With over 60 shows, Sankalpa has used theatre to prepare convicts for a better life
Marianne de Nazareth
10 Feb 2016
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?”
The innovation by Uttam Banerjee is a godsend to the country that needs to go in for water conservation in a big way. Fitting Zerodor, a polymeric wall, to ceramic urinals would save 50,000 to 1,51,000 litres of water, says Narendra Kaushik
In the US, Rikin Gandhi aspired to be an astronaut but landed in the pastoral fields of India to develop Digital Green, an initiative that helps farmers. He now feels “people can choose agriculture and be prosperous.” Partho Burman reports
In a government school in Tamil Nadu, students are not just taught but trained to be achievers. Like a potter churning vessels from clay, the headmaster M Karunanithi shapes children from poor homes for big things. P C Vinoj Kumar checks out
The Roti Bank, started by Tara Patkar and few others, has brought down begging in Uttar Pradesh’s Bundelkhand region. Narendra Kaushik tells us the story of the journalist-turned social activist who is changing the lives of the local people
Do you know Jitendra and Bipin Chauhan? Well, you will if we introduce them as the Prime Minister’s personal tailors. The brothers, however, came up the hard way after their father suddenly took to sanyas. P C Vinoj Kumar has their life story
Preserving a dying tradition of story-telling in this digital age, Deepa Kiran enthralls people, mainly school children, with her multiple skills. S Sainath profiles the woman from Hyderabad who can explain the power of 2 using a chessboard
A school teacher from Rajasthan was toasted by the Prime Minister at the Wembley Stadium during his UK visit. Partho Burman has the story of the self-taught Imran Khan who has developed 54 education apps, besides some websites, all for free
A matchstick factory sacked him when he joined the communist party and fought for employee rights, but VKC Mammed Koya, a class seven dropout went on to build a footwear brand that’s now making Rs 1500 crore turnover, says Renitha Raveendran
In the family that names children after freedom fighters, it was natural that he was called Gangadhara Tilak. But he continued the tradition of being a do-gooder, filling up potholes on roads, spending his own money and time, says S Sainath
Boatman Sheikh Lalchand of Kulia village in Howrah district has singlehandedly built a bamboo bridge across River Mudeswari, connecting people of three panchayats with the mainland. And the bridge has been rightly named after him, says G Singh