THE THOUGHT : . . . Crime does not abate nor can it refrain from the human psyche, since civilization on this planet. With an acceleration of criminal activities in the present day society: the Law, the Government and the Police does not weigh the entire responsibility to counter crime. But, WE ! as conscious citizens must support the social security system with a humane touch , to stop ignorant minds from taking to crime for fancy or survival . . . in the words of A D G (Prisons-WBP) B. D. Sharma , “ to make corrections you got to be the instrument . . . rather than ! staying out of the system and opine .”
AS ART IMITATES LIFE – HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF !
The making of Valmiki Pratibha
Alokananda Roy : ” dance is the step-child of the entertainment and theater world – appreciation for my work always . . . patronage and support not really in the same proportion , sad but TRUE ! . . . I dare , have faced the dire consequences , have realised various degrees of success , pledged never to dare again . . . and repeated it with renewed vigor . one such escapades of mine to challenge social extremes and spiritual quest is THE TOUCH , my jail project . . . prefer to call it a movement, now!” . . .
THE ENTRY : . . . ” as a Birthday gift , I decided to cross over to a world in seclusion , across the guarded walls of the Presidency Jail (presently -Presidency Central Correctional Home ).To my surprise , I entered an ashram , tranquil, peaceful and absolutely cut off from the regular life of a metro . . . so far so good ! the reception was warm and gentle . . . little did I know of how the reality would hit my soul , and HIT, it did ! ” . . .
THE PRELUDE: . . . “ Brotherhood Beyond Boundaries – was the first attempt at breaking the ICE, FROZEN HARD WITHIN and everywhere within the premises . . . Their acceptance of me was . . . well ! not really very appreciative but slow and cautious . . . couple of years now , the scenerio is a summersault , out right.
The inmates who had allowed themselves to this process of reform through music, dance and theater went through various phases or self realisations , spiritual awakening , renewed self esteem , confidence and most importantly PEACE ! . . .
Their first performance, within the Jail and at the Uday Shankar Dance Festival -2007 , Rabindra Sadan . . . was the beginning of a new chapter , I FOUND MY VALMIKI ” . . .
THE VOYAGE: . . . ” I have worked all my life on the works of Tagore , I comprehend , realise and identify with his thoughts . . . BUT , here ! . . . HOW?
First , convincing the IG Prisons – Mr. B D Sharma to allow and initiate Valmiki Pratibha with a huge cast , a bigger crew to execute the various departments of theater and most importantly to lend his voice as the protagonist Valmiki , to be enacted by Vicky (Nigel) a dreaded convict with a notorious past . . . relentless, as I’m , did manage to . . . what followed was far from my perception of psychological and physical onslaught . . . through troubled water and rough weather the voyage has reached it destination or should I say MOKSHA !
. . . Identifying and preparing inmates for various disciplines was a task no less arduous. . . that besides , head hunting instructors and trainers to the project was equally taxing my patience , but I did , THANX ! . . .
The project was categorised at various levels,
First – the script (story line ) . . . narrating it to the inmates, making them identify and then realise the spiritual context . . . for people who have lost all their emotion , spirit and faith . . .
Two , orienting their bodies to the pattern of rhythm and movement . . .
Three , physical grooming and exercise to gear their bodies for the grind of performance arts . . .
Four , training their voice for the vocal performance of the on track recording at the HMV studio . . .
Five , making them understand the nuances of theater acting and facial expressions , timing , entries and the most difficult part the stage , the lay-out and the angles facing the audience . . .
Six , training the boys and girls at separate prisons for the individual acts and later rehearsing the complete musical , together for the finals . . .
Seven , the costume , procuring the textile woven by the inmates on the handloom in the jail . . . making sample patterns by the tailoring department , prior to this they had only stitched uniforms for the Jail warders and the Police , wasn’t a game at all . . .
Eight , the stage properties , now that was the fun part , discovered various latent talents within the inmates . . . torches (mashal) ,bows and arrow , lotus and hibiscus out of paper and wire , spears , swords and shield and the entire paraphrenelia for the stage act were churning out of the blue . . . What came across is SHEER PRATIBHA (talent) . . . now that’s my Valmikis in action ! “ . . .
SPECIAL EFFECTS : . . . “ I love GRANDURE, ‘cause life is beautiful and boundless . . . no less should it come through on stage . . . so , I decided to incorporate my team of boys trained in Purulia CHAU dance from Midnapore jail within the stage-play to impart a surrealistic mood and ambience to the character . . . didn’t I mention , I love to gamble with trouble . . . YES ! I did it again . . . Now ! these boys only dance to live instruments being played on spot , NOT ON PRERECORDED MUSIC . . . and traditionally the audience is all round the performance , unlike the auditorium sitting arrangement . . . To top that they perform at one go, as a complete act rather than multiple entries and exists along with performers of other disciplines . . . SO ! that called for SPECIAL lobour on my part to make them comprehend to my production and pattern . . . in a state of absolute mental and physical fatigue , I took the stage , on a weirdly FATEFUL day , praying to survive till the end of the show . . . like rain , as it washes away the sorrows and tears , so did my boys from Midnapore lifted the show to a level of spectacular brilliance. History repeated itself with my boys transforming into Valmikis from their moulds of Ratnakar through the language of music , dance. And history was made cause they were the first Valmikis of today to perform to a live audience , while serving a term and out on parole. . . . what more SPECIAL can one ask for to effect lives less fortunate ? They have embraced this movement to come across , as a mass that realise the futility in pursuing crime in the society ,resonating the transformation of Valmiki through love, peace and the language of arts . . . Aamaray tumi ashesh koreycho aei key lila tobbo ? . . . Phurayae phalay aabar bhoraycho jibono nabo nabo !” . . .
Crime once committed can not be redone to an act of goodness , TRUE ! But a criminal could be reformed to negate crime from the core . . . AND ! if there is a bleak possibility we request you to join us on this journey of self realization . . . feel ‘ THE TOUCH ‘ touching your soul . . .
Buddhism as a concept had always caught my fascination, since I was never religious in the ritualistic term.
But what always influenced my psyche’ and works was Buddha’s philoshophy and reasoning.Today as I realise the new age theory of cut-throat competition and increasing intolerance amongst the new generation.I appeal to the society that an eye for an eye would make the entire world go blind. . . .
With Valmiki Pratibha, my intentions were to reform the human psyche’ that were wrongly oriented to commit acts of crime.Thereby I felt the need to re-establish ideals and values for illusioned individuals of today.My experiences over these years of social realingment and communication through dance and music has made me conclude ,that not just a theory but a practice of acceptance, love, forgiveness, humility and peace can only make this world a better place to live.
Aggression,offence and crime cannot be negated or go unpunished ,however ,forgiveness from the wronged can only incite repentance,catharsis and redemption.Thereby intiate the process of transformation and freedom from negativity.
As a mother I felt it was time, the world realises, that be it the one who wrongs or the wronged, it is ultimately the suffering of a mother.My modest endevour which some like to call a movement is to bond humanity, beyond boundaries with the warmth of motherhood. . . .
Hence the story of Emperor Ashoke inspired me to review social and individual transformation through the eyes of a mother,or should I say the universal mother . . . . Mokshagati is my humble appeal to the world stage not as an entertainment but the light of enlightment.