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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Lucknow jail inmates don actors’ hat for ‘Taj Mahal ka tender’

Mukesh Kevlani, 28 inmate number 2795 lodged in the Lucknow prison in a murder case. For six hours daily, he takes the center stage with the other inmates to rehearse for a theatre play.

lucknow Updated: Jan 04, 2019 09:42 IST
Chandan Kumar
Chandan Kumar
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Inmates rehearsing for a stage play
Inmates rehearsing for a stage play(HT Photo)

Like any other actor enacting the protagonist in a play, Mukesh Kevlani, 28, caught everyone’s attention. In real life however, Singh is inmate number 2795 lodged in the Lucknow prison in a murder case. He is one of over 1600 inmates lodged in the city prison.

For six hours daily, he takes the center stage with the other inmates to rehearse for a theatre play. “I play the role of Mughal king Shah Jahan who is planning to build a Taj Mahal,” says Mukesh in pride about his role in the theatre play titled ‘Taj Mahal ka tender’.

The play, written by renowned writer Ajay Shukla, is a satire on bureaucratic red tape where the Mughal king plans to build a Taj Mahal in the present times.

“It is the most important role in the play and I don’t want to give it my best,” Mukesh said and went on to speak about his rehearsal routine.

“I rehearse the dialogue following breakfast every day before meeting others at the auditorium for the daily practice. We rehearse the show at least three times during the day and retire to our cells. The final rehearsal is done in the cell after the dinner.”

Almost the same routine is followed by the other 35 inmates who enact different characters in the play.

Sandeep Mishra, 37, another inmate, plays another central character- ‘Gupta Ji’, a government employee who stalls the construction of the monument at every step.

“I have seen many Gupta ji like characters from police stations to courts. I am just trying to show what I have experienced myself,” Sandeep explains.

One of the shiest persons in the troupe, he refuses to speak about his life before the prison. “I forget all that the movement I entered this auditorium to play my part,” he explained.

While Mukesh is one of the youngest inmates in the group, Bhagauti Prasad, 62 is the eldest. The latter plays a part of a fan bearer and Darban, a small role with just a couple of lines. However, he makes it a must to participate in every rehearsal.

“Almost all the inmates who are participating in the play have not acted in their life. But the zeal with which they prepare for the role is truly motivating,” said Amit Rangkarmi, a theater artist who is directing the play.

“They have picked up very well in a very short time and I am hopeful that they will put up a great show,” Amit adds as he moves along the stage inspecting position of the characters.

The drama, according to the prison officials, keeps the inmates involved in a positive manner. Senior prison superintendent of Lucknow prison, PN Pandey said, “These activities break the monotony of dreary life in the prison. Programmes like this also provide an opportunity for inmates to explore their talent.”

First Published: Jan 04, 2019 09:42 IST

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