This September, Gupta is just as busy except it’s his construction business that is keeping him occupied as the Covid-19 pandemic has ruled out Ramleela shows.
Gupta is among several Ramleela artists in Prayagraj who have been forced to switch to other professions to earn money due to the pandemic and the following lockdown.
‘Government should help actors who are left unemployed’
I have been acting since the last 15 years and have even performed in Ramleela shows in Thailand. Being unable to perform, I feel suffocated,” said Gupta, who has been playing the role of Lord Ram in the shows organised by Patharchatti Ramleela Committee since 2014.
Ajay Kumar, who has been essaying the role of Jamvant in the Ramleela organised by a local committee since eight years, has been forced to work as a barber in a salon as the lockdown left him jobless.
“I couldn’t afford to sit at home any longer and hence had to join my younger brother’s salon.”
More than 150 Ramleela artists associated with different committees in Prayagraj are now struggling to earn a livelihood as the government has restricted social and religious gatherings in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. With the government yet to issue any guidelines about these shows, these artists are worried what the future might hold for them.
Nitin Jaiswal who has been regaling audience with his colourful performance as Hanuman since the past three years has now turned to supplying stationery to financial and educational institutions. Artists like Jaiswal said that the government should help out actors who have been rendered unemployed due to the pandemic.
“The state government should promote Ramleela artists and offer them a stipend. Not just actors, other professionals like tailors, makeup artists and prop suppliers have been high and dry since March,” said Jaiswal, who has also played other Ramayana characters like Hanuman and Bali.
Prayagraj residents might remember actor Neeraj Tripathi from his roaring laugh and angry performance as demon king Ravana in the Ramleela shows organised by Patharchatti committee — one of the oldest in the city. However, nowadays Tripathi spends his day brokering real estate deals.