Spending five hours with convicts at a prison as preparation for a film role has changed his perspective of life, says Neil Nitin Mukesh. The young actor adds that he came across "faces and voices in there which I'll never forget".
"It was the most life-changing day of my life. So much of what we take for granted seemed so vital and unreachable in there," Neil told IANS after visiting the Thane jail Thursday.
The original motive for the visit - as a preparation to play a convict in Madhur Bhandarkar's Jail - was completely forgotten as Neil came face to face with people serving long prison terms.
"These are people who have built a universe within the prison. They cook, they do carpentry, make beautiful meals and artefacts. They pray, study and even watch films. We sat and ate their food. And I must say it was very good," Neil said.
The interaction with prisoners has left a deep impact on him.
"There are faces and voices in there which I'll never forget. Unfortunately we couldn't meet prisoners on death row. But the rest of the inmates were there for us to interact with."
He added: "It's hard to believe some of these inmates are considered dangerous, more to themselves than people from the outside. We were not allowed to take belts, coins or any hard objects because any of this could be used by prisoners as harmful weapons."
The actor noticed that the prison inmates had become dark-skinned over time.
"That's because they spend most of the time locked away from the sun," he said.
Neil, who is the grandson of legendary singer Mukesh, now intends to get himself a "jail pallor".
"It's not a skin complexion that I can get on the beach. It will be through under-exposure from the sun," he explained.
Neil visited the jail along with Bhandarkar and writer Manoj Tyagi. Leading lady Mugdha Godse, who was also expected to accompany them, chose to stay away at the last minute.
"We were told there would be an added security problem if she (Mugdha) came along," he said.
Jail is about a middle-class family boy working in the corporate sector and how, after one sudden incident, he goes to jail.