Cloak Tale – a Ramlila photoessay, published in the Sunday Guardian
This photo essay covers the “behind the scenes” preparation by artists who perform multiple shows of Ramlila at Ramlila maidan (Red fort, Delhi) every year. A chance visit to the Dusshehra mela at the same grounds resulted in the curiosity to see what happens behind the stage. Following the trail of empty metal & paper carcasses of Raavan, his brother Kumbhakaran and son Meghanath, I stumbled upon an opening near the stage which seemed to be where the “army” was getting ready for the upcoming performance. After taking permission to click pictures from someone who seemed to be the Ramlila committee chairman, I jumped beyond that Lakshman rekha, pun unintended, and entered the large tent where the first thing I saw was a character casually strolling around with a tail on his rear. The large tent had a separate enclosure for the women folk getting ready. The character playing Hanuman also doubled up as the makeup artist for the male characters. He was busy doing makeup for all the men folk, at the end of which he would do his own makeup. The cast included people from all walks of life, men, women, children (mostly part of monkey army) who were literate and loved doing this as well. They were not too concerned with a photographer with a huge camera stalking them, but the gender of the photographer seemed to surprise them a little. The women folk were generous with their compliments. Almost all of them had been doing the same roles since over decades and knew their roles in sleep. They were polite, cordial and friendly. We were offered tea, coffee and chairs to sit when it seemed appropriate. The images present the find that was unearthed.
7 of these images got published as a photo essay in the Sunday Guardian this week. The article had a short description and I’ll let the pictures do the talking :).
The entire album (38 images) can be seen on my Facebook page.