With over 60 shows, Sankalpa has used theatre to prepare convicts for a better life
Marianne de Nazareth
03 Mar 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?”
When Rajesh Kumar Sharma went to see how Metro Rail work was progressing near the Yamuna station, he realized that poor children had no school to attend. So he set up ‘Under the Bridge School’. Partho Burman meets the educator extraordinaire
Inspired by a man making sandals out of used tyres in the US, Jay Rege and Jothsna came to India to turn eco-conscious shoemakers, launching ‘Paaduks’. The social entrepreneurs also share their profit with their cobblers, says Rohan Potdar
If the word Goa evokes just images of raves, read on, you may end up in the land of sandy wonders soon. For, Renuka Singh’s list of the top 10 beaches informs us that Goa has something on offer for everyone, including those seeking solitude
Her first attempt to save a 12-year-old girl from the clutches of an abusive father failed. But that propelled Renu Singh to turn a crusader for gender justice and rescue about 3,800 girls and women in over three decades, says Partho Burman
The success of Milky Mist, a dairy company, is a story linked to the big dreams of T Sathish Kumar, a class 8 drop out. P C Vinoj Kumar tells us how a 16-year-old turned his father’s floundering business around by giving it a new identity
Winner of many awards for his social work in Mumbai slums, Jockin Arputham missed the Nobel Peace in 2014. But for people whose life he changed through his dedication, he is indeed an ‘arputham’ (miracle, in Tamil), says Kavita Kanan Chandra
Whatever job he was in, S M Venkatesh saved abandoned people from the streets. Now, his Agal Foundation works with Helpage India, responding to distress calls, quickly and efficiently, as P C Vinoj Kumar found through a snap sting operation
Starting with a night shelter for children of sex workers, Prerana has come a long way providing support to women stuck in Mumbai’s red light district. Kavita Kanan Chandra retraces Priti Patkar’s 28-year journey that has saved many a child
To counter ‘guns and drugs’, a culture that he saw abroad, Chetan Misra mentors children through football, which he believes is a tool for social and holistic development. Through ‘TheFootballLink’, he promotes the game, says Partho Burman