Only last week I had finished putting down a book which tells the Ramayan from Sita’s view point and here I was ready to see it from the point of view of the maha khalnayak, Raavan. Given that ‘Raavan ki Ramayan’ was written and directed by Atul Satya Kaushik, my expectations were high. But as usual, he lived up to them. Thanks to an outstanding script, written entirely in verse, in rich but not alienating Hindi and an absolutely stellar performance by Puneet Issar who plays Raavan, (yes, he played Duryodhan in the televised Mahabharat) the audience was glued to its seats for a good two and a half hours!

The play opens with Shiv performing his famous tandav (dance) to Raavan’s mantras who urges the Lord to shift to Lanka with him. Moved by his devotion as well as his refusal to engage in a battle with him, Shiv grants him his choicest weapon, ‘Chandrahas’ with which he is sure to emerge victorious in battle. It is from that point on that Raavan begins to believe that there can be no greater worshipper of Shiv than him.

The Director, assuming most will know the larger story, moves straight to a wailing yet livid Surpankha who is narrating the story of her insult to her brother. It is the first time that he is seen in court with his father and his two sons, Atikay and Meghnad. Surpankha suggests that it was in her mutilation that Sita felt victorious, convincing Raavan that the only way to avenge the episode would be to kidnap Sita from the forest.

Singing ‘bhiksha do, shiksha lo; do daan lo gyan’ he reaches her doorstep and the rest as we know, is Ramayan!

Interestingly, the director skips most scenes of violence and you find him giving time and space to characters that often get side-lined in the heroic narrative. So it is interesting to see how Mandodari, the queen of Lanka and Raavan’s wife envies Sita, simply because Raavan addresses her with dignity and does not force himself upon her. Similarly, it is the more sensitive of his two sons Meghnad, who has a one–on-one scene with his father, questioning his motives for war but finally succumbs in the battle field. Theirs is the story we often come across, where the son is searching for a father but alas, keeps colliding into a king.

Costumes add to the drama and a touch of Indian classical music, including a live rendition by Sita, played by Latika Jain adds to the various moods and sequences. Raza Murad’s unmistakable baritone and voice over adds gravitas to the story. Once the curtains fell, the audience gave a standing ovation voluntarily. To Atul Satya Kaushik, to Puneet Issar and certainly to an epic that continues to enthral millennia after millennia.