The first ‘Ramlila’ in the historic city of Ayodhya since the stone-laying ceremony of the Ram Temple will witness renowned actors from across the country descend on the banks of Saryu river and act out the greatest battle depicting the victory of good over evil. In a show of valour, loyalty, and Hindu traditions, the epic of Ramayan will unfold at the Laxman Qila, less than two kilometers from the under-construction Ram Temple, from October 17-25.
TV actors Sonu Dagar will play Ram, while Kavita Joshi will play Sita. With Delhi BJP MP and actor Manoj Tiwari playing the role of Angad (Ram’s emissary), Gorakhpur BJP MP and actor Ravi Kishan playing Bharat (Ram’s brother), and Vindu Dara Singh enacting the role of Hanuman, “Ayodhya ki Ramlila” will be a star-studded gala.
Actor Ritu Shivpuri will enact the role of Kaikeyi, Asarani will play Narad, Shahbaz Khan of Ravana, Rakesh Bedi of Vibhishan, Rakesh Puri of Nishadraj, Raza Murad of Ahiravana and Avatar Gill will play Janak.
Talking about his role of Hanuman, which became synonymous with his father Dara Singh, Vindu told PTI that this year’s Ramlila comes as a unique opportunity to play the role of Lord Ram’s loyal servant in the city of his birth.
"This is the first time I have got a chance to go to Ayodhya and such an incredible opportunity it is that I am going to play the role of Hanuman in Ayodhya,” Vindu told PTI.
According to the legend, Hanuman was commanded by Ram to stay on earth till the end of time even after the latter departed.
“If Hanuman is still on earth, where else can he be found if not in Ayodhya.
I believe he only has made it possible that we are building the Ram Temple now,” the 56-year-old actor said.
For years, starting with Ramanand Sagar’s televised series “Ramayan”, late actor Dara Singh portrayed the role of Hanuman.
It was the unforgettable acting of Singh that made him immortal in the eyes of all Indians, Vindu said.
“I have played the role of Hanuman for some 20 years now on different platforms, my inspiration has always been my father.
Even though I am inspired by him and try to walk in his shoes, those are honestly very big shoes to fill.
“Even now when people close their eyes to think of Hanuman, Dara Singh’s image comes to mind.
The way he lived the character, nobody can ever match that.
It used to feel as if Hanuman was on the stage when he played the role,” Vindu added.
If it’s about filling his father’s shoes for Vindu Dara Singh, for Chandrakanta-fame actor Shahbaz Khan it’s about portraying the biggest villain in the world -- Ravan.
"It's a dream role for any actor, to play the biggest villain," Khan said.
The 54-year-old actor, who's known for his negative roles, added that all famous actors made it big by playing strong negative characters on screen and stage.
"To be able to play Ravan is a great opportunity.
You look at Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Naseeruddin Shah, Nana Patekar or Jack Nicholson, they all became big actors by playing negative roles.
"I am not looking at it from a religious angle but from an actor’s perspective.
This is a dream role.
Any actor would agree to play this role," he added.
Although a grand production with celebrity starcast, “Ayodhya ki Ramlila” will not be played out to a live audience due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Organised by Delhi-based Meri Maa Foundation, with Ayodhya Ramlila Committee, the play will be broadcast through satellite TV channels, YouTube and social media websites for nine days.
"It'd be different this year as there won't be any spontaneous reaction from the audience," veteran actor Raza Murad rued.
Murad, who will be playing the role of Ahiravan, a son of Ravan from the netherworld, has been playing different roles in Ramlila in Delhi for the last nine years.
"We are used to playing Ramlila to an audience of thousands, but due to the coronavirus this time it will be in front of cameras.
So there will be no spontaneous reaction from the audience," the senior actor said.
But on the bright side, Murad is happy to be a part of Ramlila at lord Ram's birthplace.
"We cannot think of Ayodhya without thinking of Ram, so it's extra special this time as we are playing it in Ram's birthplace.
We are going to his home and stage the legendary story," he said.