With over 60 shows, Sankalpa has used theatre to prepare convicts for a better life
Marianne de Nazareth
28 Nov 2015
Picture a burly, foul mouthed convict, condemned to life imprisonment for murder, roaming freely in your town as part of a theatre group and then returning to his cell along with prison officials after the show is over.
It seems quite unrealistic that such a thing can happen in this age. But Sankalpa, a theatre group, which has its head office in Mysore, works with prisoners and trains them to perform in plays.
Hulugappa Kattimani believes theatre can be used to reform prisoners (Photos: Saggere Radhakrishna)
Hulugappa Kattimani, the director of Sankalpa, who has rich experience in theatre, strongly believes that theatre is a powerful medium for entertainment and also a vehicle for social change
Sankalpa has been conducting theatre workshops in jails across the state since 1997. These workshops focus on Yoga, meditation, painting, traditional folk arts like kolata, kamsale and other creative learning.
Thirteen years ago, Kattimani studied drama under noted doyen of the Kannada stage – BV Karanth.
Once, when they had gone to enact a play in the Bellary central jail, Kattimani realized that training the prisoners in theatre could change their attitude to life and lead them on a reformative path.
“These are human beings who need to be brought back to the main stream of society,” says Kattimani, “and what better way than use theatre to help them back to a life they can be proud of.”
In 1997 Kattimani conducted theatre camps in the Bellary, Mysore and Bangalore jails. The trained prisoners soon started acting in his plays. So far, he has staged more than 60 plays with them, including that of Shakespeare’s and several written by Indian playwrights.
Many lives are changing. “I told SV Ramesh, a nasty convicted murderer that if he wanted to play Gandhiji, he had to mend his ways and clean up his language. He was a very difficult and uncouth man, but after playing the roles of Gandhi and Basavana, a 12th century reformer, the man stopped his customary crude speech and became a changed man,” reveals Kattimani.
“He has also turned a vegetarian and walks barefoot in the steps of the Mahatma.”
In early March, Sankalpa conducted a Drama Festival called 'From one Jail to another '. During the four day festival, the following plays were staged: ‘King Lear’ by inmates of Mysore Central Jail, ‘Ward no. 6’ by inmates of Bangalore Central Jail, ‘Gokaranada Goudashani’by inmates of Dharwad Central Jail, and ‘Shivaratri’ by inmates of Belgaum Central Jail.
“Special effort was made in selection of the plays, which were all connected to lives of the inmates in some way,” says Kattimani.
It’s been tough for Kattimani and Sankalpa to find funds for the project, but senior IPS officer Gopal Hosur has helped them. Some institutions such as the State Bank of Mysore and the Kannada Culture Department support them now.
It has not been easy going for Kattimani, but the 45 year old, has been supported in his endeavour by his wife who is also a theater person.
Their efforts are bearing fruit. Many prisoners have in fact fallen in love – with theatre.
That’s the power of art, as a journalist discovered when he asked an inmate after a performance in Kerala, “You are not handcuffed. You had a good chance to escape. Why did you not choose to do so?”
The inmate had responded, “What a question to ask. If I run away who will do my role?”
At 97, Sudhanshu Biswas is a busy man. Taking care of 50 boys and 6 senior citizens, meticulously monitoring if they are served food on time and so on, at his home near Kolkata, he keeps visitors waiting. G Singh found the waiting worthwhile
You need vision, courage, and confidence to create a school, where a student is given 10 bonus marks just for asking a tough question to the teacher, which they cannot answer. Partho Burman profiles the visionary educationist, Virendra Rawat
Fascinated by the rare Greater ‘Adjutant’ Stork in the fields on her way to school in Assam, Purnima Devi Barman grew up to learn that it has become rarer and launched a campaign to protect the species. Kavita Kanan Chandra tells the story
Led by a woman, Zamin Devarkulam in Tamil Nadu is a model village for India. It has no fan club, party flag or liquor shop and many of its youth work abroad, says P C Vinoj Kumar, who was amazed by the security that CCTV cameras provide
Anand in Gujarat made its farmers happy through a White Revolution. Now a doctor there is making childless couples happy. P C Vinoj Kumar profiles Nayana Patel, whose fertility clinic, Akanksha, saw its 1000th child birth through surrogacy
She has worked with women in distress in Mumbai and victims of Bhopal gas tragedy. Now, her New Light is a project that has pulled children of Kolkata’s red light areas out of darkness. G Singh met Urmi Basu, a social worker extraordinaire
A family car, a pickup truck, a mini-generator and more - all rolled into one for a genre called Personal Utility Vehicle. Partho Burman checks out the one of a kind vehicle, Multix MX, that’s been launched to meet the needs of entrepreneurs
Forced to work in a studio at the age of nine, Prakash Tilokani picked the nuances of the art to emerge as a leading wedding photographer having top business families and Bollywood celebs as clients. Kavita Kanan Chandra chronicles his life
Executing water conservation projects in over 4,200 locations is no joke. But Ayyappa Masagi has done that and more to save water, says Ruchita S, who drove 119 km to find out why the much honoured man is called a ‘Doctor of Dry Borewells’
The story of Raj Kumar Gupta reads more like a fairytale. From a mill worker to a millionaire, he has scaled great heights, starting with an apartment building in Hooghly district at a time when no one ever sold ownership flats, says G Singh
Claiming that there is a link between increasing incidence of rapes and other acts of sexual perversion to pornography, Kamlesh Vaswani, a lawyer from Indore, is waging a battle to get a ban on porn websites. Partho Burman spoke to the man