Last year, 38-year-old Sachin Khutwalkar was slotted to play the role of Lord Rama in a local Dashavatar performance in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district. He couldn’t. But destiny made him don Ravana’s robes this year.
Popular in the Konkan belt, Dashavatars are a traditional theatrical presentation of dramatic scenes, which include any one of the ten avatars of Vishnu. Rama is regarded as one of Vishnu’s most prominent avatars… the one who Sachin was supposed to play, but ended up in battle against.
“While we were discussing the script, my theatre group urged me to take Ram’s role… But I realised I would not find time to rehearse for Rama’s role. So, my brother took it up that year,” says Khutwalkar.
The scene enacted by Khutwalkar and co. the subsequent year, involved a poignant moment in the Ramayana, where a brooding Ravana, considers his options, after losing his siblings and his son Meghnad in battle, before deploying his nephews Ahi and Mahi as the last throw of his dice.
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But playing Ravana, according to Khutwalkar, a journalist by day, exposed him to the mythical villain’s lesser quoted qualities, like his mastery over the Vedas and his commitment to principles. So much so, that the master of the scriptures, Ravana, according to one version of the Ramayana, he says, even agrees to perform a yagna for Rama, for the success of his Lanka assault.
“After he performed that puja, Rama had to touch Ravana’s feet and seek blessings from the latter, for the Lanka mission’s success. Ravana knew, that the moment he gave Rama the blessing, his death was imminent. And yet, Ravana gave him the blessing, despite knowing it,” according to Khutwalkar.
Khutwalkar’s Morlem village in Maharashtra has a centuries-old tradition of celebrating Ram Navami, a festival celebrating the birth of Ram. His first memory of celebration is at a Ram Navami event, where Ram was the hero.
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“If there are positives to be taken from Ram, it is all about how to live life correctly. We should respect the elders, whether it is our parents, elder siblings and even younger ones,” Khutwalkar said.