AS ART IMITATES LIFE – HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF !

The making of Valmiki Pratibha

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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 .”

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 ! ” . . .

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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 ! . . .

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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.

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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.

Buddham sharanam gacchami . . . dhammam sharanam gacchami ! . . .