Filmmaker Mahmood Farooqui, convicted of raping an American student, directed a play with Tihar prisoners as actors inside jail number three on Friday evening.
The co-director of the 2010 satire movie Peepli Live has been in Tihar Jail for the last three months.
The one-hour play, ‘Court Marshal’, was enacted by over 15 jail inmates, including undertrials and convicts. The play was about an undertrial hearing of an army person booked for murder.
The prisoners have been practising hard to improving their acting skills for the past one month, officials said.
Farooqui and the rest of the prisoners rehearsed in ward number 11 for at least seven hours a day. Prisoners would memorise dialogues at night and rehearse the next day. The rehearsals helped inmates overcome stage fright and depression, said officials.
“This is the first time that prisoners hosted an event, performed on stage, danced and sang along with showing their acting skills as part of Diwali celebrations,” said Tihar Jail director general, Sudhir Yadav.
Some life-term prisoners, booked for murder or rape, had gone into depression. The play helped them in diverting their minds, thinking of their favourite actors and putting all efforts in showcasing their acting skills, said officials.
“One of the undertrials was frustrated because his family never visits him in jail. He has been in Tihar for almost two years now. But since he began rehearsing for the play, he changed drastically. There was a good improvement in his behaviour. He came out of depression and began talking to other inmates, which he rarely did earlier. We were surprised by his excellent acting skills. So he was assigned one of the main roles in the play,” said a senior jail official.
Till last year, music bands were called from outside to perform on stage as part of Diwali celebrations, officials said. This time, before the play began, a few inmates came on stage to play the guitar, harmonium and other instruments. One convict in his 60s read out poems he wrote especially for the occasion. Two undertrials sang Bollywood songs, while another hosted the show.
Over 500 jail inmates were part of the audience who saw the play. Most of them were for first time offenders, said officials.