Janhabi Sanskritik Chakra and Paloleek stages Tagore’s Rakta Karabi with the inmates of Dumdum Central Correctional Home
JSC attempts to include the inmates into mainstream society through cultural activities
While most of the theatre groups across the state, are busy staging a play that mirrors the bleak political scenario or racial intolerance prevailing in Indian society; Janhabi Sanskritik Chakra and Paloleek are putting out consistent efforts, to make theatre not just a form of entertainment, but therapy for the inmates of Dumdum Central Correctional Home (DCCH).
The staff and convicts of DCCH recently staged Tagore’s timeless classic Rakta Karabi at Tapan Theatre, where Superintendent Debashis Chakraborty himself played the autocratic Raja, while the inmates and other staff members, played significant parts, in a tale where love wins over greed and power. As with the traditional Tagore text, even here, all the inhabitants of Yaksapuri, who have been reduced to a number and bound to the land they work for- are eventually inspired by Nandini, a harbinger of freedom, to break free and embrace a life which is closer to nature and human ideals.
Most of the characters, including Nandini, Bishu Pagol, Ranjan, Purohit, and others- were all from the Dumdum Central Correctional Home, who had rehearsed meticulously over the weeks, to stage an impeccable rendition of Tagore’s famous play. “Initially, we did find some difficulty in getting the timing of the actors correct, and also to keep up with their attention span- so that they grasp the technicalities of the act thoroughly. But after the rehearsals, they were as good as professionals,” says Superintendent of Dumdum Central Correctional Home, Debashis Chakraborty. He has been acting in the plays which cast inmates as the actors, for the past eight years.
“We try to stage a play whenever we get time. We did once in February this year too. Every time I act in a play- I try to break the mould of professional duties imposed upon me, and try to improve myself as a human being. I feel theatre acts as a therapy for me as much as for them,” he shares.
Samarjit Das, the director of the theatre group Janhabi Sanskritik Chakra (JSC), which started working with the inmates of different correctional homes since 2013, says, “Rakta Karabi is the kind of play which will be relevant for the society, even after 50 years from now. The essence of the play requires an understanding of servitude- as if the people were bound to the land they were working on- like cattle. Anybody who experiences that kind of endless bondage seeks to break free and lead a better life; where his human aspirations can be realised.” He has been assisted by Madhurima Ghosh and Pratim Mallick.
Janhabi Sanskritik Chakra has staged quite a few plays with Howrah District Correctional Home on different occasions in the past. Soon they will also be working with correctional homes in Hoogly and Shiuli too. “Through the plays, we try to include the inmates back into the society, so that they develop a positive outlook towards life- while still serving their term and hopefully lead a better life in future,” he adds