Vibrant Ramleela 2015

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Photos: Anusha Rajagopalan

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By Runmee Barbara

HOUSTON: On October 18, a visually opulent, hot-blooded melodramatic entertainer with exquisite dance sequences, special effects and power packed performances stole the hearts of hundreds of Indians. The 11th Ramleela production by Kusum Sharma’s “Shri Natraj School of Dance” ( was done in association with “Kalakriti Performing Arts” ( and choreographed and directed by the multi-talented Kusum Sharma.

Many new elements were added into this year performance. In the first half, Narayan Dashavatar scene was eye catcher with Lord Vishnu at the centre and the ten Dashavatars of Vishnu entered from each side of the stage making it a beautiful visual treat to the eyes while Narayana song played in the background. Two swayamvar scenes were enacted. The Swayamvar of Ram and Sita and the swayamvar of Vishnu and Vishwamohini. The Swayavar scene is always very grand and colourful with garba dancers, confettis, fire works, flower petals and a festive mood set on stage. It’s a moment of jubilant climax and the audience enjoyed it too.

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In 2nd half, Ram’s journey from Ayodhya to Vanvas life is filled with a variety of significant incidents and situations. Several scenes are played out to explain their deeper significance. The scene with the boatsman Kewat helping the exiles cross the Ganga was well played, as was the scene when Ravan (Hari Sriram) dances in indignation and anger after he learns from his sister Surpanakha of the indignity Lakshmana(Prashant Kumar) has bestowed upon her. Naagpash was a rare sight as we saw some real snakes crawling on the actors. The sight of Hanuman Sena lead by Hanuman (Dharminder Dargan) with a group of children dressed as monkeys of different sizes looked overwhelming. Ravan’s death by Ram’s arrow is suitably strong and agonizing.

The show ended when the royal couple Ram and Sita together appeared on the stage for the “Ram Rajyaabhishek”, the coronation of Ram as the King of Ayodhya. All the performers along with volunteers were on stage and the exhilarating audience applauded to the happy ending.

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Like every year, Kusum got delightful visual splendours that left the audience spellbound. The show was characterized by extravagant set decors and each of the characters was brought to life by brilliant performances and powerful dialogues. The audience were constantly engaged in the narration. What made the play enjoyable throughout was the beautiful choreography with colorful compositions and compilation of each scene with detailed set design, props and highlighted story lines.

The lead characters were played by Vipin Sharma as Ram and Kusum Sharma as Sita. Their gestures were fascinating ,pure, deliberate and real.

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Alpana Khanna managed the stage, orchestrating the performers and curtain operations with brilliant coordination. Rajpal Hodekar did a wonderful job handling stunt and pyro technicians. Ketan Mistry from Mandap Creations managed the production team and on stage set ups.

In today’s lifestyle, the growth of the mass media is leading to a reduction in the normal audience for the Ramleela plays. Kusum Sharma has kept this tradition alive in a foreign land for the past 11 years with a hope to educate and enlighten the young generation. She is supported by numerous generous sponsors , community leaders & 100+ local talented artists who take out valuable time from their busy everyday lives for over three months to present this grand Ramleela to keep our culture and heritage alive in Houston. We must feel proud to be a part of it and enjoy our rich culture at a distant land.

Rama Leela Explores the Subtleties of the Tales Behind the Epic Story

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON:  Although the central story of Rama, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman have been told and retold over the mellenia to countless number of people, and the Rama Leela performed on stages worldwide by the faithful, the tales behind the characters are often left untouched except for the truly curious and devout. They often add a deeper significance to actions of the central characters in the story.

It is just these subtleties that were explored by the production of Tulsidas’ Ramacharitmanas as the Rama Leela that Kusum Sharma’s Natraj School of Dance and Kalakriti Performing Arts presented onstage this past Sunday afternoon, October 18 at the VPSS Haveli in southwest Houston. Always eager to experiment with new ideas each year – this being Sharma’s eleventh year in producing the Rama Leela in the Bayou City –  this year’s Rama Leela began with Shiva and Parvati revealing the events that were to unfold for Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi as they are reincarnated on Earth as the mortals Rama and Sita.

These novel theatrics begin with Shiva and Parvati speaking off left stage, marveling at the deeds that were to unfold, and then they appear again midway through the play. A scene that is not often told is the birth of Sita –  the reincarnation of Lakshmi – when she is found coming out of Mother Earth by Raja Janak while walking in a field with his Queen, and claimed as his daughter.

Then later as the tale is told of Raja Dasarath killing Sharavan as he goes to fetch water for his blind, elderly parents. Sharma reenacts how the outraged and devastated parents then react by cursing Dasarath with a similar death after losing his son, and the scene of Rama leaving for exile causing Dasarath to die is played out. And another worthy scene is one where the sage Narad falls in love with Vishvamohini and turns to Vishnu for help in seeking her hand. Vishnu tricks Narad by turning his face into that of a monkey and later when Narad finds out, he curses Vishnu to have to need monkeys to help him in time of dire need, inferring Hanuman’s monkey army in the quest for Sita in Lanka.

Sharma explores these subtleties to illustrate the themes central to the Rama Leela: love, devotion, duty. deception, promises, valor – that are the cornerstones of the personalities depicted in the epic tale. She does so with the use of a giant LED digital display that projected stunning backdrops appropriate for the scenes, rather than rely of homemade props – which she has done in her past productions at the Cullen Auditorium at the University of Houston – and the results are truly amazing.