgapuja falls in September. And the Muslim actors and craftsmen are already here.
Thanks to these artists, an atmosphere of communal harmony is witnessed in Delhi’s Ramlilas. Whether it is Ramlila Mahotsav of Navshri Dharmik Lila Committee of Lal Qila Maidan or Durgapuja by Sriram Lila Society of Dwarka the performance of Muslim artists is worth noting.
But why? What do they get out of this? Last year, famed film actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui was not given the chance to act in the Ramlila in Muzaffarnagar’s Budhana. This issue stromed the social media.
Siddiqui is a seasoned and polished artist, and he knows that if such things are given too much weight, it can take a communal shade. Therefore, he clearly said that festivals and celebrations are not related to any particular religion and community.
But Delhi is not Budhana. It is a city where Ramlila without Muslim actors and actresses cannot be imagined. It may sound strange but when we look at its past and present history, we will know that not for one, not two, but for three generations, Muslim artists have been working in Delhi’s Ramlilas for months without talking about their reimbursements. They are immersed in the name of Ram.
The extent to which Muslim participation is seen in Delhi’s Ramlilas is evident in the way in which in addition to playing roles, personages like Alam Ali from Farukh Nagar in Bhopura, along with 60 men, camp in Delhi for a month.
When this correspondent spoke with Alam, he said that it is true that they get money for working during this month but there is no haggling over the amount. The committees pay anything, from 25,000 to two lakh.
“We work hard and leave the payment to the discretion of the Ramlila organisers. They know well that we come just once a year. Therefore, whatever we get from them, we keep it in the name of Rama,” Alam smiles.
Alam is not alone in coming to Delhi and camping here. Anwar Ahmad, Chandrapal, Lajim Khan, Ramjane and Idrish Ali are all busy with him at this time. The reason is that they have to start working for all the work ranging from making the effigies of Ravan in seven Ramlila areas of Delhi, the processions after the Durgapuja, and the
arrangements for Diwali Festival.
Harmony in DNA
These Muslim artists say that harmony and brotherhood is in India’s DNA. They say that the colour of human blood is the same, whether the person is a Hindu or Muslim, Sikh or Christian. The human blood does not smell differently whatever the religion.
“That is why we think less about things like religion, pay less attention to such matters and also tell our workers to think only about the work at hand. If there is anything to think about it is what to do and how to do it. If this were not the case would it have been possible for us to continue this work for so long? This is our third generation which is happy working here.”
Interestingly, the organisers themselves echo the sentiments of the Muslim workers and actors.
Ashok Kapoor, Praveen Kapoor and Devesh Gupta say that since Ramlila is organised as a symbol of victory of goodness over evil, there is no question of thinking about petty communal issues. It is universal. For the last 20 years, Najeeb Ahmed has been making effigies of Ravan, Meghnad and Kumbhakarn along with his entire family. His hard work is known to all, so he is given the respect he deserves. “At the time of his departure, our monetary gift is only a token of our thanks. On his part he accepts this payment only on the condition that we will invite him again in the coming year and that he will accept our hospitality with pleasure,” says Gupta.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who is now a Bollywood star because of his sterling performances, may not have got the chance to act in Muzaffarnagar Ramlila in 2016. But in Delhi Ramlilas Muslim youths like him get to play many roles, such as Urmila, Sulochana and Lakshmi.
In Dwarka Ramlila the actress Rukhsar plays three characters Urmila, Sulochana and Lakshmi. Mujibur Rahman acts in Ramlila on the outskirts of the Red Fort, and plays the role of Kumbhakarna.
Alam Ali performs in the CBD Ground, Ajmal Khan Park, and Najib Ahmad in Karjal Bagh, makes effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhakarn.
In Dwarka Sector 10, people come from far flung areas to watch the Muslim actress Rukhsar perform roles in the Ramlila. Here Chirag Khan plays the role of Indradevata. The Ramlila committee’s patron here, former MLA Rajesh Gehlaut says there is no question at all whether one is a Hindu or a Muslim.
“These Muslim youths have a significant contribution in showing and displaying exciting events such as staging the war between Ravana and Ram’s army, showing Lakshman faint and, in fact, making the battle between good and bad seem all too real.” He says.
Gahlaut said that whether it is Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, former union minister Murli Manohar Joshi, MP Tarun Vijay, local MP Sahib Sahib Verma and many others, each and everyone is highly appreciative.
It would be unfair not to mention the Navshri Dharmik Lila Committee of Lal Qila Ground in any discussion concerning Delhi Ramlila. For the past 60 years, people wait desperately to go for ‘Darshan of Ramlalla’ and to see which group of performers will come and which Muslim character will play what role.
Here, Mujibur Rahman’s role of Kumbhakarn continues to be the attraction for the audience. Twenty-six-year-old Mujibar is a student of the National School of Drama. Mujibur took over the responsibility of the entire IT department in Ramlila. Last year he was first seen in the role of Kumbhakarn and his friends were absolutely delirious.
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