Leela - Theatre of ever living Gods
India has many form of theatre (Leela) – from the classical to folk to tribal to dance to street – which celebrate the eternal stories of its Gods. While many survive, this little known and local to the ancient city of Banaras is struggling against all odds to survive even a few more years. It is most unusual in that it is acted by children and is performed only once a year, its stage being the streets and steps along the river Ganges The scripted dialogues are spoken by the young actors, and it changes and evolves during the performance itself and the enthusiastic audience freely participates in the show! Jayesh Kumar Sharma is particularly interested in the interaction of these child artists (who otherwise lead everyday regular lives) with the performative space of the Leela which is created to depict the sacred realm. This performative space is temporal as it is at a very crowded public place, wherein the crowd moves aside and watches the actors perform, then closes in again as the actors move on. Interestingly the play’s various scenes might be often enjoyed by a shifting audience, as not all follow the actors around the city as the play unfolds. Deeply conversant with the story of the play, it is easy for the audience to simply enjoy the part performed before them and then move on with their own lives. This transitional and highly temporal spaces of theatre overlapping so casually with the daily lives of the audience is a fascinating act in itself. Sadly though in recent years, with the advent of newer forms of entertainment, the version of Leela is rapidly losing its sheen. It no longer draws a serious audience, while those gathering to watch it are mainly people hanging around the ghats looking for free thrills to spark up dull evenings or a few foreign tourists drawn to the exotic dresses and incomprehensible actions being performed. The teams working behind the scenes to keep the tradition going are facing a painful and ignoble ending to their long tradition, victims again of overarching postmodern social changes engulfing our times. And once again these Lost Children of postmodernism receive no help from any quarter.