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This review-article focuses on two documentary films on the Ramayan performance tradition in India – Leela in Kheriya (2016), directed by Molly Kaushal, which focuses on a Ramlila performance in the village of Kheria Patiwara in Uttar Pradesh, where the role of Ram is played by a Muslim in the larger context of inter-community harmony, and In the Shadow of Time (2016), directed by Shankhajeet De, which documents the cultural appropriation of Ravana Chhaya, a shadow-puppet tradition from Odisha, by Indian state agencies and urban cultural entrepreneurs. Both films are linked through the affinities of the filmmakers to subaltern communities and the ways in which the Ramayan narrative continues to resonate within the everyday life struggles of local communities.
Rustom Bharucha retired as Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies from the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is the author of several books including Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture (Routledge, 1993); The Politics of Cultural Practice: Thinking through Theatre in an Age of Globalization (Wesleyan University Press, 2000); Rajasthan: An Oral History—Conversations with Komal Kothari (Penguin, 2003); Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin (Oxford University Press, 2006); and Terror and Performance (Routledge, 2014). He has recently completed the volume, Performing the Ramayana Tradition: Enactments, Interpretations, and Arguments, co-edited with Paula Richman.