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Even as prices soar, various Ramlila committees across the Capital have revamped their budgets to add more glitz and drama to the spectacle.
On Dussehra today, as Ravan towers over the crowds and the fatal arrow pierces him, his eyes will brim with repentance, tears will flow and fire will emanate from his mouth. Welcome to Ramlila 2012, where a helicopter is used to shower flower petals on the day Ram and Sita's swayamvar, where celebrities take the stage and where giant LED screens telecast the divine episode to the crowd. This, however, comes at a price — running into lakhs.
Suresh Bindal, President of Shri Ramlila Committee Indraprastha Vistar, which organises the event at Ramlila Maidan every year, says, "Each year's budget depends on the kind of donation we are able to collect. This year, it's around Rs 60 lakh. We have invested especially on costumes, stage decorations, lighting and seating arrangements." They also have two giant screens at the venue — one inside and one outside — to make sure every visitor gets to see the performance.
Many Ramlila committees have notched up their expenses and resorted to technological advancements and special effects to create a larger-than-life experience of the Ramayana. Thus, while Hema Malini was invited to perform at the Red Fort by the Luv-Kush Ramlila Committee, Nav Shri Dharmik Lila Committee in Chandni Chowk's Cloth Market has installed projectors and visual aides to recreate background scenes from Ramanand Sagar's Ramayana that was telecast on Doordarshan in the '80s. "When the abducted Sita is being taken away in Ravan's flying chariot, the special effects make it look as if they are flying," says Hari Chand Agarwal, president of the committee. He adds that visual effects, apart from installing giant LED screens at the grounds, cost them Rs 10 lakh extra. "This year's production cost is around Rs 50 lakh," he says.