Kusum Sharma’s Ramleela Reverberates a Quiet Sunday Afternoon


Photos: Anusha Rajagopalan & Dhawal Nashikkar

By Vanshika Vipin

HOUSTON: Over the period of years Ram Leela has evolved into a highly venerated art form having traveled to far corners of the globe, through Indian Diaspora, not as an act of cultural recovery but as fresh expressions of a persistent faith. Last Sunday, October 9, Houstonians witnessed an awe-inspiring regal dramatic folk re-enactment of the life of Rama at the VPSS Haveli. It was the 12th Annual Ram Leela, presented by Kusum Sharma’s Shri Natraj School of Dance, in association with Kalakriti Performing Arts.

Kusum Sharma the backbone of this mega event specializes in Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Folk, Western, Bollywood Dance & Theater, and Drama Acting. In the past years, apart from Ram Leela, Kusum has produced sucessful mythological and contemporary dramas like Mughal-E-Azam, Krishna Leela, Meera and Sunder Kand, amidst a repetition of enthusiastic applauses. The extravagant drama began at 3 pm and within minutes the venue was completely packed with the audience. The event began with Abha Dwivedi entertaining the audience in her unique humorous form and some shayaris. She introduced Kalakriti Performing Arts and Kusum Sharma and then proceeded to invite all the dignitaries on stage for the yearly lamp lightening ceremony.


The wait was finally over and the dramatic visual delight began in its distinctive style. The journey from Baalkand, Ayodhya Kand, Aranya Kand, Kishkinda Kand, Sundar Kand, Lanka Kand, Uttara Kand along with the synchronized melodious Ram bhajans, exquisite dance sequences, special effects, and extravagant set decors brought each character to life. Each scene was beautifully narrated in the most visually appealing and creative format, something that had to be experienced. One of the most mesmerizing and appreciated scenes was the Panchvati depiction, where Ram and Sita were shown settling down during their Vanvas.  Vipin Sharma enacted the role of Ram while Kusum Sharma performed her best in the role of Sita. Ratnakar Modekrutti played the role of Laxman, Ravan was enacted by Hari Sriram, and Dasaratha by Bud Patel, Sita’s parents, Janak and Sunayana were played by Ram Sharma and Jasodha Sharma. Community leaders like Girish Naik, Achalesh Amar and Dharminder Dargan were sporting enough to participate as Kumbhkaran, Angad and Hanuman respectively. Though all characters had something special about them, the cutest of them all were the two characters introduced for the first time, baby Ram and baby Sita.


The audiences were seen shedding a tear or two during an emotional scene when Sita persuades Ram to take her along to the jungle. The importance of patni dharam was revived with this melodrama.  The illuminated lakshman rekha and the hilariously chuckle some scene where Kumbkaran was to be woken up were some of the new additions.  The three hour non-stop show was captivating enough and left the audiences spellbound.

Exemplary decor, perfect lights & sound effects beautified each and every scene and bought them to life. UV lights used on the clothes during the act of Shiv Tandav Stotram left the audiences gripped. Some other thrilling moments were the fast paced Hanuman Chalisa and the aerial demonstration during the scenes of Panchavati and the famous Sita saving scene of Jatayu. Audiences were left charmed and amazed with the special effects, rigging, aerials, fire jugglers, props and digital displays. The event was sponsored and attended by several community leaders who proudly support Indian culture, its heritage and this brand of Ram Leela.


I have attended Kusum Sharma’s Ram Leela since the year 2010. Each time before the show, I wonder how much can the story of Lord Ram change or be presented in a new way. But each year, Kusum Sharma has amazed me with a fresh new approach and her unique way of presentation. New elements are added to each year’s show and that is what makes it interesting and worth coming back for. Kusum’s experiment with the format of Ramleela has evolved over the years. A large portion of this year’s Ram Leela was in English. A spot survey done after the show revealed that the English dialogues were much appreciated by the younger generation. All these truly reflect Kusum’s passion and dedication towards each show that she drives.

In an exclusive conversation with Kusum Sharma, when asked about her thoughts on Ram Leela in Houston and what inspires her to present it each year. Sporting her pretty smile, Kusum mentioned, “The life of lord Rama teaches us that the most beautiful people are the ones who have faced defeat, suffering, struggle and loss, and yet have found their way out. These people have an appreciation, sensitivity, and an understanding of life. This is what fills their lives with compassion and love, and Maryada Purushotam Ram was full of it. In the coming years, we will continue to highlight various stages of Rama’s life, as a message of hope and faith for the entire community to learn and inspire from”.

A special note from Kusum and Vipin Sharma, who would like to take this opportunity to thank all their sponsors for their continuous support and guidance, the magical troupe of 170+ performers and volunteers who sacrificed their personal lives to bring this grand event to the community. A special vote of thanks to Alings Hakka, Mandap Creations, Divine Decor, Deep Foods and Shiv Shakti temple. Thanks to the media partners Indo-American News, Masala Radio, Hum Tum Desi.com and TV Asia for their coverage of Kusum Sharma’s Ramleela 2016.

For further information, sponsorship & volunteering contact Kusum Sharma at info@kalakritiusa.org or visit www.kalakritiusa.org and www.ramleelahouston.org.