Ramleela in Mumbai: Behind The Scenes

An adult Hanuman has lost his tail and baby Hanuman is bawling because someone stole his bananas. True story.

Some level of madness is expected backstage at any big production but when it is Ramleela – a timeless story about Gods and Demons that goes on for 11 nights, the greenroom is just as fascinating as the stage.

Based on Tulsidas’ epic Ramcharitmanas, Ramleela (aka the story of Ram) is a re-entactment of Lord Ram’s life and his victory over the demon king Ravan. Ramleela is performed in most parts of India during the 11 nights of Navratri and culminates on Dussehra when giant effigies of Ravan, his brother Kumbhakaran and son Meghanath are set on fire.

I had never seen a Ramleela live (I had a deprived childhood!) so a couple of years ago, I pestered a friend to find one in Mumbai. We drove to some obscure part of North Mumbai where we found about five thousand people spellbound as Sita was kidnapped by Ravan and Hanuman found her crying in the Ashok Vatika.

Backstage there were tears for another reason. Little Hanuman was hungry and he had hidden a couple of bananas before going on stage. When he returned they weren’t there. On a break, Ram and Sita snuck in a quick a cigarette (obviously, I wasn’t allowed to shoot that). Elsewhere Ram and Shankar hung out together and Ravan got a foot massage.

Here are some photos from that super fun evening.

Shiv & Hanuman hang out

The tears have stopped but li'l Hanuman continued to sulk for a long time

The tears had stopped but li’l Hanuman continued to sulk for a long time

Ravan gets some TLC
Ravan has a fan
Ravan's Court
Ravan’s court
Kumbhakaran’s face is melting.
Laxman on a chai break

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